I had always thought that Freud’s theory of psycho-sexual development was somewhat incomplete as if life stopped after adolescence. I am pleased to learn that someone carried Freud’s work into young adulthood and beyond. I also enjoyed how Erickson explained the psycho-sexual cycle of Freud through dichotomies (McAdams, 2006).
As for me, I believe that I just emerged from the identity vs. role confusion stage about a year or two ago. Up until that point, I had no idea what I wanted to be or what I wanted to do with my life. However, I can now say that I am securely in the intimacy vs. isolation phase of Erickson’s cycle. Even though these two stages, identity vs. role confusion and intimacy vs. isolation, can run concurrently or in another order, in my life they have worked exactly how Erickson described. Furthermore, it would be difficult to complete these stages out of sequence, because how can someone become truly intimate with another person without even knowing themselves first?
Likewise, I can see how I have advanced from isolation to intimate, answering the question of how can I love. At one point in my life, I thought that I had to keep myself safe from others by isolating myself. I shortly learned that this was not the most productive way to maintain ego development. I soon started to cultivate close relationships, especially with my wife. Up until that point, I had even kept her at arm’s length. I started a Bible study with my close friend Dorothy. I read to my children every night and allowed feedback and questions. I began having exclusive time with my wife, in order to cultivate our relationship. All of these activities have moved me away from isolation and towards productive intimacy.
My brother, however, is lingering in the identity vs. role confusion stage. He is only 22 years old though. He moves from job to job, friend to friend, girlfriend to girlfriend. He has no idea how he fits into the adult world or who he is. His identity status would be identity diffusion. He often explains frustration with not knowing who he is or what he is doing. He is not committed to anything or anybody. He claims that this allows him true freedom, but to me, it looks like a prison of ambiguity. He sometimes quits jobs just because he does not like someone there or something inconsequential like that. He just doesn’t want to be tied down to anything.
In conclusion, I am in the intimacy vs. isolation stage of Erickson’s theory, but will hopefully be moving on rather quickly. My brother, on the other hand, seems stuck in the identity vs. role diffusion stage. Furthermore, I did find that Erickson’s explanations were insightful and logical. For someone who never earned a degree in psychology, he sure did understand human behavior well.
McAdams, D.P. (2006). The person: A new introduction to personality psychology. Danvers, MA: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.