Theoretical Analysis Paper:
A Reflection through Erikson’s Theory
Theoretical Analysis Paper:
A Reflection through Erikson’s Theory
Throughout life I find that I’m constantly evolving and adjusting to a different version of myself; forcing me to be constantly engaged in the changes I go through. As I develop, I always have to consider my past and foundation. By evaluating my growth through the theoretical analysis of Erikson, I was able to draw some very interesting conclusions. I was amazed to discover that so much of my personality hadn’t changed since infancy. Habits that had been established in early development still influence my personal relationships and disposition well into adulthood. I started this analysis by first taking a look at my upbringing and my family dynamic from an early age.
I was born in Indianapolis, IN on March 20th 1990. My mom always tells the story of how she had been hospitalized while pregnant with me. It had been three weeks since her water broke and I was nowhere in sight. She finally was induced; but will still tell you today that I move at my own pace and on my own terms. My mother, a specialist in early childhood development, was my primary resource in gathering information regarding my infancy and childhood; however, as a first-time mom she acknowledges that she was unprepared to be a parent when I came along. My mom had separated from the military once she had gotten pregnant and moved back to Indiana. Aside from her part time job as an Army reservist, she lacked steady income so she moved in with my aunt and her new born daughter. The four of us lived together in a two-bedroom apartment for quite a while. It’s likely that we lived below the poverty line however I never remember our family going without. My grandparents played a tremendous role in making sure we were taken care of and they truly made the biggest difference.
My mother went into great detail about how I was as a baby and the measures she took to ensure that I would develop independence. She had purchased a crib for me that she kept in the living room and insisted that I not sleep in her bed. I cried for the first night but quickly adjusted. Something that my mom was persistent about was making sure that I would be okay alone; also, that my basic needs would be met and I didn’t have to be held or coddled at all times. This was a clear example of the Basic Trust versus Basic Mistrust stage. From infancy to 18 months, building trust with others is the biggest obstacle to override. I don’t think that my mother’s approach was neglectful at all. Even though I couldn’t see her, she made sure that I was fed, dry and taken care of. When I cried, she made sure that I was tended to; however, she felt very strongly about me not becoming a “lap baby” that needed constant attention. Although I don’t believe my mother’s intent was ill willed, I know that if I’d developed a stronger emotional relationship with my her at that stage I’d approach things differently. Still today, I don’t express love through physical touch and I’m not easily trusting. I didn’t notice this about myself until a very uncomfortable conversation I had with my younger brother a few years ago. He expressed to me that he had always questioned if I loved him or not; and throughout his whole life, I never showed him affection. He recalls the day I graduated high school as the first time I had ever hugged him. I felt absolutely terrible. It wasn’t that I didn’t love my brother, but we had completely different experiences as babies. Although my mother was adamant that I grow up independently, my brother had been taken care of in a different manner. Likely through experience and maturity, our mom had a much softer approach with my him. In this stage alone, you can see how personalities can be shaped. The text suggests that exposing children to loving care and nourishment will teach them to trust. The foundation that is laid here can have a lasting effect on how we approach friendships, intimacy and the government all the way into adulthood. Although unconventional, the way that I was nurtured during infancy prepared me for the next stage of development.
Autonomy versus shame and doubt, is a stage that is reached in 18 month to three year olds. According to the text, this is where you’ll find that children strive to complete things independently. At this age, I had developed an extremely close relationship with my grandmother. An art educator, my grandmother and I would often take on new projects and activities together. She would show me how to draw and paint and before long, that would begin to occupy all of my time. When she would show me how to draw an object, I would find a place to myself and fill up a notebook with doodles and sketches until perfected. My mother says that from the time I was born, my grandmother and I had been inseparable. I can remember very vividly spending hours with her as she allowed me to express myself creatively through art. I believe it was at this stage that I really began to gain confidence and self-worth. While I was encouraged to develop in this area, that confidence and independence transpired in other areas. My mother says that I was very particular and neat when I was younger. She taught me how to make my bed, clean my room and complete small chores before the age of three. I don’t believe that shame and doubt had been a major factor at this stage. Because I was the oldest, not only was there a push to complete things on my own but there was an expectation to do so.
With my mother grooming me to be independent, she never talked to me like a baby. The boundary of parental leadership was always made very clear; however, she treated me like a “little lady”. I wasn’t restricted or punished for being naturally inquisitive; instead I was encouraged to ask questions and explore. This was critical as I transitioned into the initiative versus guilt stage. From the ages of three to six, I would become more social and involved in recreational activities. The text defines this stage as children embarking on physical activities and exploring the fascinations of the world around them. As it pertains to adulthood, we are likely to feel confident in initiating relationships, pursuing career goals and expounding on one’s personal interests. If we are not given the freedom to explore at this level and are controlled with restrictions, we may feel tremendous guilt. Although I didn’t play outside much, I continued to pursue my passion for art. In addition, my parents allowed me to dance with the local ballet company and play a variety of instruments. No matter how many recitals and ballet fees, my parents remained supportive because I truly enjoyed dancing. I look back at pictures of previous shows and performances and it’s clear that I’d found something that I loved just as much as drawing. The same support was provided towards music. Music is a very big part of my family and by the time I had turned six, I had taken to string instruments. I think back to the Christmas my dad had gotten me a toy ukulele. My parents remind me of how I carried that ukulele everywhere with me until I got old enough to start on the violin. Still, my family remained supportive. I think my parents concentrated on giving my siblings and me the liberty to determine what we were passionate about. Because we all had different interests, we were treated as individuals. It wasn’t until I went into the 2nd grade that I felt the pressure to do well academically and began to compare myself to other children.
Our family had just relocated to Georgia; and at the start of the year, I wasn’t reading very well. I could sing my alphabet, but my reading and writing levels were not where they should’ve been. My parents started me off with flashcards, books and writing material to practice. Before long, I had been the most improved student in my class. This was the beginning stage of industry versus inferiority. From age six to twelve, we challenge ourselves to succeed academically. Whether our incentive is to advance with our peers or avoid punishment from our parents, school is our “full time job”. By the text we know that failure in school, and maybe peer relations, are likely to develop a feeling of inferiority. My mother told me that I’d started to compare myself to my older cousin, Ellese. We were only six months apart and she had already started to read very well. Because we’re so close in age, even as adults there is still friendly competition between the two of us. I had challenged myself to improve on these skills and with the help of my parents, I had exceeded the expectation. By the end of my 2nd grade year, Ellese and I were at the library nearly every day. My mother tells me that right before the state-wide school testing, I transferred schools. My teachers were so upset that I would be leaving; they pleaded with my mom to let me stay. From that point on, there was an expectancy for me to do well throughout my years in school. Most of my summers, I had no desire to go out into the Georgia heat with my siblings and neighborhood kids. Instead, I made a deal with my parents that I would complete book reports if they let me stay inside. I think at this point, my mom and dad started to really understand that I was developing into my own person.
During this stage, I noticed the biggest shift in development after my parents divorced. When my parents were married my life was care-free; I enjoyed exploring my creativity and learning levels without limitations. After the divorce, I could feel myself changing. Not only was this an emotional strain for the family but it was a financial blow as well. My siblings and I stayed with my mother; and with three children, sacrifices had to be made. This meant that private violin lessons, ballet classes, and cheerleading had to be put on the back burner. I no longer had the independence and self-gratification that I had received from these outlets. I had to turn back to my first love, art. Similarly, I occupied my time by reading and writing stories. These things gave me solace, however I still found myself needing more. The divorce left a void of love and support; and guilt, pressure and comparison replaced these components. I would always worry that it was my fault that my parents divorced. I was worried that my untimely arrival drove my parents apart. Living with my mom, there was always an unrealistic expectation that I had of myself to fill the vacancy in our family. I would take on a heavier chore load, stress over grades and look for approval from others. I continued to struggle in this area on and off until I got to high school.
By the time I entered 10th grade, I had a healthier relationship with my father. After the divorce, we didn’t pray or acknowledge God the way that we had done before our family had split. At this point my father was a minister in the Christian church; and I can honestly say that he helped repair my faith. It was at this point that I was able to relieve myself of the added stress and just be a kid. This prepared me for the identity vs role confusion stage. By having realistic expectations of myself I was able to establish identity.
By definition the identity versus role confusion stage is the transition from childhood to adulthood. Role confusion can take place when we are unsure of our identity; when we are unable to integrate our many roles, role confusion can transpire. By correcting the behavior leading up to this stage, it is likely that I avoided some developmental problems. Before my 11th grade year, I had transferred to five different high schools. This forced me to become very comfortable with who I was. Most days where fine; however others I felt like I just didn’t fit in. From public schools to private and performing arts schools, I had to adapt to diverse environments. Because I moved around so much, it was very difficult to maintain friendships and close bonds; however, I partially believe it is what made me successful in school. Because I was considered a “floater” I never remember dealing with peer pressure. That does not mean that my high school experience was perfect. I dealt with being bullied for all sorts of things. I was too fair skinned for the black kids and too dark skinned for the white kids. I am so appreciative of my mother for developing me to be independent and self-confident; without those values, high school would almost be unbearable. My main focus was to get out of school and leave the small town of Indianapolis, IN. Halfway through my senior year, I decided to enlist in the United States Air Force; and six days after graduation, I was in San Antonio, TX in basic training.
After almost seven months of military training, I was thrown into adulthood. This was my first job and first time away from family. Yet surprisingly, I made friends rather quickly. In the military community it’s very common to make connections with other people that share common interests. Being introduced to this family environment, I can identify this period as my intimacy versus isolation stage. In this level of development, I’ve faced the most obstacles. Looking back on my eight years of military service, I have met many people; however, I have developed an intimate or close relationship with very few. There are many times where I can remember feeling very isolated and misunderstood. The independence that had been cultivated during infancy and adolescence had become the root of loneliness. At this level, individuals who do not attain intimacy are likely to suffer from seclusion. In my early 20s, my first reaction would be to hang out with friends in an attempt to overcompensate. This was only a temporary solution and I would soon fall back into the same isolation. Now when I’m feeling like this, I try not to turn to people but to God. In my late 20s, it gets harder to battle depression and negative thoughts when all of your friends and family are married and have children. Because I have never dated, it’s very important that I don’t compare myself to others and despise the life that God has given me. At this age, it is vital that I constantly regulate my thoughts and emotions; always prayerful and appreciative of the life that I have. Since following Christ wholeheartedly, I know that my faith is my primary tool in coping at this stage of life.
Ironically enough, this assignment is parallel to what I am learning to do at church. A thorough self-analysis is not purposed to cause one to live in the past. In this case, it has done quite the opposite. In my walk with God, it’s imperative that I deal with some things in my past. I have to understand where my responses to crisis originate and why I build walls with people. Before I could properly assess these different stages in my life, I had to ask my parent the tough questions. Until now, we have always avoided topics that could be too emotional and cause us to bring up the past. To my surprise, a dialogue opened up that was very honest and refreshing. I was able to draw connections to my behavior as a child that I had been doing for years. After this assessment, I can begin to work on possible character flaws now that I understand my foundation more. Additionally, I can accept the things that I cannot change; and I am certain that my experiences self-awareness will aid me in meeting the goals of social work practice.