Identity foreclosure

I’ve been reading William Indick’s Psychology for Screenwriters. It offers an insight into the way psychology can be used to build the conflict within a screenplay.

Early in the book is a chapter about developmental psychologist Erik Erikson. Erikson was a neo-Freudian, best know for his theory on psychosocial development across the entire lifespan. Anyway, when thinking about a character’s identity crisis, Indick urges writers to “keep in mind the element of “moratorium”; the stage of actively searching that precedes identity achievement”.

The thing that interested me most about this notion, especially in relation to Carrion, is the element of “foreclosure” in Erikson’s model. Foreclosure is “the danger of ending the search too early and settling on an identity supplied by others rather than a personally meaningful identity achieved through self-discovery”.

I think Adam has a foreclosed identity.

Until his sister Christine was born in his late teens he was an only child. This meant he was the sole beneficiary of his parents emotional, physical, and financials resources. The affiliation he felt for his parents meant that he ended his search for identity too early, accepts their authority, and foreclosed on their’s. So when he joins the army a couple of years after Christine’s arrival, he was swapping one family dynamic for another.

Indick sights Spike Lee’s “Malcolm X” as an example of a story specifically about moratorium. Malcolm X is a story about one man’s “life-long search for a meaningful sense of personal identity”. Just as Adam submits himself to a career of service, first to the military, then to the police, “Malcolm submits himself completely to the Nation of Islam”.

Both men accept a foreclosed identity, identities “originating from without rather than from within”. It is only when Malcolm comes into conflict with the Nation of Islam, and Adam comes into conflict with the insects, prohibition, and the government, do they have to look into themselves to find an identity personal to them.

In the same way as Malcolm “must dig within his own soul and find a religion and philosophy that is personal to him as an individual”, Adam is forced to look within himself to find an identity that is less intolerant, allows for personal freedom, and accepts his sister.

To expand the idea a little, I also think if “society” were a personality, society might have accepted a foreclosed identity when it comes to drug use. The war on drugs is an identity supplied from without, rather than from within. Official institutions routinely repeat the mantra “drugs are dangerous” without considering they are no more or less dangerous than sanctioned drugs like alcohol.

Does this mean society has settled on a foreclosed identity? I don’t know, it certainly seems that way.


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