Posts Tagged Erikson
Multi-theoretical rather than meta-theoretical
I am highly wary of people who take only one theoretical perspective.
No matter how rich and multi-dimensional your theory is, no matter how many other theories it incorporates and subsumes, it’s still only a theory. It will never account for all of the variety, complexity and general messiness of real live people in real live environments.
The real problem with only taking one theoretical perspective is that you become subject to the Law of the Instrument (or Maslow’s hammer).
Give a small boy a hammer, and he will find that everything he encounters needs pounding. (Abraham Kaplan)
It is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail. (Abraham Maslow)
If you only have one theoretical perspective, you only have one set of concepts by which you interpret a client’s situation. Because of confirmation bias, you will tend to look for things that fit in with those concepts and you may fail to notice things which don’t fit.
It is tempting to force the facts to fit the concepts and limit what you notice to things that you can describe easily in your frame of reference.
That’s why I shy away from big theories which seek to do everything and try to collect lots of simpler theories that look at career decisions from very different angles. Phil McCash from Warwick University has described this as ‘theoretical triangulation‘.
So, if you’re just venturing out into the world of career theory, which theories should you start with? Here are my suggestions, with no sound scientific basis, just my personal preferences.
One of the most influential thinkers in the field of developmental psychology was Erik Erikson. Originally a pupil of Freud, he made a name for himself with his work on the development of human social identity.
I read about Erikson’s theories when studying for my professional qualification, but most emphasis on developmental theory in careers is dominated by the work of Donald Super. However, Erikson’s ideas of identity formation in adolescence has provided the basis for much thought and exploration around the transition from childhood to adulthood.
For several years now I have been expecting something to happen. I’ve been looking out for an unexpected attraction to leather trousers and a hitherto unexpressed fascination with Harley-Davidson motorcycles.
As each birthday passes and I discover I still haven’t given up all of my worldly possessions and trekked off to the Himalayas to ‘find myself’, I increasingly wonder what’s wrong with me.
Careers - in Theory is a blog from The Careers Group, University of London.
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