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Katz, W.W. (2008). Erikson and Us: A review of Erik Erikson and the American Psyche: Ego Ethics and Evolution, by Daniel Burston. New York: Aronson, 2007, 219 pp.. Contemp. Psychoanal., 44(4):622-628.

(2008). Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 44(4):622-628

Book Reviews

Erikson and Us: A review of Erik Erikson and the American Psyche: Ego Ethics and Evolution, by Daniel Burston. New York: Aronson, 2007, 219 pp.

Review by:
Wendy Wiener Katz, Ph.D.

In her 2007 memoir, House of Happy Endings, Leslie Garis follows the trail of her late father's mental illness to the records of his hospitalization at Austen Riggs in the 1950s. A transcript of his case conference, attended by Robert Knight and Erik Erikson, reveals that the psychoanalyst and writer known to generations of college students as the theorizer of the Eight Stages of Man, in fact made practical use of his own concepts in approaching the difficulties of his patients. “It's more than a generativity crisis,” he is quoted remarking about the patient. “As I formulate these things, his despair has to do with an integrity crisis” (p. 172).

Yet Erikson was anything but formulaic in his clinical approach, as his many writings about young patients, research subjects, and historical figures richly attest. Indeed, Erikson's clinical talent, fueled by his artistic vision, intuition, and creativity, enabled him to advance professionally as an immigrant and a lay analyst in the United States (Friedman, 1999). For Garis, among the many clinicians who pronounced upon her father Erikson stood out as extraordinarily empathie and insightful. She quotes his remarks from the transcript at length because she was “struck by the force of his reasoning and intuition … he seemed to have a special grasp of my father's character” (p. 171). This inside glimpse of Erikson as a thinker about individuals and their experiences, not as the public intellectual he became in later years, is what is most often missing in accounts of his work and life, from Paul Roazen's important 1976 critical study to Lawrence Friedman's (1999) otherwise comprehensive biography.

While

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