Monday, June 13, 2011

Erikson’s Stages of Development Part 1:

Erik Erikson was a Danish-German –American developmental psychologist and psychoanalyst. He is best known for his theory on social development of people. He is best known for the phrase “identity crisis.” He trained under Anna Freud, the daughter of Sigmund Freud. It is important to note that Erikson was a Neo-Freudian.

Neo-Freudians are theorist who were influenced by Sigmund Freud, but extended his theories. Some prominent members of this group are Alfred Adler and Jung.

There are a total of eight stages that Erikson theorized human beings go through in life. Each of these stages is made up of opposites, one good the other bad. In order to move on to the next stage a person must learn the good side. A person must go through an “Identity Crisis” in order to move on.

The first stage is the Hope stage. It occurs from birth to about one year. The crisis in this stage is Trust vs. Mistrust.  In this stage the infant relies almost completely on the parents for their needs being met such as food, shelter, love, and comfort.  The child’s understanding of the world comes from parents. Children that are comforted, loved and nurtured in this stage in a dependable manner then the child will trust the world. On the other hand if a child is not given these things and everything is unreliable then they learn to mistrust the world around them.  The point in this stage is for the child to learn whether or not the child can trust the world or if it is undependable and does not merit trust.

Now if you think back over the many previous posts you can begin to think about the different schemas and defense mechanisms that will pop up in this stage. It is interesting to think how much we are influenced at this early stage. Think about the characters you create in your books were they loved and nurtured as children or where they abused and neglected? Did they learn to trust the world at an early age or was their world full of mistrust?


  1. As I write poetry about what happens to me and family I suppose you can say my childhood played a big part of my life and my widowed mother taught me the values I hold dear today.

  2. true that...i see this play out in a lot of abuse cases....

  3. I read the 'Art of Loving' by Erickson, and I also read, 'A Generational Theory of Love.' In 'Generational,' the theory is that what love has wrought, only love can fix. In other words, if your primary relationships seeded mistrust, the only thing that can reprogram our paradigms is a relationship in which trust supplants the early evil.

    Interesting, no?

  4. I find it interesting that the first stage is all about trust and we see in a lot of books and movies characters who have a very difficult time trusting. I wonder if it is because having trust issues is the first stage or because it is so easy to show a mistrusting character. I am truly intrigued by this post. Must go off and think about my own characters now.

  5. Excellent post to get into the core motivations of my characters.


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