The way you ‘take history’ is also a way of ‘making history’: Erik Erikson

Accept, Synthesise and Create yourself anew!

Does it ever happen that the end of a relationship, birth of a child, job change, retirement from work, or changes in our physical/bodily features lead us to situations of confusion about our identities?

The level of self that we operate from, the degree of self-worth we experience and the amount of confidence that we depict during the transition phase (that may be positive or traumatic in nature), definitely comes to define our identities for us. All of this may have an impact on our state of ‘being’ that becomes truly unfathomable and unmanageable.

Similar is the story of a boy born to a Jewish mother, a lady who hid the truth about his biological father from him until his late childhood. He became bitter about the secret (of his stepfather) when he discovered it and hence experienced the storms and stresses of an adolescent. He felt like he didn’t truly belong anywhere. His trust was broken. He felt shattered. To add to this, his experiences at school (being teased for blonde hair in Jewish school and rejection at public school for blue eyed Jewish connections) further led him to question his identity. Over time all of this captivated his interests in self- discovery.

As an adult (he had moved to Boston due to the Nazi attacks in Germany) he began writing about the adolescent identity confusion that he experienced while he lived with his parents in Germany. Eventually his interest in children and willingness to connect with them through art combined with the documentation of his personal experiences as a teenager, led him to the development of the most widely accepted concept in the domain of Psychology, that is; ‘identity crisis’. He went on to become the author of famous biographies i.e., ‘Young Man Luther’ and ‘Gandhi’s Truth’. He authored many books and his theory of personality and development is well accepted all around the world and taught in schools and Universities as a part of the curriculum.

Yes, this is the story of the psychoanalyst, Erik Erikson.
Erikson’s expedition from the life of devastating despair to that of renewed progression teaches us the following lessons:
• ACCCEPTANCE OF THE GIVEN: An acceptance of the parts of ourselves that we fear, of our pasts, of the families and parents that we are destined to be born to. (He accepted the truth of his stepfather over time.)
• SYNTHESIS: The power of assimilating and integrating the disparate parts of our being is tremendous. (Amidst the odds, he went out for a period of wandering as a youth and plunged himself as an artist to explore his potentials)
• DOCUMENT: Whatever he experienced, he wrote about it. We don’t know how and when our daily journal of day to day actions, plans and achievements can turn out into creative manuscripts for the future generations.
• USE YOUR SKILLS CREATIVELY: Erikson had an interest in art and through that he connected with children. Art enabled him to experience a cathartic vent though he didn’t go on to pursue a career into it.

To sum up:
If we wish to make history, you need to accept the past and the heredity factors, synthesize your skill set with it and make the best of what is available.