chapter  1
20 Pages

Ego Identity: An Overview

New Zealand writer Janet Frame movingly described a similar identity disturbance in her own life as a feeling of “homelessness” within her­ self: “Therefore in an adolescent homelessness of self, in a time where I did not quite know my direction, I entered eagerly a nest of difference which others found for me but which I lined w ith my own furnishings; for, after all, during the past two years I had tried many aspects of ‘be­ ing’ ” (1982, p. 197). Through case histories such as these, Erikson saw conflicts, in exaggerated form, common to all people. Although the es­ sential functions of ego identity may be most clearly understood through their absence, Erikson attempted to elaborate identity’s key aspects in the following way:

The Identity Formation Process

The process of developing a sense of ego identity begins at birth and con­ tinues throughout the life span; however, it is during adolescence that this task comes to the fore, for it is during this time that “ young people must become whole people in their own right” (Erikson, 1968, p. 87). Erikson saw the primary psychological work of adolescence as finding some optimal balance between the bipolar issues of identity and role con­ fusion. Developing an assured sense of identity will provide one with

the resources to address issues of genuine intimacy, generativity, and in­ tegrity in the adult years of life. And it is the satisfactory resolution to issues of basic trust, autonomy, initiative, and industry during infancy and childhood years that enables one to grapple w ith the identity forma­ tion process of adolescence.