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Perspectives On The Personality Of Marshall Mathers Music Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Music
Wordcount: 2862 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Multiple Perspectives on the Personality of Marshall Bruce Mathers III. Marshall Bruce Mathers III emerged from a poor neighborhood in Detroit, Michigan and quickly gained fame as the American, hip-hop music artist, Eminem. "Marshall declared himself in 'My Name Is', the single that announced him as Eminem to the world" (Hasted, 2005). His released albums are compilations of rap songs, each with creative rhymed verses about his life and the people in it, composed by Mathers himself. Some may claim that Eminem is a role model, in terms of his artistic talent and ability to overcome life's hardships. For others, he sets a bad example in society, as he is degrading to women and homosexuals and he is promoting violence through visual outlets. The controversy remains, but perspective can be gained through psychologies different aspects of personality.

Neo-Analytic Perspective

The central theme of the neo-analytic approach to personality psychology is ego identity. The importance of the ego, a person's individuality, is emphasized "as it struggles to cope with emotions and drives on the inside and the demands of others on the outside" (Friedman & Schustack, 2009). This "feeling of self" develops through the interactions and conflicts an individual faces during their life, and determines their personality. Unlike many other aspects of personality, neo-analytic theories and theorists agree that one's personality is not predetermined, or stable, and is shaped by encountered experiences. Marshall Bruce Mathers III is a famous personality whose life experiences can be analyzed in the perspective of the neo-analyst, Erik Erikson.

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Erikson considers the ego to be an influential and independent part of identity formation, and he also brings attention to the effects of society and culture during the process. He developed the theory of life-span development, claiming that there are eight predetermined stages and each involves a certain ego crisis that determines the direction of personality. As Friedman and Schustack aptly phrase, "the outcome of each stage … is dependent to some degree on the outcome of the previous stage, and successful negotiation of each of the ego crises is essential for optimal growth" (2009). The life-span perspective helps with understanding why Mathers behaves and thinks the way he does.

The identity formation of Marshall Mathers began at birth; October 17, 1972 began "the first ego crisis Erikson termed 'Trust versus Mistrust'" (Friedman & Schustack, 2009). Debbie Mathers-Briggs became Marshall's mother at age seventeen. As an adolescent, she was preoccupied with her own needs of finding out who she was and how she fit into society. Because of her young age, she was unable to successfully satisfy Marshall Mathers' needs as a mother, which Erikson considers the most significant relationship of this stage. An infant's needs are simple and straightforward, and it is necessary for a mother to contribute mature abilities and social support. Many agree that her parenting was inadequate and unreliable, which did not resolve the "Trust versus Mistrust" conflict for Mathers. Instead of developing feelings of hope, which is a psychosocial virtue in Erikson's theory, he has since been unable to rely on others, believing that the world is not a safe place. It is during this period of infancy that a "child develops a sense of trust and hope" which arises from the satisfaction personal needs (Friedman & Schustack, 2009). "Marshall's neediness only grew, though as a direct results of his mother's actions," (Hasted, 2005). She was in her own state of mind, and struggled to understand her son whose upbringing became hard to handle and caused Mathers' directionless existence.

The ego crisis, "Autonomy versus Shame and Doubt," indicates the significance of parents during an individual's early childhood. Erikson's theory, when applied to the Mathers' life, shows the negative impact of abandonment at early age. Hasted writes that it was, "a consequence of his parents' immature love," that led to his father's decision to leave his wife and son (2005). Marshall Mathers was abandoned by his father; he did not ever see him or communicate with him after the day he left. "He was raised by his mother - no father image or figure was there" (Hasted, 2005). It is during this stage of development that Erikson believes the ego skill, will, is formed. Friedman and Schustack write that, "successful negotiation of this stage results in a child who knows the difference between right and wrong, and is willing and able to chose 'right' most of the time" (2009). This was not the case for Marshall Mathers, and some of his actions in his later life show this. In accordance to the stage theory perspective, he was unable to develop self-control and self-esteem because of these matters.

Shortly after Mathers was abandoned by his father, Debbie Marshall-Briggs began to live nomadically. Nick Hasted quotes Marshall Mathers, "my mother never had a job, so we used to always stay with my family. We would stay until we got kicked out. Some of the relatives stayed in Kansas City, some in Detroit, so we just kept going back and forth" (Hasted, 2005). The moving took place during his mid-childhood, which is the optimal time of the "Initiative versus Guilt" stage. With Mathers' father abandoning him as a young child, the responsibility of this child was left to his mother, grandparents, and aunts and uncles. His life so far was lacking stability, and Hasted claims that "he struggled to survive in series of elementary schools," (2005). It was difficult for Mathers' to develop any friendships that would last longer than the three months he would spend with him before moving again. During Erikson's stage of "Initiative versus Guilt", it is crucial for a child to interact with other children to learn how to "plan and carry out actions" as well as "how to get along with peers" to gain a sense of purpose (Friedman & Schustack, 2009). One's early adolescent is a time where a lot of one's time is spent attempting to fit in with a social group. Yet, what happens to the formation of one's identity if they never have the stability of a school, father, or even a home to help ground them is negative. Marshall rarely had the availability to make friends because of his constant moving and this had him bullied and teased at many of the schools he attended. This had a drastic impact on his identity formation, and is relieved in his thoughts and actions.

It was not until Marshall Mathers reached the age of 12 that he began to reside permanently on the East Side of Detroit with his mother. "Industry versus Inferiority" stage develops competence through the interactions with in the neighborhood and school of an individual. Nick Hasted expresses that Mathers' had a "reputation as some kind of violent bad boy" (2005) at his school. He was constantly bullied by his peers and let down by his teachers. Throughout his schooling, there have been multiple instances that Mathers' competence was doubted by his teachers. His attendance was low, and his grades were far from average, which in Erikson's view is an outcome derived from the previous life stages. Educators would single Mathers' out and comment that he is unable to make it. He ended up dropping out at a young age, after repeating the ninth grade three times, which was disestablishing to a school-aged child. (Hasted, 2005). Marshall Mathers' did not complete tasks, especially academic ones, and find pleasure in doing so. His identity formed in this stage to develop the sense of inferiority as he was not able to successfully complete his education.

As Marshall Mathers continued into the "Identity versus Role Confusion" stage of his adolescence, he was beginning to make some friends by being less distant and shy. Friedman and Schustack claim that, "at this stage, the adolescent experiments with different roles, while trying to integrate identities from previous stages" (2009). Mathers was becoming himself at this point in his life, in accordance to Erikson's theory, and the society is a huge factor to the process. "Living in a white minority, victimized and twice almost murdered by blacks, Marshall could be excused for starting to feel racist himself" (Hasted, 2005).

The goal of the sixth stage of Erik Erikson's theory, "Intimacy versus Isolation", is to achieve love during young adulthood (Friedman & Schustack, 2009). It is inevitable that the relationship between Kim Scott and Marshall Mathers is significant in the artist's identity formation. They became in separable as soon as they met and would later on marry and have a child together.

Currently, Marshall Mathers is in the "Generativity versus Stagnation" stage of his development (Friedman & Schustack, 2009). He has succeeded as an artist in the music industry, and is now able to provide for his daughter, Hailie Jade Mathers. He knew he was not going to raise his daughter in the same conditions he grew up in. Becoming a father was a huge turning point in Marshall's life; he knew he had to create something for himself and strives to provide for Hailie. His identity at this point in his life is to be the dad that he never had and he continues to do so (Hasted, 2005).

Marshall Mathers' life-span development has formed his personality and ego. He has gone through many life changing experiences, both positive and negative, that have shaped him into the man he is today. Erik Erikson's neo-analytic perspective has "the goal of understanding what it means to be an individual in a social world" (Friedman & Schustack, 2009). After living such a difficult childhood and finally making something of himself, Marshall was being changed by the success that he received.


Skinner…the study of behavior, emphasize the role of learning in the development of personality, human behavior. Most recognized amoung behaviorist theorists. Emphasize experience and learning as the primary forces that shape human behavior. "skinner developed a psychology that concentrates not on the person but solely on those variables and forces in the environment that influence a person and that may be directly observed". Behavior can be understood in terms of responses to factors in the environment. Suggested to concentrate on the environmental consequences that determine and maintain an individuals behavior. Changes in the environment affect the individual's behavior. Internal forces cannot be operationally defined and their intensity cannot be measured. "skinner believed that the laws of behavior must apply to each and every individual subject when it is observed under the appropriate conditions" "at birth, the human infant is simply a bundle of innate capacities, but consequent behaviors can be comprehended in terms of learning" skinner derived…a reinforcement "is anything that increases the likelihood of a response". The effect of one's behavior that determines the likelihood of its occurring again. If behavior results in reinforcement. If the behavior does not result in reinforcement. Behave in alternative ways to find patterns of behavior that are reinforced. Process of operant conditioning. "originally spontaneous behaviors whose consequences determine their subsequent frequency". Operant conditioning can be systematically described, skinner box, operant conditioning apparatus to train animals and conduct controlled research. Appropriate reinforcement increases the likelihood of that behavior occurring again. Procedure termed shaping, deliberately mold the organisms behavior in order to achieve desired behavior. Induce to perform. Using behavioral-shaping methods. "skinner believed that most animal and human behavior is learned through operant conditioning". The process of learning to speak ones native tongue involves reinforcing and shaping of operant behavior. "operant behaviors are responses emitted without a stimulus necessisarily being present, they occur spontaneously" "verbal behavior evolved from signaling, imitating, and other nonverbal behaviors, following the rules of contingencies of reinforcement…shaping is involved in learning to speak"

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Marshall Mathers has become a famous personality recognized by the music he has created as Eminem. It started in the studio, where he began recording songs that eventually led to his music being played on local radio stations. At the age of 25, Eminem signed his first record deal with a well-known producer and rapper, Dr. Dre. Instantly, they began producing music together and striving to get Eminem out into the public. The hits became world-famous and sparked the beginning of a whole new world that was opened up to Mathers. He was a superstar within the hip-hop culture for his talents of composing and performing (Hasted, 2005).

The behaviorist approach to personality analyzes an individual's learning experiences, indicating that the environment solely controls human thought and behavior. Burrhus Frederick Skinner is well-recognized for his efforts in developing the principle of operant conditioning. Friedman and Schustack define operant conditioning as, "the changing of a behavior by manipulating its consequences," (2009). The key element of Skinner's theory is reinforcement; his approach is that consequences of a behavior determines if the action will or will not occur again (Friedman & Schustack, 2009).

Many people view Eminem and his music as a very angry person because when he released his first few albums he was very upset and angered at the life he had grown up in. Much of the time his lyrics and rhymes are about actual events that have occurred throughout his lifetime. The way he explains situations is in such a harsh, raw way that people listening to his music are shocked. His lyrics are the way he lets out his desires about his emotions and life in a way where he is not thinking about what other people think, but rather "spitting" out the words that best express how he feels (Hasted, 2005). The flow of rap music comes easily to him and it became obvious that he has a special talent.

Eminem uses music is an outlet to release emotions and sometimes the way he says his lyrics can leave society perceiving him as very negative. When he first was coming out into hip hop music scene, he had very controversial items on his albums. His music producer, Jimmy Iovine explained to Eminem that he would need to change some of the lyrics on his album if it were to be released. He found it difficult to do so, as he did not understand why it was necessary. This characteristic of personality is reflected in his music as he says what he wants to say, when he wants to say it. It was often difficult for him to understand why he would need to change the lyrics of his songs. Eminem grew up in Detroit, where these lyrics would be considered normal (Hasted, 2005).

Operant conditioning explains why he has continued to produce music and grow from his fame. "According to B.F. Skinner, personality is a repertoire of behavior learned from an organized set of environmental contingencies … personality is the group of commonly performed responses that a person has learned. Because it is environmentally determined, behavior is therefore very situation specific" (Friedman & Schustack, 2009). The reinforcements, both positive and negative, establish Eminem's personality.

Positive reinforcement is a reward to a desired response in the means of a stimulus. Some types of positive reinforcement are good grades and verbal praise, (Friedman & Schustack, 2009). Grammy nominations, growing number of fans, and monetary success are some positive reinforcers that have strengthened Eminem's behaviors. He learns from the reinforcement that his behaviors are accepted, which leads to increased occurrences. He responds to these stimuli by recording more songs and releasing more albums.

There is also a biological reinforcement that plays a role in Eminem's personality. The lifestyle of those that reside in Detroit, Michigan complies with that of Eminem's. They are accepting to this type of music and way of life.

Negative reinforcement is another aspect of Skinner's theory that increases the likelihood of behavior. These are stimuli that, when withdrawn, increase desired behaviors, (Friedman & Schustack, 2009). Because of his music career, Eminem has been withdrawn from a life of poverty. He struggled all throughout his early life to provide for himself, and his family. The behavior that is reinforced is his fame, and he continues to try his hardest to continue success to live a comfortable life.

Eminem has learned a lot from his past experiences and represents them in his music in a way where the outside public can relate to him. He is in touch with his emotions and feelings and it is because of this that he has such a raw personality, and has the ability to show the world how he has become the person that he is.


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