Robert Erikson Ego Despair Analysis

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1. Stage 8 – Ego integrity vs. Despair – Robert McNamara
Erikson describes stage 8, ego integrity, as the ‘fruit’ of the first seven stages. We can describe this as normal, healthy self-love, self-knowledge, acceptance, and being comfortable in one’s skin. This stage occurs in the midst of facing death, where people are likely retired, and are no longer seeking to make another contribution. This reflection period often consists of one asking whether they accomplished what they hoped to, ideally leading to feelings of wisdom. The opposite of integrity is despair – the inability to accept failures, mistakes, or oneself. Robert McNamara was the Secretary of Defense during the Vietnam War. Long after the war, in the late 90s and 2000s, McNamara
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His relationships with everyone, including his wife, are completely dysfunctional. He is in so much interior pain that he, like the infant in Stage 1, seeks to internalize pleasure (introjection) by indulging in various fantasies in which he pictures himself acting heroically, and he seeks to externalize pain by lashing out at various enemies, including using guns and his fists). He has zero of the Autonomy of Stage 2, being totally dependent on following the orders of his wife. He compensates for his sense of shame by fantasizing that he is brilliant and heroic in various scenarios (in a storm, in war, in a courtroom, in an operating theater). He has almost zero of the Stage 3 Initiative. I do say ‘almost’, since he is still able to drive, and he is still able to get to the stores to buy the overshoes and the dog food. However, the latter tasks could easily be managed by a child, whereas Mitty is an elderly man. Mitty appears to be a retired gentleman, and it appears that he has lost his Stage 4 Industry, assuming he had sufficient of this trait to carry him through his working life. This, incidentally, could be a problem for people who retire without a plan for their post-work years. Mitty clears feels inferior and compensates for these feelings by imagining himself as a …show more content…
He has no idea who he is or who he wants to be, and so in his own mind he takes on multiple identities, the pilot, the surgeon, the courtroom defendant, the war hero. They are all macho roles, but he cannot settle on one identity. This is very different from the teenager who tries to visualize himself as a doctor to see if this identity ‘fits’, and if not, tries to visualize himself as a lawyer instead. Mitty’s Stage 6 Intimacy is a serious problem. His relationship with his wife is not a relationship of equals. In effect, his wife is his caregiver and minder, more of a mother/infant relationship. Mitty is totally self-absorbed. There is no mention in the story of Mitty’s children. However, it is safe to assume that if he had children, he would be utterly incapable of being sufficiently other-centered to take care of their development. Therefore, he totally fails at the Stage 7

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