Tag Archives: personality dimensions

What do we have in common? We are all unique, maybe?


“No two individuals in the history of the human race have been born at the same instant, to the same parents, in to the same family and culture, with the same genetic endowment, educated in the same way, and the subject of precisely the same influences.  What makes us unique is our unique history.  But what makes us part of a personality type is the fact that we also share certain traits with other human beings.  Although we are unique, we are not totally different.  It would be an impossible world if everyone were literally completely unique, that is, if everyone were a totally dissimilar entity until himself or herself.  Language, literature, the arts, commerce, communication – all of society and culture – would be impossible if people did not have a great many qualities in common.”   (Riso & Hudson, 2000, p. 20-21)

 

References

Riso, D. R., & Hudson, R. (2000). Understanding the Enneagram: The practical guide to personality types (Rev. ed.). New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin.

The Standard Family – S. Freud vs. E. Erikson: An analysis


The following vignettes are developed from a hypothetical scenario described by Doris Bergen in Human Development: Traditional and Contemporary Theories (p. 52-53). For benefit of the reader, I have included a “family tree” with the associated Freudian and Erikson-ian developmental stages.  (Just a heads up, you may need to click on the picture below to and open it in a separate browser window to grasp the rest of this article…)

The_Standard_Family

Janet and Henry getting divorced is about as close to worst possible scenario I can predict for their 5 kids, who range in age from 2 to 20.  Donnie may find his will significantly impacted, thereby leaving him unsure of himself and dependent on others’ evaluation of this worth.  It’s hard to say whether he will be the most effected or the least effected since, technically, he is probably too young to remember the divorce if it happens immediately.  I can also see potential for Donnie to be raised by one of his siblings, perhaps holly, since Janet will effectively be a single mother… although that all moves under the assumption that all the kids end up in custody with Janet.  Jason may have his ability to take on leadership roles impacted, and he may harbor feelings of guilt due to the divorce.  As mentioned previously, I believe it’s likely that Holly will fall into the unenviable position of taking on mother role for Donnie due to Janet being overwhelmed, but there are too many variables to predict exact outcomes.  She’s the only girl, my assumption that she will take on this role might be too biased or superficial… Furthermore, under the increased pressure, Erikson would suggest that it is likely that she will give up easily, refuse to make an effort at all, or feel less than competent at many aspects of her life.  Alan may find a lack of direction, feel unproductive, and be unsure of his own strengths as a direct result of unsuccessful resolution at the adolescent stage.  Brad is another quandary.  Part of me wants to believe he will be the least effected since he is likely already out of the house, but it really does depend on where he is at emotionally, financially, etc.  He may have relationship problems, become territorial or possessive.  He may find difficulty with the concept of love, which is unfortunate.  It will suffice to say that all the children will be significantly impacted.  It may also have a significant impact on Grandma Mildred Standard as she mulls over the legacy she has left this world.  Last but not least, there may be some residual effects on the rest of the family, but the interrelationships between and among the family members are not defined well enough to make reasonable predictions about the aftershock of the divorce between Janet and Harry.

Freud would certainly have a different take on the divorce when compared with Erikson.  Freud might suggest that little Donnie would end up being selfish, wasteful, or overly aggressive.  Jason would likely have sexual problems.  Holly may ultimately have difficulty attracting and retaining a sexual partner of her own.  Alan and Brad, according to Freud, would probably remain largely unaffected.  Although I hesitate to generalize or otherwise stereotype, I believe these effects could potentially be more pronounced in family centric cultures (i.e. The Chu Family, or the Ramierez family).  I would be interested in getting feedback on this, as I am suitably unfamiliar with the role of multiculturalism in this area.  Also, take note that this scenario is firmly rooted in the context of the time when the theory was written… we can only suppose the changes that “modern culture” has made on the potential effects of divorce on children.  Because divorce is so common today, it is reasonable to suggest that effects would be more pronounced (say, in the 1930s) as compared to today.  I believe this generalization holds true to all the scenarios, so for the sake of brevity, I will only address multiculturalism once… but for the inquisitive reader, please feel free to make the same basic assumptions about the remaining 6 scenarios…

If Brad graduates from college, I can see this having a huge impact on the entire family.  Brad sets the tone or an example for his 4 younger siblings.  Furthermore, being the oldest, he has the potential to greatly affect his parents since they are currently working through the process of helping and guiding the next generation (him).  His success or failure is inevitably his parents success or failure… funny how that works.  Brad’s success may have a significant impact on the marriage of Henry and Janet, and it will certainly have an impact on how they continue to raise the 4 younger children.  I would be led to believe that if Brad graduates from college, it might be fair to assume that Henry and Janet are doing something right.  If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.  Conversely, if he turns into a career criminal, I can see a very different upbringing for the younger kids.

In contrast to Erikson, Freud may see this event contribute to successful resolution of the younger children’s respective conflicts.  Donnie learns how to give and receive, Jason develops a stable gender identity, Holly is subsequently able to focus on school and learning, and Alan develops the ability to have adult intimacy.  It would appear that the weight of the world rests on Brad and his ambition to graduate from college…

If Howard comes down with Alzheimer ’s disease, there are a number of different effects that might come as a result.  The most impacted individual will be Sally, his new wife.  She is so much younger than him; I have to wonder if she would reconsider marrying a man that was 22 years older than her.  They are in two totally different categories, assuming pigeon-hole the couple based on age alone… 22 years is quite a gap.  Furthermore, I can see Sally being more concerned with guiding Sue than taking care of Howard.  There’s a storm brewing there.  Grandma Mildred may be effected to some degree because she is a member of the same cohort… it would frustrate and scare me that a peer came down with Alzheimer’s, I couldn’t resist the temptation to think “Am I next?”  Add to that the fact that Grandma Mildred is a widow, and it only compounds the health related concerns for her.  Freud didn’t really address much at this developmental stage, so we’ll leave the conjecture to Erikson.

The one I couldn’t resist is the scenario where Sue starts dating John.  Wow, what a mess.  I am not sure how far you have to be removed to consider yourself “far enough” to be dating a family member, but a marriage there could really twist up the relationships.  I can imagine that it would affect Bill and Ann the most, since they are the people responsible for guiding John in his intimacy vs. isolation struggle.  It would probably have a significant impact on the relationship of Howard and Sally… I can definitely see it making family reunions quite the rumor fest.

If Donnie was diagnosed with autism, I can see major changes in store for all the siblings, as well as for Henry and Janet.  I can see Jason suffering from a significant rivalry with his younger brother, fighting for attention.  Holly may come to find that she has little support (lack of attention and focus) on the part of her parents and her self-esteem will likely suffer as a result.  It’s difficult to know how Alan will be affected because he may be in the process of reexamining a lot of things in his life right now.  Lack of guidance may cause Brad to have difficulty forming intimate relationships or friendships.  Freud would definitely have something to contribute in this scenario.  In short, Donnie is probably in big trouble, hypothetically speaking… depending on his current level of development, he may be stuck at the oral phase and end up being a chain smoker, alcoholic, or a glutton.  If he managed to progress to Freud’s anal stage, Freud might suggest that he may have significant difficulty controlling aggressive impulses.  It stands to reason that the other children may also suffer the negative effects highlighted with in the section covering the divorce of Henry and Janet, although the influence would be from the other direction.  It leaves me curious, how would Freud’s explanation change if it were a sibling that caused the trauma, as compared to a parent?

Finally, if Grandma Mildred has an operation, she is the common denominator between and among all the members of the family.  Her death might cause a two-way or a three-way split in what is currently perceived as a single family system.  Her children, while still in their middle adulthood, may see themselves transitioning to “old age thinking” faster than they wish due to complications with their mom.  It appears unlikely that is Mildred passes away that Howard and his wife and step-daughter will be at the next reunion.  However, if the situation is simply surgery, sometimes family systems have a way of bonding in crisis… so I have confidence that this family system can make it through that trial.

Reference

Bergen, D. (2008). Human development: Traditional and contemporary theories. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.

Comparing and Contrasting S. Freud with E. Erikson


The course of personality and social-emotional development was permanently altered by writings of both Sigmund Freud and Eric Erikson.  “Although their theories have implications for other developmental areas, their primary focus was on explaining social and emotional developmental states and the personality dimensions that may be formed by experiences encountered in each stage.”  (Bergen, 2008, p. 36)  This essay will attempt to highlight some of the strengths, and some of the criticisms of both Freud and Erikson.

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Rarely is the writing of a single individual so influential on a field that he becomes a household name… such is the case with Sigmund Freud.  We need only refer to a Freudian slip (a verbal mistake that expresses the unconscious mind’s feelings) to get clarity on how deep and wide his influence is.  (Bergen, 2008, p. 43)  “Freud was one of the first theorists who thought that the causes of human behavior could be discovered by scientific methods, and he used the methods that were available in his time to investigate the underlying developmental causes of adult mental health issues.”  (Bergen, 2008, p. 37)  Adult is a key component of that statement, since Freud is best known for his phases of psychosexual development that begin with the “oral” phase (ages 0-1) and culminate with the “genital” phase (age 12+).  There is some irony that Freud worked almost exclusively with adults, yet the bulk of his theory was concerned with childhood.

Another basic construct that is inseparable from Freud is the concept of defense mechanisms.  Rationalization, repression, displacement, regression, projection, identification, reaction formation, and sublimation are all concepts that were born of and nurtured by Freud and his disciples.  He is credited with differentiating between the conscious, the unconscious, and the preconscious (the area between the two).  Freud not only put “the unconscious” on the map but he operationalized it in a new way—as a dynamic unconscious, laying down the foundation of a science of the unconscious.  (Lothane, 2006)  He is generally recognized as birthing of the concepts of id, ego, and superego.  All of these theories were the metaphorical shoulders on which the giants of psychological thought stand today… Alfred Adler, Carl Jung, Anna Freud, Karen Horney, and Melanie Klein are all indebted to the work of S. Freud.  And that influence only takes the metaphorical couch into consideration… Freud’s real legacy lies beyond the couch in the application of psychoanalysis to community problems and social issues.  (Twemlow & Parens, 2006)

As can be expected with any theory or theorist, Freud is not without his critics.  Among the criticism is that his theory does not meet the test of falsifiability, primarily because they are not supported or discounted with empirical evidence.  (Bergen, 2008, p. 42)  Critics levy charges of “circular reasoning,” “predicting backwards,” “denigrating female development” with an overemphasis on male development in the Oedipal phase, and finally as a “dated construct” due to the fact that it was firmly situated in the Victorian society it attempted to describe.  The confusion around Freud and his theoretical constructs is that we appear to be misapplying Freudian concepts at present.  “Psychoanalysts have to decide whether to stay with the original meanings or to choose different and proper terminology to suit their new concepts instead of misapplying the original ones.”  (Fayek, 2002, p. 476)

Eric Erikson, while less known in contemporary layman circles, is no less influential.  “Erikson’s theory draws on many of Freud’s concepts; however, his emphasis is on explaining how healthy personalities develop rather than focusing on unhealthy developmental processes.”  (Bergen, 2008, p. 43)

Like Freud, Eriksons work is increasing seen as dated due to ongoing changes in society at large.  For example, “it is certainly the case that adolescents do ‘try on’ many identities, but because of changing social conditions, they may not do that for a longer period of time without it having unhealthy consequences.”  (Bergen, 2008, p. 50)  Erikson’s discussion of the final two periods of life may also need revision dude to the fact that individuals live longer now than they did previously.  (Bergen, 2008, p. 51)

My biggest issue with Erikson is of a more personal nature.  It is generally well known that Erik Erikson had a 4th child who suffered from Down’s syndrome.  This son, who died at the age of 21, was effectively abandoned by him and his wife.  A psychoanalyst who was famous for effectively treating problem children failed to give even the minimum parental care to his own mentally challenged son.  One might question the integrity of an individual who would do such a thing, but the reality is that this experience shaped some of the critical aspects of Erikson’s theory of human development.  (Paranjpe, 2000)

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References

Bergen, D. (2008). Human development: Traditional and contemporary theories. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.

Fayek, A. (2002). Psychic reality and mental representation: Contemporary misapplications of Freud’s concepts. Psychoanalytic Psychology, 19(3), 475-500. doi: 10.1037/0736-9735.19.3.475

Lothane, Z. (2006). Freud’s legacy–is it still with us?. Psychoanalytic Psychology, 23(2), 285-301. doi: 10.1037/0736-9735.23.2.285

Paranjpe, A. C. (2000, Nov). Review of Identity’s architect: A biography of Erik H. Erikson. Canadian Psychology, 41(4), 288-289. doi: 10.1037/h0088184

Twemlow, S. W., & Parens, H. (2006). Might Freud’s legacy lie beyond the couch?. Psychoanalytic Psychology, 23(2), 430-451. doi: 10.1037/0736-9735.23.2.430