Erikson and Maslow…or Hey I Oughta Grow Up

17 Apr

I think it’s sort of funny how I started reading psychology for college just as my most recent relationship was crumbling, if only because it started to spell things out for me.

You see, social psychology, or the science of how the human mind interacts with others, should be ROOTED in relationships. Hell, I have held enough failed relationships to write a freaking book on it (coming soon). Whether it was optimism or pessimism, so many things started to, I dunno, *click* in my mind.

Erikson was a psychologist who believed that every person went through cognitive stages, or emotional growth periods, throughout their life. This guy, I tell ya, freaking genius! He wasn’t like Freud, who just believed we all had deep seeded desires to f*ck EVERYTHING in our sight (though he may be half-right, fully right for those who are bi). No, Erikson believed we are constantly growing and developing as people. One of his stages really caught my eye.

Identity versus Identity Diffusion

In this stage, usually occurring in early adolescence, a person has to decide who they are. What is so awesome about this, and clearly Erikson recognized this, is that this stage is often revisited. What sucks is that when compared to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, identity is often the LAST thing we find. Well shit. Now I’m stuck.

See, Maslow believed that we, as humans, have basic needs.

  1. Need one, the one that comes first, is hunger. I’m not talking Hunger Games (yeah, I’m sure it’s awesome, but I do enough reading, clearly), but our need to survive. If we are starving, nothing matters more than getting food. This, I can accept.
  2. Next comes shelter. Got a full belly? Better find something to stop that rain from fallin’ on ya! Okay, makes sense.
  3. Next, and this one is difficult, is love. Sure, we love things, and people love us. I know, right now, my friends (most of you bastards, anyway) and family love me. I feel good about that. But then there comes the love of another, the entire freaking BASIS of this blog.

After love comes esteem, which I believe is ass backwards. Who wants to love someone who can’t love themselves (insert masturbatory joke HERE)? After esteem comes self conceptualization, or when we find out what we truly want to be.

Wait, so Maslow says we seek our identity AFTER love, but Erikson believes we need our identity first? Quick story. Dated a girl who was in a sticky situation. She had an identity she had developed prior to meeting me. We enter into a relationship, my identity in hand, hers in hers as well. Suddenly, the identity changes.

Don’t act surprised people. For the married people reading this, or better yet, the parents reading this, you know your identity alters after life events like this! So, sure, dating doesn’t alter the relationship too much, but suddenly you go from single to in a relationship (and Lord knows the identity Facebook created, “it’s complicated”). This young lady was concerned with my identity, and mind you I was THRILLED to be her boyfriend, but she could not let go of the identity she was actively (I use that term loosely) pursuing to get rid of. I’m beating around the bush here, you guys know what I’m talking about.

What I guess I am saying is, people, handle your shit. If you are with someone, recognize you now share an identity with them. If you don’t want that identity, get out. Because, let’s be real here, the other person is creating an identity with you.

I’m trying to reach Maslow’s self conceptualization. I do feel love, I do have a good self-esteem (some might called it egotistical, but I’ll get into that later), so you know what, I’m trying to make the most of me. That said, I am STILL actively looking at my identity now and how that might change come the next relationship. If, and when, that happens, time to START ALL OVER!

If I become a professor, I am DEFINITELY growing this mustache. All good professors have one, don't they?

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One Response to “Erikson and Maslow…or Hey I Oughta Grow Up”

  1. Chrissy April 17, 2012 at 10:48 am #

    Your identity changes every day as you absorb new experiences and grow from them. Watch out for people who refuse to grow or who are completely rigid in identity – not only are they boring but they usually suck 🙂

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