Sigmund Freud and Eric Erikson made a huge contribution to the understanding of ourselves. Due to their theories, the way of perceiving the personality and its social-emotional development was greatly changed (Ahmed, 2012). However, some of the theories that were put up, especially by Freud, were very controversial. The theories of these two great men are mainly centered on the social and emotional changes that occur at different stages of life (Bergen, 2008). Therefore, this essay will discuss the similarities and differences between the theories of Freud and Erikson. Additionally, it will describe the strengths and weaknesses of both theories. The theories include psychosexual theory by Freud and psychosocial theory by Erikson.
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As much as Erikson found some faults in the work of Freud, he still viewed him as a very influential person. Erickson said that in his “Freud” arguments, he misjudged various aspects of human growth and development. However, Erikson still used the arguments of Freud in his work; this contributed to the occurrence of great similarities in the views of these two men. Freud argued that human beings developed following certain stages, with each one including their own experience and knowledge. However, if an individual at a certain stage fails to complete it fully, there will be some changes in his growth. Freud says that humans have the conscious and unconscious mind, therefore if one does not complete a certain stage, a fixation will occur in the unconscious mind (Lothane, 2006). The fixation results in a relentless psychosexual stage which if not resolved, causes the development of unhealthy personality.
Similar to Freud, Erikson believed that personality develops in stages. However, he differs from Freud regarding the area that is involved in the stages. Freud’s arguments are based on psychosexual stages while those of Erikson depend on social experiences. Furthermore, Freud referred to five stages while Erickson mentioned eight stages. However, the first five stages of Erikson’s theory are similar to those of Freud. Those stages include the following periods, from birth to one year, from one to three years, from three to six years, from six to twelve years, and, lastly, from twelve onwards.
Another notable similarity between the theories is the fact that both scientists believed that any negative experience or incomplete stage results in unhealthy adulthood due to improper progression to the next stage. They both agreed that children treated harshly or brought up in a strict family may become doubtful or shameful. On the other hand, they also believed that a person at the stage from the onset of puberty becomes independent and wants to engage in relationships. However, they argued at what period it should start and what should be the result of the driving force. Freud believed that at that point, an individual is sexually driven, but Erikson did not agree but viewed it as a stage where intimacy relationship starts to occur. The major difference between the work of Freud and Erikson was that Freud focused on an unhealthy developmental process, while Erikson mainly emphasizes the healthy developmental processes.
But as it agrees with theory, there should be some criticism. Most critics argue that Freud’s theories are not backed-up by practical evidence (Bergen, 2008). Furthermore, they say that these theories are based on predictions which do not have any documented or experimented findings. Moreover, most of the current psychoanalysts are misinterpreted as they cannot decide whether to stick to the Fraud’s or Erikson’s concept; however, they often misapply them (Fayek, 2002).
Based on the theories set-up by Freud and Erikson, it is evident that they gave an imminent approach to other psychoanalysts. Therefore, it is up to them to choose the approach to study people. Furthermore, this is a changing world where everything is changing; thus, these theories might not apply today, but they are still a stepping stone in psychology.
Bergen, D. (2008). Human development: Traditional and contemporary theories. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.
Fayek, A. (2002). Psychic reality and mental representation: Contemporary misapplications of Freud’s concepts. Psychoanalytic Psychology 19(3), 475-500.
Lothane, Z. (2006). Freud’s legacy–is it still with us?. Psychoanalytic Psychology 23(2), 285-301.