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Confidential Psychological Evaluation
Walter Elias famously known as Walt Disney’s biography was referred to my clinic by a client seeking anonymity for a psychological evaluation based analysis to understand why his company was so successful. Walter Elias had risen from a humble begin to become a brand name in the animations and film industry. Walt Disney Pictures is a famous brand the world over immortalized by such animation characters as Mickey Mouse, Winnie the Pooh, Donald Duck just to name but a few. Walter Elias and his company are regarded as the brilliant minds behind all these fictional characters (Allen-Spencer, 2001).
Short History of Walter Elias
Walter Elias was the fourth child born to Elias and Flora Walter on the 5th of December 1901. Elias Walter was a strict disciplinarian and considered as a stern man who was extremely frugal. When Walter Elias was still quite young, his father purchased a farm in Marceline in the state of Missouri where he spent his early life. Walt Disney had an elder brother Roy who was eight years older than him as well as a sister younger than him named Ruth (Krasniewicz, 2010). Walter Elias had no companion to give him company as a young boy as Roy had chores around about the farm while Ruth was confined to house chores alongside her mother. He is said to have been very fond of being about the farm more so the animals both wild and domesticated, the town of Marceline, and the railroad that ran through the farm (Krasniewicz, 2010).
In his early teenage life, they moved to the city of Kansas where his father, psychologically imprisoned by his failures became overly tyrannical ensured that they delivered newspapers as from 3.30 am each morning for 365 days with no allowances or pay (Krasniewicz, 2010). It was not long before Walt Disney began ordering papers to distribute without his father’s knowledge. His narration of his early childhood made me think of conducting an analysis based on the constructive development theory by Robert Kegan (Kegan, 2009).
Constructive developmental psychology
The constructive development theory recognizes the evolution of complexities in a relationship between a subject and an object through the course of an individual’s personal development. Robert Kegan came up with a system ordering from first order to the fifth order (Kegan, 2009). Based on the life story as given by Walter Elias, I opted to look into ways with which his fifth order allowed him to come to terms so as to hold the first and second order childhood experiences and reciprocate these into the Disney world brand.
This theory stems out of constructivism concept with developmentalism. Constructivism which supports the idea that people create their own kind of world out of the experiences which help them to discover what the world entails, as such the world is not there for our discovery but vice versa (Kegan, 2009). Developmentalism on the other hand suggests that as people grow and change as time goes by, they enter progressively different phases of psychological development (Berland, 1982). Introduced in 1982, this theory helps psychologists to understand how different people organize how they perceive their surrounding environment (Kegan, 2009). The object subject relationship in this theory can be divided into two elements, the subject element which is linked to the organization according to what one already knows. The second element is the object, which is relative to knowing and helps an individual to reflect on the mode of thinking. The first order relates with young children while only a few adults rise to the fifth order (Kegan, 2009).
The approach to life that is consistent with little children is basically in the first order, where they perceive everything with a sense of mystery and magic (Sønnesyn, 2011). At this developmental stage, the idea of durable objects is alien and there is the tendency to believe that everyone can see things in the same way that they so. This is an order in which they come to understand the complexities of life (Kegan, 2009). This is a stage that appealed to Walter Elias and in a way is constantly reflected in adults who visit the Disney world theme park and get excited by the simple pleasure it has to offer, such adults are know to realize a high degree of personal contentment (Heckman, 2008). It is also what appeals to children when they watch animations production which grasps their attention as it is what they can relate too. Walt Disney has incorporated the first order over the years to make a successful empire as it appeals to both adults and children of all ages (Sammond, 2005).
At the ages of seven to ten, children evolve to the second order. The world now becomes more complex as well as becoming less magical (Heckman, 2008). These children apparently move from the perception that the world is full of fantasy oriented outcomes. At this age where there is a fictional character the tendency is to scrutinize characters to the tiniest of details based on what they already know from their previous learning experiences (Kegan, 2009). The ability of Walt Disney’s company was to be able to balance between the first and the second order constructive development stages by holding these childhood stages as the object. The simplicity and naivety in the first order helps children in the second order relate to new aspects of life in a higher level reason of conscience.
Third, fourth and fifth orders
Individuals in the third order have the ability to hold onto abstract thoughts, reflect on their own actions as well as the actions by other persons. As a matter of fact, they have a sense of devotion that seems to supersede their own personal needs. It is important to point out that they are essentially limited to what those around them expect of them (Kegan, 2009). They therefore are dependent on those who are around them.
Persons in the fourth order on the other hand have a level of dependence that is of a higher degree. As such they tend to have a robust sense of self which is independent of relationships with other individuals. It is rather difficult to clearly distinguish between the fourth and fifth constructive development orders. However, very few individuals excel to the fifth stage of developmental complexity. It is important to comprehend that fifth order individuals have the innate ability to understand their own inner limits as what is achievable (Kegan, 2009). This is what aided Walter Elliot in getting his company into a global brand.
Walter Elias was able to propel the company to unfathomable heights based on his personal order which rested on the fifth. This is what allowed him to envision previously held systems as current object. This is essentially what enabled him to perceive childhood magic as he did through his development in a manner that many could relate to independent of race, gender or age.
Allen-Spencer, P. C. (2001). Of mice and bunnies: Walt Disney, Hugh Hefner, and the age of consensus.
Berland, D. I. (1982). Disney and Freud: Walt meets the id. The Journal of Popular Culture, 15(4), 93-104.
Francoeur, B. (2004). Brand image and Walt Disney: a qualitative analysis of Magical Gathering. Journal of Undergraduate Research, 4(1), 1-8.
Heckman, D. (2008). A small world: Smart houses and the dream of the perfect day. Duke University Press Books.
Kegan, R. (2009). What” form” transforms. A constructive-developmental approach to transformative learning. Teoksessa K. Illeris (toim.) Contemporary theories of learning: learning theorists in their own words. Abingdon: Routledge, 35-54.
Krasniewicz, L. (2010). Walt Disney: a biography. Abc-clio.
Sammond, N. (2005). Babes in tomorrowland: Walt Disney and the making of the American child, 1930–1960. Duke University Press Books.
Sønnesyn, J. (2011). The use of accents in Disney’s animated feature films 1995-2009: a sociolinguistic study of the good, the bad and the foreign. Chytry, J. (2012). Walt Disney and the creation of emotional environments: interpreting Walt Disney’s oeuvre from the Disney studios to Disneyland, CalArts, and the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow (EPCOT). Rethinking History, 16(2), 259-278.