Federer Plays Erikson, Round 1

The U. S. Open tennis tournament has begun.  This is my first chance since Wimbledon to play with my idea that the seven rounds of the tournament are (almost) like the eight stages in Erik Erikson’s developmental scheme—in a narrow and limited sense, of course.[1]  I want to use it as a metaphor showing that as you come to each new stage, you face a new opponent (not, remember, an “enemy”).  At each round, you draw on the strengths your game developed or displayed in the previous rounds.

I am especially interested in Round 7 because that is where I am in my own life.  I am especially interested in the Swiss star Roger Federer because I like the way he plays tennis and the way he conducts himself generally.  He’s my favorite player, although he has now declined from #1 in the world to #3 and although he is not old by tennis standards.  He is 30.  I will follow Federer until someone beats him and then I’ll follow that person until he gets beat and so on.  I WILL get all the way to the finals.

If there are only seven matches and there are eight stages, I will have to drop one so I’ll drop the first one.  I will presume that in Roger’s first round he confronted his opponent, mistrust, and defeated him.  From the contest between what Erikson calls “basic trust” and “basic mistrust,” Roger emerged with a sobered and realistic trust, the goal Erikson calls (all caps) HOPE.  That strength he takes with him to the next stage and at that point, we pick up the actual U. S. Open.

Federer played and defeated his first opponent yesterday, the Columbian Santiago Giraldo.[2]  Federer didn’t play all that well, but he did win 6-4, 6-3, 6-2.  Federer fans will find the trend encouraging.  Giraldo will represent Federer’s first opponent in the Erikson scheme.  Giraldo represents “shame or doubt.”  The strength Federer showed in defeating this opponent was autonomy, but in Erikson’s last writings on this scheme, it isn’t just the triumph of autonomy that is the goal, the autonomy chastened by its struggle with shame or doubt.  Federer emerges from this stage/round with (all caps again) WILL.  A new determination emerges at this stage of a child’s life, so I will be proposing that it emerges in Federer at this round of the tournament.

His next opponent will be guilt.  That will be the third Erikson stage (because we had to skip one) and the second round of the tournament.  Federer will be playing the Israeli, Dudi Sela, who also won his first round game.  One of them—Federer, I hope—will continue on to the third round.  Stay tuned.


[1] It is tempting to fall into a shorthand like “Federer plays Erikson.”  I want to avoid that because it reminds me of the scathing report given by a reviewer.  Here is his review: “A string quartet played Brahms here last night.  Brahms lost.”

[2] The brothers McEnroe, John and Patrick, were the commentators for this match.  Patrick called the Columbian Hiraldo; John called him Giraldo.  Neither accommodated himself to the other which, I understand, is what their relationship has always been like.

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About hessd

Here is all you need to know to follow this blog. I am an old man and I love to think about why we say the things we do. I've taught at the elementary, secondary, collegiate, and doctoral levels. I don't think one is easier than another. They are hard in different ways. I have taught political science for a long time and have practiced politics in and around the Oregon Legislature. I don't think one is easier than another. They are hard in different ways. My wife, Bette, is the First Reader (FR) of the posts. I have arranged that partly because she helps me write better posts than I would otherwise and partly because I can hold her responsible for the mistakes that I would, otherwise, have to own up to myself.. You'll be seeing a lot about my favorite topics here. There will be religious reflections (I'm a Christian) and political reflections (I'm a Democrat) and a good deal of whimsey. I'm a dilettante.
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