Lecture 6 -Psychology of Personality
We are quickly leaving Freud in our rearview mirror especially with B.F. Skinner
(Fred to his Friends).
This was also the beginning of scientific psychology coming to
the fore as the essence of Psychology.
But before we get to that, let's look at the
'kindness' of Erik Erikson.
Erik Erikson (1902-1994)
Among the Oglala Lakota, it was the tradition for an adolescent boy to go off on his
own, weaponless and wearing nothing but a loincloth and mocassins, on a dream quest. Hungry, thirsty,
and bone-tired, the boy would expect to have a dream on the fourth day which would reveal to him his
life's path. Returning home, he would relate his dream to the tribal elders, who would interpret it
according to ancient practice. And his dream would tell him whether he was destined to be a good hunter,
or a great warrior, or expert at the art of horse-stealing, or perhaps to become specialized in the making of
weapons, or a spiritual leader, priest, or medicine man.
In some cases, the dream would lead him into the realm of controlled deviations among the Oglala. A
dream involving the thunderbird might lead a boy to go through a period of time as a heyoka, which
involved acting like a clown or a crazy man. Or a vision of the moon or a white buffalo could lead one to
a life as a berdache, a man who dresses and behaves as if he were a woman.
Erikson was moved by the difficulties faced by the Lakota children and adolescents he talked to and
observed. But growing up and finding one's place in the world isn't easy for many other Americans,
either. African-Americans struggle to piece together an identity out of forgotten African roots, the culture
of powerlessness and poverty, and the culture of the surrounding white majority. Asian-Americans are
similarly stretched between Asian and American traditions. Rural Americans find that the cultures of
childhood won't cut it in the larger society. And the great majority of European-Americans have, in fact,
little left of their own cultural identities other than wearing green on St. Patrick's Day or a recipe for
marinara sauce from grandma! American culture, because it is everybody's, is in some senses nobody's.
Erik Erikson was born in Frankfurt, Germany, on June 15, 1902. There is a little mystery about his
heritage: His biological father was an unnamed Danish man who abandoned Erik's mother before he was
born. His mother, Karla Abrahamsen, was a young Jewish woman who raised him alone for the first three
years of his life. She then married Dr. Theodor Homberger, who was Erik's pediatrician, and moved to
Karlsruhe in southern Germany.
We cannot pass over this little piece of biography without some comment: The development of identity
seems to have been one of his greatest concerns in Erikson's own life as well as in his theory. During his
childhood, and his early adulthood, he was Erik Homberger, and his parents kept the details of his birth a
secret. So here he was, a tall, blond, blue-eyed boy who was also Jewish. At temple school, the kids