Erik Erikson

I just re-read Erikson’s “Reflections on the Dissent of Contemporary Youth” and, while some of the issues he raises are understandably dated (pub. 1970), I was shocked at his prescience on most points.  For example, he refers to the “indispensable treasure of experience which our technocratic world is vaguely aware of having sacrificed to the gods of gadgetry, merchandise, and mechanical adjustment.”  Being a professor as well as a psychoanalyst, I work with a lot of late teens/young adults who are trying to figure out whether and how to become part of the world and also play creatively with its offerings (as Bollas would put it).  I don’t think I’ve seen a worse time for the kind of hopefulness one wishes for the young.  One way I’ve found that helps to address the current bewilderment of people in this age group is to help them feel their links to other creatures and the environment.  These links ground them and reduce their feelings of isolation while they do the difficult work of containing their anxiety while in the “protracted moratorium” (Erikson) of higher education.  Susan Bodnar has a great article on this topic.

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