Identity Crisis

German-American psychologist and psychoanalyst Erik Homburger Erikson was born on 15 June 1902 in Frankfurt, Germany.
He is best known for his theory of psychosocial development and the concept of “identity crisis”, one of the most important conflicts people face during the developmental process.

His theories marked a major shift in dealing with personality: instead of focusing simply on the events of early childhood, his psychosocial theory examines how social influences contribute to our personalities throughout our life. Indeed the process of building an identity lasts for a lifetime and the identity crisis can manifest itself in a more or less violent way also in relation to the historical moment that one is living in.

Erikson maintains that personality goes through eight stages of psychosocial development, from infancy to senility. Each stage builds on the preceding ones and paves the way for subsequent periods of development. In each stage, people experience a conflict and its positive or negative outcome will influence the development of their personality.

His interest in identity began in childhood. Born a Jew, Erikson always felt that he was an outsider.
He was a tall, blond, blue-eyed boy, and had become the target of bigotry from both Jewish and Gentile children. At temple school, his peers teased him for being Nordic; while at grammar school, he was teased for being Jewish.

Erikson never knew his real father; his young mother had raised him by herself for a time before marrying a physician, Dr. Theodore Homberger, who adopted him,
The fact that Homberger was not his biological father was hidden from him for many years and when he finally learned the truth, he was embittered by what he considered a deception. He was left with a feeling of confusion about who he really was and struggled with his identity throughout his youth.
His daughter later wrote that her father’s “real psychoanalytic identity” was established only when he “replaced his stepfather’s surname [Homburger] with a name of his own invention [Erikson].” A surname he took when he and his family became American citizens in 1933, making happy also his children who enjoyed the fact they would no longer be called “Hamburger”.

Erikson had not always devoted himself to psychology, because as a young man, he had attended art school and travelled around Europe. In Vienna he was invited by the psychoanalyst Anna Freud to teach art in a small private school and then entered psychoanalysis with her, training to become a psychoanalyst himself- He was interested in the treatment of children and in the United States he started to practice child psychoanalysis

Healthy children will not fear life if their elders have integrity enough not to fear death.”
“The more you know yourself, the more patience you have for what is seen in others.”
“Life has no meaning without interdependence. We need each other, and the sooner we find out, the better for all of us.”
“Life follows a process and it’s not forever. To understand it is to develop.”

Lo psicologo e psicoanalista tedesco-americano Erik Homburger Erikson nacque il 15 giugno 1902 in Germania, a Francoforte sul Meno.

E’ noto soprattutto per la sua teoria dello sviluppo psicosociale e per il concetto di “crisi di identità”, uno dei conflitti più importanti che devono essere affrontati durante il processo di sviluppo.

Le sue teorie hanno segnato un importante cambiamento nel pensiero riguardante la personalità; invece di concentrarsi semplicemente sugli eventi della prima infanzia, la sua teoria psicosociale esamina il modo in cui le influenze sociali contribuiscono alla costruzione della personalità , un processo che si protrae per tutta la vita , in cui crisi di identità può manifestarsi in modo più o meno violento anche in relazione al momento storico che ci si trova a vivere.

Erikson sostiene che la personalità attraversa otto fasi di sviluppo psicosociale, dall’infanzia all’età senile. Ogni fase si basa sulle precedenti e apre la strada ai successivi periodi di sviluppo: in ognuna si sperimenta un conflitto, il cui esito positivo o negativo influenza il successivo sviluppo della personalità.

Il suo interesse per l’identità iniziò durante l’infanzia. Nato ebreo, Erikson si sentiva diverso dagli altri.
Alto, biondo, con gli occhi azzurri, era diventato bersaglio del fanatismo sia dei bambini ebrei che dei gentili. Alla scuola del tempio, i suoi coetanei lo prendevano in giro perché era nordico; mentre era al liceo perché era ebreo.
Erikson non conobbe mai il suo vero padre, perché la sua giovane madre lo aveva allevato da sola per un po’ prima di sposare un medico, il dottor Theodor Homburger, che lo aveva adottato.

Il fatto che Homberger non fosse il suo padre biologico gli venne nascosto per molti anni e quando finalmente apprese la verità, fu molto amareggiato per quello che considerava un inganno. Rimase con una sensazione di confusione su chi fosse realmente e lottò alla ricerca della sua identità per tutta la giovinezza.
Sua figlia in seguito scrisse che la “vera identità psicoanalitica” di suo padre fu stabilita solo quando sostituì il cognome del patrigno [Homburger] con uno di sua invenzione [Erikson]. Un cognome che prese quando , insieme alla sua famiglia, divenne cittadino americano nel 1933. Ai suoi figli piacque molto il fatto che non doversi più sentir chiamare “Hamburger”.

Erikson non si era sempre dedicato alla psicologia, perché da giovane, aveva frequentato la scuola d’arte e viaggiato per l’Europa. A Vienna fu invitato dalla psicoanalista Anna Freud ad insegnare arte in una piccola scuola privata e poi entrò in psicoanalisi con lei, formandosi per diventare lui stesso psicoanalista. Si interessò alla cura dei bambini e negli Stati Uniti iniziò a praticare la psicoanalisi infantile

“I bambini sani non avranno paura della vita se i loro anziani avranno integrità sufficiente a non temere la morte.”
“ Più conosci te stesso, più hai pazienza per ciò che vedi negli altri.”
“La vita non ha significato senza interdipendenza. Abbiamo bisogno l’uno dell’altro, e prima lo scopriamo, meglio è per tutti noi.”
“La vita segue un processo e non è per sempre. Comprenderlo è evolversi”



56 thoughts on “Identity Crisis

  1. Una bella storia (spassoso quella dell’ Hamburger!) che termina tragicamente in una ideologia psicologica di massificazione. Il concetto di interdipendenza è quanto di più spersonalizzante stiamo vivendo in quest’epoca. Interdipendenza non è collaborazione. Grazie Luisa🌹 di questo articolo illuminante sull’evolversi della psicosociologia.🙏

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Apologies, Luisa, but I have aversion to any therapists! I would suggest that instead of spending years and years in therapies, as is customary in the USA, people look in the mirror in the morning and say, “I am wonderful!”
    Job has been done, sanity intact, and money could go to charity. I accept that it is easy for me to say as I have never had any mental health issues, but if I had I would look for natural remedies like walking in the forest or gardening, or volunteering, as I have never met anyone busy helping others, animals or humans, needing
    a therapist.


    Liked by 1 person

    1. I understand your opinion and agree that a busy life leaves little time for retreating into oneself. However the sufferings of the soul still exist, and must be faced in order not to be dragged into the abyss, If you cannot succeed alone, as happens when you are about to drown, the help of the rescue team is welcome.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I understand your broad compassionate view, Luisa, but I still think avoiding deep waters is the best. My aversion extended also to bad company so I wasn’t tempted to do anything that would need others to drug me out off. Life is too short to waste on excessive drinking, smoking, or drugs. I just read about an Italien mystic, now Saint,
        Pio of Pietrelcina, who wrote:
        “Peace is the simplicity of heart, the serenity of mind, tranquility of soul, the bond of love.”

        My sentiment exactely!


        Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow. Awesome and very interesting article on Erik Homburger Erikson. Psychoanalysis is such an interesting topic and poor Mr. Erikson! What a horrible childhood he had! I appreciate his mom for raising him as a single parent before marrying Dr. Theodore Homberger, who did a great job as a stepfather. Unfortunately, it wasn’t easy for a child to accept the fact that the man who he regarded as his own father, was in fact, a stepfather. Dear Luisa, hearty congratulations on a well researched article on a new personality. 🥰🥰🥰😊😊😊♥️♥️♥️♥️

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Dear Aparna, I too was very impressed that his study of identity crises, a term he coined, had roots in his childhood. That’s why I decided to talk about him .
        Thank you very much for your kind comment!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Dear Luisa, again you brought to us another very interesting person, Erik Erikson. Many events
    and difficulties brought him in contact with psychology. A subject that seems to grow again with
    increasing trauma all around us.
    I have never visited a psychologist, the luck of friends have supported through tough times.
    Maybe we also develop understanding with time. As you show us in the quotes above.

    Thank you 💕🤗

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Luisa ! You introduced before us the theory of psychological development and the concept of ‘ identity crisis ‘ propounded by a German born American Psychologist and Psychoanalyst , Erik Homburger Erikson . He has rightly said that identity crisis develop within man from childhood and it passes through various eight phases throughout his life . He based his theory , I think , on the Aristotlean premises that man is a social animal and that’s why this identity crisis throughout his life in the society as such. He also shows how social influences contribute to our personalities throughout the life . And building an identity takes lifelong . And I personally think and believe that perfection never comes in man’s life despite such efforts by him as such. To Erikson , human personalities pass through eight different phases of development from his childhood to his senility . Identity crisis and personality defects are faced by one and all at the different stages of his/her life . I remember an incident of world war-II period when Churchill , the British Prime Minister met Frederick Roosevelt , the American President and the former gave a statement , later on , that initiating a talk with the latter was just like opening a bottle of Champagne, means so difficult . So such personality differences could be seen at every stage of everyone’s life and in every person from small to big . And at one stage or other one finds a short of identity crisis as such . Luisa ! I would like to thank you for bringing before us such a great personality like Erikson . Thanks again !

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My dear friend, it is I who thank you for your generous and learned comments on my articles.
      You always find a way to summarize and then broaden the topic, and this only adds value to the whole post 🙏🙏🙏


  5. Bonjour , LUISA bon mercredi
    Ce matin
    La fraîcheur du matin
    Le chant des oiseaux
    Le soleil qui se lève
    Les rayons passent à travers les rideaux
    Je viens te dire bonne journée
    Attention aux grosses chaleurs restons au frais
    Bisous Bernard

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Fascinating study Luisa. Most people seem to blame their childhood for their actions, especially if they are in the criminal justice system. There are so many more influences in a life than just parental. I think it is good to question why we are the way we are. It shows better self awareness. Have a great day. Allan

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Nihil possum dicere dopo le precisazioni dei tanti tuoi saggi commentatori, Luisa.

    Anche qui ritengo di essere un . . . . .

    F L O P

    Non mi riuscirò più a svegliare
    dal sonno in cui da tempo son caduto,
    che più non mi fa interessare
    di ciò che accade o che è accaduto.

    Ahimè, mi sono, eh, sì . . . molto stancato
    di una vita che non sa di niente,
    per me almeno ora, che privato
    son di motivazioni! Il presente

    mi sembra vuoto, non perché lo sia
    con gran certezza, ma perché ho preso
    contezza che l’intera lotta mia
    per migliorar la vita, perché acceso

    restasse qualche lume di speranza,
    ha fatto flop. Infatti, a tutte l’ore
    penso e ripenso che in buona sostanza
    ai figli lascio io un mondo peggiore

    di quello che ho vissuto. Ah, che doglianza

    non essere riuscito a debellare,
    (eh sì, non me lo posso perdonare)

    prosopopea e mala creanza,
    crassa ignoranza e falsa uguaglianza,

    che stanno ora in gran parte a dominare!

    No, flop maggior non ci può stare!

    Nel chiudere mi sto a domandare:
    “Ma che ci sono stato qui a fare?”

    al par di ciò che un dì, pur se devoti,
    ben chiederanno a me figli e nipoti.

    A mia discolpa solo il fatto che
    se non avessi fatto quel che ho fatto
    di più mal si potrebbe stare, e . . .
    di “lealtà” perciò in modo esatto

    mi sia almeno un poco dato atto.

    Mentre una colpa è in me presente:
    l’assenza di “crisi di identità”.
    “Fesso” son nato ed egregiamente
    io sarò “fesso” . . . per l’eternità.

    Mi accontento però: ciò ben mi sta!


    Liked by 1 person

    1. La trovo deliziosa, come sempre: tratta con eleganza e levità problemi che accomunano tutti gli esseri ragionevoli, il futuro nebuloso che lasciamo ai nostri figli
      PS Ho detto nebuloso perché sono una signora 😉

      Grazie, come sempre, per questi doni squisiti 🙏💗🙏


  8. A really interesting article about a man I knew nothing about Luisa. He covered all ages of a human’s life in a way only a psychoanalyst can, but I prefer to think of understanding life in a slightly different way. As far as I’m concerned I realise that the only time I’m going have life really sussed is when they’re banging that last nail down on my coffin.

    Liked by 1 person

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