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From Late Adolescence to Young Adulthood

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'By focusing on the transition from late adolescence to young adulthood, this innovative book makes a unique and valuable contribution to our understanding of a neglected area of development. Drawing on his extensive clinical experience with this age group as well as his understanding of the complex cultural and social forces that impinge on young people today, Brockman has produced that rarest of volumes: a work that is engaging, creative and wise while at the same time being eminently practical and useful. Addressing issues that are highly relevant to our older patients as well as our younger ones, this landmark book should be required reading for every mental health professional.'- Theodore J. Jacobs, M.D.'Dr. Brockman takes us to unexplored terrain. His is a journey to a place where most of us have lived but never really investigated: our life from age 20 to the early 30s. It is always a pleasant surprise to look at something which has been so familiar and now is seen in a new light. Add to this the freshness of learning about Don Juan and Achilles in this particular period of their lives. This book is the best of guides to this land.'- Arnold Goldberg, M.D.

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Chapter 1. Psychoanalytic Assessment of Young Adults

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Psychoanalytic assessment of the personalities of young adults implies the study of certain intrapsychic states which are taken up in this chapter in terms of clinical and developmental issues (Rapaport and Gill, 1959). Assessment of young adults by the psychoanalytic method must, first of all, take into account how well any individual has succeeded in negotiating and working through the phase-specific tasks and conflicts associated with late adolescence (Spiegel, 1961; Adatto, 1980), and by inference all previous phases of development (Bios, 1962). Transition from late adolescence to young adulthood (Eisenstadt, 1956; Block with N. Haan, 1971; Vaillant, 1977; Levinson, Arrow, Klein, Levinson, and McGee, 1978; Arnstein, 1989) may be a relatively continuous, unconflicted growth process (Offer and Offer, 1975), or mark identity achievement status (Marcia, 1980; Holland, 1985; Josselson, 1989). My clinical experience with late adolescents and young adults suggests that most, if not all, are concerned with phase specific tasks, which often become involved in conflict that in turn produces clinically observable symptoms. It is true my clinical observations are derived from a skewed patient population, but my observation of nonpatient populations (including my children, those of my colleagues, and close friends) is that similar issues arise in nonclinical instances with more or less frequent if transient symptom formation.

 

Chapter 2. Identity

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A REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE

Etymologically, the word identity is derived from the Latin idem and the suffix tas or tratem. The noun expresses “the quality or condition of being the same in substance, composition, nature, properties, or in particular qualities under consideration; absolute or essential sameness; oneness” {Compact Oxford English Dictionary).

The concept of identity in psychoanalysis has been neglected in recent years (Gray, 1990), and remains unintegrated into the main body of psychoanalytic theory and clinical practice. Erikson (1956) popularized identity as a psychosocial and developmental term—identity crises and identity diffusion-to describe occurrences in late adolescents and young adults. These problems commonly occur late in the college career, after graduation, or for those who entered business without attending college or technical school when career choice and sexual object choice are experienced as overwhelming developmental tasks. Parent loss and other traumatic overstimulating, abusive experiences in childhood, whether sexual or physical, are risk factors leading to vertical splitting in the ego that in turn gives rise to clinically observable splits in identity (Shengold, 1980). The phase specific task of this transitional period of development, according to Erikson’s life cycle schemata (1959), is intimacy versus isolation; for example, when some young people are so frightened by the prospect of initiating intimacy that they withdraw from normal socializing with others, while others’ efforts to socialize result in repeated failure and lead to increasing disappointment and disillusionment. For Erikson (1982) identity formation is:

 

Chapter 3. Gender and Sexual Identity

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The terms gender identity and sexual identity in the psychoanalytic literature are confusing at best, but the definitions in Money and Ehrhardt’s (1972) classic book Man and Woman Boy and Girl are helpful and elegant in their simplicity. They speak of psychosexual differentiation beginning with the prenatal period of embryonic development and continuing throughout the postnatal period of social and psychological development. They emphasize the theme of a complex interaction of hormones, chromosomes, genes, and environmental influences. Their emphasis on their experience with hermaphrodites and pseudohermaphrodites, and the presence of a suitable penis to guide them in making decisions about sex reassignment, has been seriously questioned by Diamond and Sigmundson’s (1997) long-term review of the case of a boy as well as by an editorial (Reiner, 1997). Gender identity is defined by Money and Ehrhardt “as the sameness, unity, and persistence of one’s individuality as male or female (or ambivalent) in greater or lesser degree, especially as it is experienced in self awareness of behavior. Gender identity is the private experience of gender role and gender role is the public expression of gender identity” (p. 284). In Zucker and Bradley’s (1995) experience, gender identity is taken very seriously by preschoolers in their affective responses to questions if they belong to the opposite sex. Gender disorders in children, usually males, often lead to adolescent and young adult homosexuality. In special cases, psychoanalytic therapeutic intervention can felicitously transform this trajectory from a gay orientation into a solid heterosexual one (Greenson, 1966; Haber, 1991). Most researchers in this area, including Tyson (1998), use a model consisting of gender identity, gender role, and sexual orientation. Gender role refers to ‘ ‘behaviors, attitudes, and personality traits that a society, in a given culture and historical period, designates as masculine or feminine social role” (Zucker and Bradley, 1995, p. 3). This includes in young children same-sex versus opposite-sex affiliative preference behavior, “fantasy roles, toy interests, dress-up play, and interest in rough-and-tumble play” (Zucker and Bradley, 1995, p. 3). Sexual orientation refers to how a person responds to sexual stimuli.

 

Chapter 4. Intimacy

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Erikson’s concept of the normative developmental task of achieving intimacy versus isolation (1950, p. 229), is not limited to a sexual relationship. In addition, it refers to all those capacities of young adults for emotional closeness, trusting self-disclosure, mutual respect, joint problem solving, lessening ambivalence for the love object, and giving that person sufficient room to develop his or her potentials to the fullest. It also refers to sharing and resonating harmoniously with each other’s deepest emotions of joy and sorrow and not engaging in destructive draining of the loved person’s sharing of themselves. It is, in short, a relatively unambivalent relationship involving mutual love. Erikson’s statement that young adults achieve intimacy only after they “emerge from their identity struggles” (p. 229) seems valid enough. Although, in-depth clinical observations would suggest that intimacy achievement simultaneously occurs alongside identity formation, and that the two tasks are the most important phase specific developmental tasks that young adult people are confronted with. In young adulthood, as well as throughout childhood and adolescence, there are different forms of intimacy with parents, siblings, friends, and peers.

 

Chapter 5. The Fate of Don Juan: The Myth and the Man

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Nature has placed but one law in my bosom, to do
nothing but what pleases me [Maetzu, 1938, p. 202].

This chapter will contain a discussion of late adolescent and young adult character development (Deutsch, 1965) in certain individuals whose behavior is reminiscent of the dramatic and mythic character of Don Juan Tenorio, whose motives for control and power over others, as manifest in his sexual exploits, are legendary (e.g., Mozart’s opera Don Giovanni). The three important motivations of late adolescence, mastery of sexuality, acquisition of power over others, and interest in accumulating money, certainly flower in adolescence and young adulthood. Motives such as these are less obvious than the externally more visible pubertal and maturational (physiological) changes of adolescence or the cognitive and intellectual changes, but they are nevertheless very important. Of these three, power and control or dominance over others have been sorely neglected in recent psychoanalytic literature.

 

Chapter 6. The Power Motive in Late Adolescence and Young Adulthood

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Lord Acton’s famous dictum “Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely” is as true today as on April 5, 1887, when he wrote this phrase in a letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton. Pertinent examples are easily recalled concerning leaders of the greatest of nations throughout history to the smallest of modern institutions.

There are many definitions of power, 1,2 but a psychoanalytic definition as it arises in adolescence and young adulthood includes the focusing, channeling, control, and mastery over inner drivenness, helplessness, acquisition of knowledge (Foucault cited in Rawlinson [1987]) of oneself, the world, and one’s creative talents, but also certain capacities for leadership to compel obedience by and dominance over others.

PHILOSOPHY OF POWER

Foucault combined his concept of power with knowledge, saying that power produces knowledge and they imply each other (Rawlinson, 1987). Furthermore, Rawlinson contends that power is fundamentally productive. Nietzsche (1886), like Hobbes (1651) before him, contended that power was a basic drive in all human beings and was the essence of the basic human drive. It is the “primitive form of affect, that all other affects are only developments of it” (p. 366). Curiously enough, Nietzsche’s idea of will to power seems to be related to Freud’s drive theory, but it is not to be confused with Adler’s term will to power (1956), which he borrowed from Nietzsche but interpreted to be a compensatory structure for organ inferiority or feelings of inferiority that he considered to be a neurotic striving beginning in early infancy and childhood.

 

Chapter 7. Narcissistic Rage in Young Adulthood: The Tragedy of Akhilleus

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Sing, Goddess, the anger of Peleus’ Son Akhilleus and its devastation which put pains thousand fold upon the Achaians [Homer, The Iliad, I, 1-2}.

In Richmond Lattimore’s introduction to his translation of Homer’s Iliadhe states that this heroic poem is really “the story of Achilleus” (Lattimore, 1951, p. 17) and from his “anger of pride, the necessary accompaniment of the warrior’s greatness, … springs the tragedy of the Iliad” (p. 47). It is my intention here to expand on this theme of anger; that is, traumatically overwhelming narcissistic rage. The Greek word is menis for vengeful xvrath (Schein, 1984) felt by a god or a hero toward humans. In fact, Fagles (1990) translates it as rage, Previous attempts at dealing with other literary figures who are depicted as afflicted with narcissistic rage are that of Melville’s Captain Ahab in Moby Dick by Kligerman (1953), Kohut (1972), Hamilton (1978), and Gomez (1990); Heinrich von Kleist’s Michael Kohlhaus by Kohut (1972) and Dettmerling (1975); and George Eliot’s Maggie in The Mill on the Floss by Johnstone (1990). I am indebted to all these authors for their groundbreaking work in this area of applied analysis concerning narcissistic rage since there is much to be learned from the novelist’s attempts to depict the darker aspects of the human condition. Johnstone (1990), for example, described Maggie’s low self-esteem that had resulted from her family’s ongoing devaluation of her. She suicided when she realized there was no one who could possibly meet her needs for a mirroring self object. Gomez (1990) pointed out that Melville “used the magic of dreams, legends and myths to create a universally resonating great novel about one man’s pride and obsession for revenge” (p. 64).

 

Chapter 8. Creativity in the Young Adult: A Partial Review and a Critique

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And as imagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen
Turns them to shapes, and gives to airy nothing
A local habitation and a name

[Shakespeare, A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream 5. 1. 15-18].

This chapter will delineate at least two among many factors that are important in the emergence of special creativity in young adulthood (Sternberg and Davidson, 1983; Tannen-baum, 1986; Ostwald and Zegans, 1993). These factors are a developmental readiness in terms of a process of consolidation of an evolving personality and the construction of a special, internalized object relationship combined with a highly invested interpersonal relationship between the artist and a significant person (Snyder, Benson, and Tessman, 1965; Rose, 1984). Smith and Carlsson have defined creativity as “a generative or productive way of experiencing reality, including the perceiver’s own self” (1990, p. 5). Currendy creativity seems to be studied via the delineation of various phenomena rather than making a definitive discovery of the origins of creativity (Stein and Heinze, 1960, cited by J. W. Anderson, 1980, p. 266). One of the problems with these definitions is that there are so many different kinds of creativity; and there is more than one single characteristic that distinguishes talented people. In fact, Gardner and Wolf (1988) spell out five characteristics: neurobiological giftedness in artists occurs in the form of genetic and constitutional givens; special cognitive capacities, such as Freud’s logical and linguistic skills and Picasso’s visual-spatial skills; intense emotionality and ambition coupled with a high degree of self-confidence; an attraction to and a felicitous fitting in with a special intellectual domain; and the internal field of investigating the psychology of unconscious motivations. They suggest a combination of some or all these factors (though not necessarily with much synchrony), occurring in creative persons in some new way in the historical development of a scientific or artistic field. Gifted persons process information more quickly than die average; they construct rules and strategies to solve problems earlier and quicker; and make use of global strategies unknown to average people. The gifted person is challenged, stimulated, and motivated to solve problems others have stumbled over; for example, Newton’s return mail solution of a problem the Bernouli brothers had struggled with for over a year. It could be said the creator achieves a kind of mastery of conflict between certain dualities and a “restoration of inner unity toward which we steadily strain” (Brenman-Gibson, 1976, p. 339). Brenman-Gibson sees man as a ‘ ‘playful” problem-finding, problem-making and problem-solving animal who sets up ‘ ‘contests” that increase in intensity and complexity with his moral and verbal development and appreciation of the sophisticated intricacies of interpersonal and intrapersonal experience. The artist, too, needs a “confirming response from some audience’ (p. 349).

 

Chapter 9. Summary and Conclusions

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The period of life called young adulthood is coterminal with the ending of adolescence and the age group under consideration ranges from 18 years to the early thirties. These young people are in college, graduate school, or already in the workforce. In my opinion, young adulthood is the most exciting of all phases of development, particularly so, when it is contrasted with the hormonal/ physiological and psychological changes that dominate the beginning of the adolescent and pubertal period. What is so exciting is the fact the personalities of young adult people are in flux and engaged in a dynamic process of psychological consolidation. Physical maturation has been completed. The monumental developmental tasks of integration, synthesis, and cohesion of multiple areas of the personality result in a strikingly observable “setding down” into a chosen career, searching for and finding a suitable partner with whom to achieve physical and emotional intimacy, mastery of the drives, fitting in with a social group identity, and the consequent establishment of clearly defined sexual and gender identities. Most young people learn to master and negotiate these tasks and successfully manipulate the external world more or less to their advantage. These psychological processes occur in the context of a complex physiological and bidirectional sociological milieu that Engel (1977) originally termed the bi-opsychosocial model of human behavioral interactions. To appraise the depth and extent of these personality developments, the modern clinician must be armed with an extensive array of psychoanalytically informed tools. But before any evaluation of this period can be intelligendy achieved, all prior developmental phase specific tasks must be thoroughly investigated. Also, it must be remembered people mature physically, develop psychologically, and relate socially at widely different rates. The “late-bloomers” are familiar to educators, parents, and friends alike as well as the precociously gifted ones who appear grown-up beyond their years. Youthful idealism that revolutionized American culture in the 1960s can be understood not only in terms of high energy levels, but also in terms of a significant restructuring of the superegos and ego ideals. Today’s youth may not be as caught up in the same kind of revolutionary zeal, but they nevertheless undergo radical changes internally and exert an impact on society as a whole. There is a freeing up of narcissistic energies that provides easier access to creative talents in the arts and sciences. Perceptual and intellectual competencies are much freer of conflict so that intellectual study and formal operations are now more than ever possible for them to make significant contributions. In a word, the modern youth is transformed into at best a delightful, creative, intellectual, and seriously disciplined person. The educational environment promotes emotional, intellectual, and linguistic skills. From a sociological perspective, peers, professors, and siblings add a significantly rich menu of stimulation. In fact, young adults often report that certain professors and mentors were crucially important in their overall development, choice of a career, and a lifelong friendship so that young adults learn to cope and adapt to new circumstances. Cognitive development proceeds from lower levels of abstract thinking to postformal operations. Vygotsky’s (1981) theories concerning the semiotic function of the educational environment and the use of language and symbolic thinking processes add significantly to the development of youth.

 

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