What is a human being? A human being is a combination of the biological makeup of the individual and the state of being.
The state of being can be characterized by the individuals state of consciousness, and an individuals state of consciousness is characterized by his or her identity. In the most general sense, identity refers to ones answer to the question, who am I? 1 To fully understand and grasp the concepts and ideas related to identity, two different psychological perspectives will be explored, as well as three theorists including Sigmund Freud, Erik Erikson, Abraham Maslow, and Carl Rogers. Freud – Psychic StructuresSigmund Freud explored identity through the psychodynamic theory of Psychosexual Development.
According to psychodynamic theory, the human personality is characterized by a dynamic struggle as basic physiological drives come into conflict with laws and social codes.2 Freud then categorized human personality into elements, or psychic structures. Freud hypothesized the existence of three psychic structures: the ID, the EGO, and the SUPEREGO. 3 The ID is present at birth, represents physiological drives, and is unconscious.
The ID follows the pleasure principle, which demands instant gratification of instincts without consideration for the law, social norms, or the needs of others. The EGO begins to develop during the first year of life when the child learns that his or her demands for instant gratification cannot always be met immediately. The EGO stands for reason, good sense, and for rational ways of coping with frustration.
The EGO is guided through the reality principle, which takes into consideration what is practical and possible in gratifying needs. According to Freud, it is the EGO, which provides the conscious sense of self. The SUPEREGO is the third and final psychic structure, which develops throughout early childhood. The SUPEREGO incorporates moral standards and values into the individual though the moral principle, which sets moral standards and enforces adherence to them. The SUPEREGO monitors the actions of the EGO and judges them right or wrong.
If the SUPEREGO judges an action as wrong then the SUPEREGO floods the EGO with feelings of guilt and shame.4 Freud – Psychosexual Stages of DevelopmentFreud theorized the Psychosexual Stages of Development, which is the process by which libido energy is expressed through different erogenous zones during different stages of development.5 Freud hypothesized five periods of psychosexual development: oral, anal, phallic, latency, and genital.
Freud believed that children would encounter conflicts during each stage of development, and possibly become fixated on a previous stage of development. A fixation occurs when the individual is gratified insufficiently or excessively and exhibits characteristics of that stage.6 The first period of development is the oral stage where gratification is attainted primarily through oral activities. Oral traits include dependency, gullibility, and optimism or pessimism. Adults fixated in the oral stage experience exaggerated desires for oral activities such as smoking, overeating, alcohol abuse, and nail biting. During the anal stage, gratification is attained through contraction and relaxation of the muscles that control elimination of waste products.
In this stage, the child learns to delay the gratification of eliminating wastes as soon as they feel the urge. Here, the general issue surrounds self-control. Anal fixations branch into two sets: anal-retentive and anal-expulsive. Anal-retentive traits include excessive self-control, perfectionism, a strong need for order, and exaggerated neatness and cleanliness.
While anal-expulsive traits include carelessness and messiness. Children enter the phallic stage during the third year of life. In this stage, the major erogenous zone is the phallic region. Here, parent-child conflict is likely to develop as the child develops strong sexual attachments to the parent of the opposite sex and begin to view the same-sex parent as a rival for the other parents affections, although, this conflict is unconscious. Freud labeled conflicts in this stage of development as the Oedipus complex in boys and the Electra complex in girls. In both of these conflicts, the child desires a sexual relationship with the parent of the opposite sex and perceives the same-sex parent as a rival.
By the age of 5 or 6, Freud believed that the pressures of the Oedipus and Electra complex would motivate the child to repress ALL sexual feelings, thus they enter the latency period. The fifth and final stage is the genital stage where puberty begins and sexual feelings are again expressed, although this time they have been displaced onto socially acceptable members of society.7Erikson Identity Development ProcessContinuing with the psychodynamic model is a theorist named Erik Erikson. According to Eriksons identity development process, identity is the process of simultaneous reflection and observation, taking place at all levels of mental functioning, by which the individual judges himself in the light of what he perceives to be the way in which others judge him in comparison to themselves. Erikson also stated that this identity struggle is of great significance for adolescents.8 According to Eriksons theory, society offers teenagers a time relatively free from adult responsibility where they are expected to explore social roles and personality styles, make decisions about important issues, and integrate new choices, personal history, and goals into a coherent sense of self. Those who do not resolve this identity crisis will experience identity confusion and isolate themselves, and draw their identity from a peer group.
9 Erikson Psychosocial Stages of DevelopmentBased on Eriksons identity development process he theorized the Psychosocial Stages of Development. In this model, each stage has a crisis. The crisis is not a catastrophe, but rather a crucial time in which the individual has a heightened potential, and has an opportunity to resolve the problem and learn more about oneself, and become a more complete human being. Each stage develops into healthy or unhealthy characteristics. Eriksons model incorporates eight stages.10 Stage 1 occurs during infancy (birth to age 2) and is titled Trust vs. Mistrust.
Here the infant goes through a crisis regarding hope, where he or she will either lead a life of trust or mistrust in regards to their view of the world. At early childhood (age 2-3) the individual will enter Stage 2: Autonomy vs. Shame & Doubt. Here, the individual goes through a crisis regarding will, and the individual will either become autonomous or experience feelings of shame and doubt regarding how he or she feels about power in their life situations.
By the age of 4-5, the individual will begin Stage 3: Initiative vs. Guilt. Here, the individual deals with a crisis regarding purpose, and the individual will either believe that he or she has a purpose in life and show initiative at accomplishing goals, or feel a sense of purposeless and feel guilty for his or her actions. When individuals reach the school age (age 6 11), they enter Stage 4: Industry vs. Inferiority.
Here, the individual deals with a crisis pertaining to competence, and they become either industrious or they will retreat to a life of inferiority. Between the ages of 12 and 20, the individual will enter Stage 5: Identity vs. Identity Confusion. Here the individual deals with fidelity as they will either identify themselves or lose themselves to a false identity through an identity crisis. In Stage 6 (18-30 years): Intimacy & Distantiation vs.
Self-absorption & Isolation, the individual deals with the issue of love, and either becomes intimate with another or becomes self-absorbed and isolated in loneliness. Stage 7: Generativity vs. Stagnation occurs during adulthood (35-65 years old) and the individual deals with the issue of caring, from there the individual either becomes generous and cares for others or stagnates and cares only about oneself. The final stage of Eriksons model is stage 8: Integrity vs. Despair, spanning from age 65 until death. Here the individual deals with the concept of satisfaction, and either dies with feelings of satisfaction for life and dies with integrity, or feels dissatisfied with life and lives in despair.11 Rogers Theory of SelfThe final theorist is from the Phenomenological Perspective named Carl Rogers.
Carl Rogers hypothesized the Theory of Self, which speculated the existence of the true self and the adaptive self. Rogers defines the self as an organized, consistent, conceptual whole, composed of perceptions of the characteristics of the I or me to others and to various aspect of life, together with the values attached to these perceptions. 12 The self is the center of experience, and is the ongoing sense of who and what you are, your sense of how and why you react to the environment and how you choose to act on the environment. Your choices are made based on your values, and you values are parts of the self. To Rogers, the self provided the experience of being human in the world; it is the guiding principle behind personality structure and behavior. The true self is characterized as being the true identity of the individual, while the adaptive self is what we present to others and eventually become based on our experiences. Characteristics of the true self include: more emotional, does not distort reality, sees self and environment as they are, experience does not threaten self-concept, open to all experiences, and is not in denial.
According the Rogers, the person changes the self or changes the experience when faced with the threats posed by incongruence. Rogers believed that individuals developed an adaptive self because of conditions of worth – standards by which the value of a person is judged. Conditions of worth are created when the individual experiences conditional positive regard – accepting an individual only when they behave in the desired manner. An example of Conditional Positive regard: You can be friends with me if you steal that pack of gum. Meaning that for an individual to be liked he or she must act in a desired manner, and after a while, the individual will internalize these behaviors, and then these behaviors are locked in place by locks, conditions of Worth, thus creating the adaptive self.13A human being is an organism that is characterized in both biological and conscious terms. Through consciousness, the individual has a sense of identity.
By exploring a variety of perspectives and theorists, a better understanding of identity can be reached. The psychic structures represented identity in terms of three entities, which controls all conscious and unconscious functions. The Psychosexual Stages of Development explained how our identities develop and obtain specific traits in which makes us who we are. The Identity Development Process explained the process our identity goes through to continuously develop our identities.
The Psychosocial Stages of Development is another approach to our identity development and acquisition of traits, although through a social, rather than sexual approach. Finally, the Theory of Self explains how our identities change from one form to another based on exposure to the environment.Through exploration of these various vies on identity development, a better understanding can be reached for what a human being is.BibliographyBenner, David G., and Peter C. Hill., ed.
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