Integrity Versus Despair

A person's final identity crisis is integrity versus despair. At the end of life, the dys-tonic quality of despair may prevail, but for people with a strong ego identity who have learned intimacy and who have taken care of both people and tilings, the syntonic quality of integrity will predominate. Integrity means a feeling of wholeness and coherence, an ability to hold together one's sense of "I-ness" despite diminishing physical and intellectual powers.

Beyond Biography Who was Erik Erikson? For information on Erikson's lifelong search for his own identity, please go to our website at http://www.mhhe.com/feist6

Ego integrity is sometimes difficult to maintain when people see that they are losing familiar aspects of their existence: for example, spouse, friends, physical health, body strength, mental alertness, independence, and social usefulness. Under such pressure, people often feel a pervadhig sense of despair, which they may express as disgust, depression, contempt for others, or any other attitude that reveals a nonacceptance of the finite boundaries of life.

Despair literally means to be without hope. A reexamination of Figure 9.2 reveals that despair, the last dystonic quality of the life cycle, is in the opposite corner

Chapter 9 Erikson: Post-Freudian Theory 261

from hope, a persons first basic strength. From infancy to old age, hope can exist. Once hope is lost, despair follows and life ceases to have meaning.

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