The person or the self and personal growth and development are emphasized by the humanistic psychologists.
The humanistic approach includes a number of other theories with the same or similar orientation (“existential” or “phenomenological” psychology).
In order to understand behavior we must consider the subjective experience of the person. Neither past experience nor current circumstances constrain the behavior of the person.
Humanistic approach emphasizes the person, the psychodynamic stress, unconscious determinants and the behaviorists focus upon external determinants.
Humanistic approach is more optimistic than the other 2 in the sense that it believes in the person’s ability and will. According to the humanistic thinkers limiting ourselves to observable behavior and external stimuli alone is ignoring the thinking-feeling person and that is dehumanizing.
►Free will: humans possess the ability to make decisions about their life.
Human beings are capable of shaping their own destiny. They can think and design their course of action and can follow it in the way they like. People can overcome or minimize the environmental and intrinsic influences.
“Here and Now” is important.
“Wholeness” or “completeness” of the personality is important rather than its separate, disintegrated, structural parts.
Humanistic approach emphasizes:
- Individual’s freedom in directing his future
- Capacity for personal growth
- Intrinsic worth
- Potential for self-fulfillment
Emergence of the humanistic approach
Emerged in reaction to the perceived limitations of psychodynamic theories, especially psychoanalysis, as well as the staunch behavioristic way of understanding an interpreting behavior.
The founders of humanistic psychology asserted that people need a value system (a system of understanding or frame of orientation) due to which life gets meaning and purpose.
Rogers had the person-centered approach since the “person” was the main figure of importance. He believed that the most powerful human drive is the one to become “fully functioning”.
Fully functioning = a person becomes all that he or she is capable of.
To be fully functioning means experiencing:
- Optimal psychological maturity.
- Complete congruence (a feeling of integration when the self and the ideal self-match; incongruence is a feeling of conflict or unease experienced in case of a mismatch between the 2).
- Complete openness to experience.
- Self: a fluid perceptual structure based on one’s experience of one’s own being.
- Ideal self: an individual’s goal and aspirations.
- Phenomenal field: an individual’s unique perception of the world of 2.
- Actualizing tendency: an innate drive reflecting the desire to grow, to develop and to enhance one’s capacities.
- Need for positive regard: a need for positive social contacts like love.
- Conditions of worth: restrictions imposed on self-expression in order to earn positive regard.
►Defenses: in case of an incongruity between one’s the ideal and real self-defenses develop.
Rogers talks about only 2 defenses: denial and perceptual distortion.
- Denial: blocking out the threatening situation altogether. Denial also includes what Freud called repression.
- Perceptual distortion: reinterpreting the situation so that it appears less threatening, just like Freud’s rationalization.
Neurotics are part from the real and the ideal, becoming more incongruous, they find themselves in more and more threatening situations, levels of anxiety become greater and they use more and more defenses.
►Psychosis occurs when a person’s defenses are overwhelmed and their sense of self becomes “shattered” into little disconnected pieces. His behavior lack in consistency.
The key points of Maslow’s theory
- Psychology and the psychologist should look at the positive side of the human beings.
- There must be more to living than just being battered by a hostile environment or by depraved instincts (which may actually be leading to self-destruction).
- People’s needs are not low level and base. We have positive needs that may become neutral in the worst cases, but will not turn negative or base.
- Human behavior does respond to needs but we will be wrong in saying that all our needs are only physiological in nature.
- Needs motivate human action; such needs are very few in number.
- Basically a stage theory.
- The needs at one level have to be met in order for one to move on a higher order.
- The needs at the lowest/primary/base level are the physiological needs, whereas the highest order needs are the self-actualization needs.
Self-actualization: most advanced human need based on the desire to grow and utilize one’s potential up to the optimal level.
Categories of needs
- Meta needs: based on desire to grow rather than for meeting a deficiency: expressed in the need for self actualization.
- Deficiency needs: the absence of the underlying requirements triggers these needs (physiological needs, love needs or esteem needs)
Interactions and needs of behavior
Physiological needs: fulfilled through = hunger/food → Pathology associated = overeating, anorexia.
Safety needs: fulfilled through = profession, job → Pathology associated = phobias.
Love and belongings: fulfilled through = marriage, friendship → Pathology associated = antisocial personality.
Esteem needs: fulfilled through = awards, honors, scholarship → Pathology associated = depression.
Self-actualization needs: fulfilled through = painting, writing, singing → Pathology associated = isolation, alienation, cynicism.