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Erikson’s Ego Integrity Vs Despair in Film Still Alice

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Dr. Alice Howland also known as Julianna Moore is a famous linguistics professor at Columbia University. At the point when words start to get away from her and she begins getting lost on her day-by-day runs, Alice must encounter a staggering analysis: early-stage Alzheimer’s ailment. Alice and her family’s lives face a nerve-racking test as this terminal degenerative neurological sickness gradually advances to an unavoidable end they all fear. En route, Alice battles to not exclusively to battle the inward rot, yet to benefit as much as possible from her residual time to discover the adoration and harmony to make essentially living advantageous. I’ve identified multiple theories to include in this paper that are closely related to the main character in Still Alice. The genetic theory of aging is the first theory that was very prevalent in the film. Also, the psychosocial theory of integrity vs despair and ecosystems theory came about in the film as well. The Genetic Theory explains to us that life expectancy is to a great extent dictated by the qualities we inherit. As per the hypothesis, our life span is fundamentally decided right now of conception and is to a great extent dependent on our parents and their qualities. The integrity vs Despair stage begins as the maturing grown-up starts to handle the issue of their mortality. The beginning of this stage is frequently activated by life occasions, for example, retirement, the passing of a mate, the loss of companions and colleagues, confronting a terminal sickness, and different changes to significant jobs throughout everyday life. During the integrity versus despair stage, individuals think back about the existence they have lived and left away with either a feeling of satisfaction from an actual existence all around lived or a feeling of disappointment and despondency over a real existence squandered. The Ecosystem theory or also known as the Ecological Theory is on a very fundamental level worried about the connection and association of life forms and their environment.

The theory of Integrity vs Despair originated from Erik Erikson. Erik Homburger Erikson was of German origin and was an American developmental psychologist and psychoanalyst who spearheaded in the realm of child psychology research by giving his developmental hypothesis with his ‘eight psychosocial stages’. Erikson believed that character creates in a foreordained order through eight phases of psychosocial advancement, from early stages to adulthood. During each stage, the individual encounters a psychosocial emergency or crisis which could have a constructive or pessimistic result for character development. As indicated by the hypothesis, the effective finish of each stage brings about a solid character and the obtaining of fundamental ethics. This theory applies to social work because is enlightens us in-depth of how an individual should develop socially thus forming them into the individual you see today. The onset of this particular stage may be triggered by life events, trauma, etc. This theory thus relates to the movie because we see the main character goes through this specific stage towards the end of the film. The ecosystem theory was developed by American psychologist Urie Bronfenbrenner. Bronfenbrenner developed the Ecological Systems Theory to clarify how the intrinsic characteristics of a child and his/her environment associate to impact how he will develop and grow. This theory can be applied to social work because an individual’s environment can have a direct effect on the development thus causing them to interact with their environment in a different manner than the next individual.

I will be analyzing Dr. Alice Howland, a known linguistics professor at Columbia University who just recently turned 50 in the film “Still Alice”. Howland displays as a sound 50-year-old person. Howland is an unimposing lady, however not underweight. Howland stays dynamic in her work and public activity and other than having a tumultuous existence seem upbeat. Howland lives with her significant other John and the two have three developed kids, all of which live outside of the home. I believe Alice keeps herself very well-groomed and makes great attempts to ensure she is in shape and not eating foods that could cause harm to her body. In the film, we see that she loves to take runs in the city streets to keep herself in prime physical condition for a 50-year-old woman. When I see how Alice dresses, she likes to keep her style very simple and not attempt to stand out too much. In the beginning of the film when she goes to speak at another school she is wearing a simple blouse, dress, and heels. This also changes as we analyze the film more, she starts to wear more comfortable clothing because she doesn’t go out as much anymore post-diagnosis. Also, her tone and mood change drastically during the movie. At the beginning of the movie, we see that she is light and always smiling, wanting to be around family, and overall satisfied with her life and nothing was to take her off her high horse. When she discovered the early onset of Alzheimer’s disease her mood and tone during the movie went to a darker side. We see her develop a quick temperament towards her family, especially her daughter Lydia Howland. She becomes unhappy with life and we see her do things that are outside of her regular character.

What brought Alice to services is the patterns of inconsistency related to her memory that she noticed are starting to become a lot more frequent and it is taking an effect on her. One of the first instances in the film that we see her Alzheimer’s disease start to show itself is in the beginning of the movie when she flew to speak at another school and was unable to formulate a word that she should’ve known to speak it in front of the classroom. Alice took it upon herself to see a doctor and tell him about her memory problems. He then does some exercises and asks her about her background and family medical history, she believes she might have a brain tumor but that, of course, was not the case. The history of her Early Onset Alzheimer’s familial disease goes back to her father who had the disease and it was unfortunately passed down to Alice. Alice was not very familiar with her father and both of her parents are (in the film) deceased. She mentions that her father was an alcoholic and she stayed very clear from him and his residence. The neurologist explains to Alice and her husband John that the buildup of the disease has been for at least the past 7 years without her noticing. The film doesn’t really explain to us what past events have led to her current state other than her family history. Alice explains to the head/chairperson of the department she teaches that “I had a hard time teaching last semester but didn’t realize how much it showed” when pulled about the reviews she has been getting on her class instruction. The intensity of the disease gets more and more prevalent as the film goes on. For example, Alice is let go from the university when she comes clean about the severity of her disease. She and John decide to go to their beach house residence away from their home, this is when we see how intense the disease actually is. She is getting progressively forgetful, repeatedly asking John about when he is going on a meeting and when Lydia is coming. They were supposed to go running however she cannot recollect where the washroom is and wets her jeans. She cries as she never again recalls where she seems to be.

Alice’s family history was described briefly in the movie when she went to see the neurologist. Both of Alice’s parents are deceased, one from liver failure (father), and the other died in a car crash when she was just 18 years of age (mother). Alice described him as “incoherent and incognizant” during the later stages of his life. It appears they her parents were either separated or divorced because she mentioned that he lived in New Hampshire which seemed to be a ways from the residence she was residing at the time he was alive. She mentions that her father died from cirrhosis, a late-stage disease brought about by numerous types of liver illnesses and conditions, for example, hepatitis and constant liquor addiction. Alice’s father was an alcoholic and also passed down the early-onset Alzheimer’s down to Alice. Alice’s social relationships were all fairly healthy in the beginning of the movie with no real signs of falls out’s or anything negative. The only relationship in question I believe would be with her daughter Lydia, their relationship is very rocky. In the beginning of the film, we see Alice take a visit to Lydia’s home in California after she goes to speak at a local college. They go out to eat and Lydia is discussing with Alice how her acting career is going and Alice then says “Lydia don’t you think it’s time you reconsider things, you’re so smart, there’s so much more you could be doing with your life.” Alice doesn’t agree with Lydia’s life choices and believes she should be going to school like her other two children and have a “real career”. Their relationship seems to fluctuate throughout the movie and her condition actually brings them closer in the end. Alice also only seems to be around family and not any friends in the film. After the onset all of the relationships that she developed changed during the movie. Alice and her husband John began to be very distant as her condition worsened and he barely wanted to be around her as she could sometimes be unstable emotionally.

Alice is a linguistics professor at Columbia University and was very good at her job and even created her own book about linguistics called “Neurons to nouns”. She was well respected in her department and had been teaching the subject for quite some time. Her performance before the onset was great and she seemed to love her job and had a comfortable position in the department. We see that she was asked to speak at UCLA about her knowledge of linguistics and how young children communicate with adults. With the disease gradually showing its symptoms her performance in her classes dropped and students started to complain to the department about the course thus leading her to confess about her early onset of Alzheimer’s. The department let her go and she was now forced to come to terms with the disease and prepare for the worst. In the film, we don’t really know her past medical history besides the brief description of her family’s medical history. Her present medical condition is Early Onset Familial Alzheimer’s disease, a very rare disease that affects an individual at an earlier age than usual and the symptoms seem to escalate at an alarming rate. This structure is exceptionally uncommon. Two or three hundred individuals have qualities that legitimately add to Alzheimer’s disease. These individuals start indicating symptoms of the disease in their 30s, 40s, or 50s. An exceptionally modest number of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease have the early-onset form. A large number of them are in their 40s and 50s when the disease grabs hold. There are no signs of substance abuse or alcohol abuse regarding Alice in the film they drink wine traditionally but that’s about it. Before the diagnosis, Alice seemed to be a very healthy individual with no signs of other major health problems. She has to take different medicines in the film to suppress the symptoms of the disease named Aricept and Namenda. Aricept improves the capacity of nerve cells in the cerebrum. It works by preventing the breakdown of a compound called acetylcholine. Individuals with dementia usually have lower levels of this compound, which is significant for the procedures of memory, reasoning, thinking, and solving. Namenda (memantine) decreases the activities of synthetic substances in the mind that may add to the manifestations of Alzheimer’s disease, mainly used for very severe dementia leading to Alzheimer’s. Alice also does have problems with sleeping during the film and asked her doctor for different medicines that would be powerful enough to put her to sleep.

The theories that we have chosen to work within our analysis have a direct connotation to the movie and the main character’s situation. I believe the theories help us see why certain things are transpiring in the film and enable us as social work students are able to dissect the problem and understand this is why the character is behaving in a certain manner, etc. When I look at different scenes during the movie and then refer back to the theories I can easily depict with little to no confusion and understanding. There are scenes in the movie that helped me understand the client (Alice) and the theory. Erikson’s Ego Integrity vs Despair is the stage where people reflect back on the life they have lived and come away with either a sense of fulfillment from a life well lived or a sense of regret and despair over a life misspent. A scene related to this theory is when Alice gave her speech toward the finish of the motion picture. Alice was totally happy with her life achievements, yet she was likewise embarrassed about what she needed to confront since she had the disease. Alice has been managing integrity and despair and living in fear that she won’t be the same woman everyone knew and loved. She gave a trading-off discourse that removed the dread, that she accomplished a ton throughout everyday life and that she was pleased with the lady she had become, and that she won’t be embarrassed about the disease any longer. This scene helps me to understand the theory because it is described as a stage where people reflect on a crisis. Alice has early-onset Alzheimer’s and never saw it coming, she is indeed going through a crisis and it is causing her to reflect on her achievements and realize that she has lived a good life prior to her crisis. Moreover, the Genetic Theory of aging is another theory that I was able to analyze in this film and it was very prevalent. When Alice goes to see her neurologist with John they discover that the disease has been passed down from a family member, making it a familial disease. Also means that since Alice has the gene then she possibly could’ve passed it down to her offspring as well. There is a scene where Alice’s daughter anna calls her and tells Alice that she in fact did test positive for the gene, there is a 100% chance that the gene will then develop into Alzheimer’s disease. These scenes help me to understand the theory more because it allows me to understand the power of Genetics and how it can deeply affect the lifespan. The Ecosystems theory or Ecological is related to how an individual interacts with their environment. There are several scenes where we see Alice having trouble in the environment she’s in during the show of the symptoms and it takes a deep effect on her emotionally. Also, she doesn’t have the intellect that she once had or perform her basic needs by herself, so it is very frustrating. A scene I recall is when she is at the beach house with john and has no idea where she is and urinates in her trousers. John comes to her aid and attempts to help her, but she is so emotionally unstable and begins to cry and yell. She’s having a hard time adapting to the new environment that she’s in and must come to terms with the fact she is not able to live how she is accustomed to.

I would describe Alice as a very knowledgeable and successful woman who unfortunately is going through a crisis that is out of her control, she acquired a rare form of a disease that usually doesn’t affect people as young as she is. Alzheimer’s usually occurs for individuals who are 65 and older, she acquired it at 50 due to the genetic passing of the gene that develops into Alzheimer’s disease. She’s a very smart woman, very knowledgeable about different subjects and when it comes to linguistics she is a very well-respected professor. When you have a disease that is genetically passed down it is a part of you forever, and it is little to nothing an individual can do to prevent it. Alice wasn’t aware that anyone in her family even had the disease so she wasn’t able to prepare herself mentally or physically for the severity of the disease and it took its course very rapidly. Prior to the symptoms of the disease showing we see Alice had no issues with her thinking and problem-solving. Their was a gradual decline in her performance in her teaching but of course, that was by the hands of Alzheimer’s. Through the lens of the genetic theory we understand why Alice is affected by the familial disease at the alarming intensity that it is. At the end of the movie, Alice is basically brain dead and unable to say a few words to her daughter Lydia. Alice is very proud of what she has accomplished with her career and she is proud to say she raised a beautiful family, even in her time of need her kids (grown and out of the home) still make time for her out of their busy schedules. Alice is having trouble from time to time having to come to terms with this disease and does not want it to affect her everyday life. I think the problem stems from Alice having to adapt to a new life after living a certain way since she turned into an adult. As a result, her interactions with the people around her and also her environment have taken a different turn. I think a prime example would be when her daughter Anna had her twins and Alice and John went to go see her. They were very skeptical about letting Alice hold one of the babies even then asking, “are you sure that’s a good idea.” Alice isn’t able to interact with people anymore and is totally cut off from her regular environment, she is mostly in the house with her caretaker or with one of her family members, unfortunately for her safety that is how it must be.

In conclusion, Dr. Alice Howland also known as Julianna Moore is a famous linguistics professor at Columbia University. At the point when words start to get away from her and she begins getting lost on her day-by-day runs, Alice must encounter a staggering analysis: early-stage Alzheimer’s disease. With the Genetic, Ecological, and Integrity vs Despair theories, I was able to interpret different scenes throughout the movie and understand why things are as they are. The genetic theory allowed us to understand why Alice’s lifespan was affected by Alzheimer’s disease and where it originated from. Erik Erikson’s Integrity vs Despair stage of development allowed us to understand why Alice managed to still be a proud woman towards the end of the film, she had accomplished so much in her career, had a great marriage with her husband John, and raised 3 ambitious kids who are out in the adult world handling their business. The ecosystem theory allowed us to understand why it was so hard for Alice to interact with her environment and the individuals in her environment after she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.               

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Erikson’s Ego Integrity vs Despair in Film Still Alice. (2022, July 07). GradesFixer. Retrieved August 16, 2022, from
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