Why is existentialism important to personality psychologists?
Existentialism is an area of philosophy concerned with the meaning of human existence. Existentialists often speak of being-in-the-world, i.e. the self can't exist without a world, and the world can't exist without a being to perceive it.
- A physical scientist can ignore these issues; human existence is irrelevant to comets and radio waves.
- But the personality psychologist looks at people, who are active, conscious beings. Is true love a product of the mind or an unimportant product of some neurological state? Probably neither.
- Existential theories suggest that attempts to focus exclusively on self-concepts and cognitive structures, or environmental contingencies, will fail. We must situate human beings in their worlds.
- Existentialism argues that it's an oversimplification to view people as controleld by fixed physical laws, the approach is nondeterministic; that is, people can't be viewed as cogs in a machine.
- A phenomenological approach considers people's subjective realities and perceptions to be valid data for investigation. It tends to the needs and perceptions of each participant in an event, rather than their psychological history or the rewards and contingencies of the situation.
- It's also nondeterministic because it argues for personal freedom and against viewing people as controlled by fixed physical laws.
What is humanism in philosophy and what is a humanistic approach to personality?
Humanism is a philosophical movement that emphasizes the personal worth of the individual and the centrality of human values.
- A humanistic approach to personality attends to matters of ethics and personal growth. These approaches rest on existentialism, and are freer to give credit to the human spirit (versus the psychoanalysts).
- Humanistic approaches emphasize the creative, spontaneous, and active nature of human beings. They're optimistic when it comes to the human capacity to overcome despair; but turn pessimistic when they contemplate the futility of a person's actions.
Examine Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's work on creativity and how it reflects existentialism.
- Positive psychologist Csikszentmihalyi has outlined the characteristics of highly creative people, which are often contradictory.
- They're usually very smart, but may be naïve at the same time. They may be wise but childish. They may value playfulness, but still understand that accomplishment requires discipline. They can seem extroverted, but often consider themselves introverted and shy.
- This sort of analysis is uniquely humanistic and existential in flavour. It doesn't rely on brain structures and hormones, conditioning, or socialization. Rather, it involves a phenomenological examination of matters that are uniquely human.
What is Martin Buber's I-Thou dialogue?
- In this dialogue, each human confirms the other person as a being of unique value. It is a direct, mutual relation.
- It adopts the existential idea that our existence comes from our relations with other human beings.
- This dialogue is different from a utilitarian relationship (the I-It monologue), in which a person uses others but doesn't value them for themselves.
What is the human potential movement?
- As a result of this movement, people have come together, annd through small-group meetings, self-disclosure, and introspection, people are encouraged to realize their inner potentials.
- The impact of the human potential movement can now be seen in mainstream society. For example, protecting humans' relations with an unsullied, unpolluted natural eco-sphere is now a major political force worldwide.
What did Eric Fromm mean when he said that "love is an art"?
- That is, love isn't a state that people stumble into, nor is love some nebulous epiphenomenon that has no real meaning. Love requires knowledge, effort, and experience.
- It's something we create and nurture. The capacity to love must be developed with humility and discipline.
- Love can't exist apart from a mature, productive personality; Fromm's approach to the ideal person is one who endeavours to trascend biology and uses brain to create and love in uniquely human ways.
- Fromm believes that love enables us to overcome our isoltion from others but still maintain our individual integrity. But it doesn't come without active effort.
How would Fromm see our modern society?
- He would be dismayed with our society that has replaced communl activities with solitary video viewing; one that's relinquished cultural traditions to standardized Big Macs; one that's traded charitable concerns about helping others for self-indulgent trips to visit Mickey Mouse.
- He emphasized the importance of being patient, concentration, and discipline in order to overcome our narcissism. We must to this in order to fight our isolation and loneliness, so that we're able to work in a loving way to help others.
- We must do so in order to avoid the opposite extreme: escaping the burden of freedom by giving it up, such as to a dictator or other authoritarian force.
Why is Fromm's approach called dialectical humanism?
- His approach tries to reconcile both the biologically driven and the societaly pressured sides of human beings with the belief that people can rise above (transcend) these forces and become spontaenous, creative, and loving.
- He traces human behaviour to a conscious person with certain needs existing within a network of societal demands. Mature people achieve a productive orientation as they enrich the world through their own creative endeavours and humanitarian ethics.
- There is no point to righteousness if humans have no free will (i.e. if everything we do is biologically and socially influenced).
What was the central idea of humanistic psychologist Carl Rogers?
He believed that people have an inherent tendency toward growth and maturation, but neither of these is inevitable. Although people are potentially free to exercise control over their own selves, they must strive to take on this responsibility for themselves, with a supportive psychosocial environment.
What is the maturity principle?
A linchpin of Rogers's perspective, this term refers to the idea that most adults move toward a better-functioning, more mature personality as they age; i.e. most adults become more conscientious and less neurotic as they age, and often more agreeable later in life.
What was Rogers referring to with the term the experiencing person?
In this phenomenological approach to personality, Rogers posited that important issues must be defined by the individual. Of special concern are discrepancies between what a person thinks of themselves and the total range of things they experience. Inabilities to accept aspects of onself are stumbling blocks on the path to growth.
What is the difference between Rogerian therapy and psychoanalytic therapy?
- In Rogers's type of therapy, the therapist is empathic, supportive, and nondirective. He understands that clients best understand where the problems are and in what directions therapy should proceed (not the therapists).
- He viewed a person as a process—a changing constellation of potentialities, not a fixed quantity of traits.
- There are two necessary conditions: (1) the therapist demonstrates unconditional positive regard for the client, and (2) the therapist experiences an empathic understanding of the client's internal frame of reference and communicates this experience to the client.
- It's important that we come to terms with our own nature. We all have ideas about what we should be like, but Rogers says that a person should "become one's self." A healthy personality can trust his or her own experience and accept the fact that other people are different.
- The Rogerian approach has implications for international relations. That is, should we deal with one another by building up our militaries or take another approach? The assumptions we make about human personality will guide our policy-making.
Outline Rollo May's conception of anxiety as triggered by a threat to one's core values of existence.
- For May, a sense of powerlessness is often key. For example, a young woman's anxiety could be engendered by her being ignored by her parents, or treated as an object by her peers. She might be a victim of rape. To combat the alienation, she may turn to drugs or sexual promiscuity or a violent cult.
- He bridges the gap between existential and humanistic approaches to personality. Although he focuses on the anxiety that must accompany any attempt to live life to its fullest, May sees the human journey as a noble and dignifying one. The only way to have no anxiety would be to have no freedom.
What is Victor Frankl's approach logotherapy?
- He emphasizes the benefits of personal choice. If people choose to grow and develop, the challenge of the unknown produces anxiety, but this anxiety can lead to triumph and self-fulfillment.
- His approach means "the search for the meaning of existence." He saw this striving for meaning as potentially more powerful than Freud's striving for pleasure.
- In modern times, May's ideas have been conceptualized into "post-traumatic growth," the idea that surviving a traumatic event can lead to added meaning in social relationships, a reevaluation of what's important in life, and a much deeper spirituality and sense of existence.
- People with life-threatening illnesses also find it comforting to gather in groups and disclose their fears and anxieties about deaths. Participants assist one another in both spiritual and tangible ways. Typically, this results in the affirming of human feelings of trust and companionship, and a sense of inner triumph.
What is self-actualization? How did it start with Jung, and how is it different under a humanistic lens?
Self-actualization is the innate process by which a person tends to grow spiritually and realize his or her potential.
- Jung called this process Individuation and Transcendence. Jung strongly believed that unconscious forces were important (since he was a psychoanalyst), but he counterbalanced this orientation with the belief in a human tendency to integrate the various psychic forces and thereby become a "whole" person.
- Although he believed in unconscious motivation, he also believed in teleology—the idea that there's a grand design or purpose to one's life.
What are peak experiences?
- These are highly positive experiences in which a person seems to transcend the self and be at one with the world. Everything just falls into place: we come up with a spur of inspiration, find the answer to a complicated problem we've been dealing with, etc. In these times, we're completely self-fulfilled.
- THey're not necessarily other-wordly or sacred. They can be found in friendships, family, work—the pattern of ordinary life.
How do peak experiences relate to Abraham Maslow's ideas about positive psychology and self-actualization?
- Maslow dervied positive psychology from studying the most mentally healthy people he could find. Thus, he stresses the positive potentialities inherent in all human beings.
- These self-actualized people have a realistic knowledge of themselves and accept themselves. (Unactualized people may occasionally have a peak experience but are more likely to be frightened than enlightened by it.) They generally have a love of human-kind. They're nonconformist but highly ethical. And they have had peak experiences.
Why is self-actualization called an organismic theory?
- For Maslow (and Rogers and Jung), there's a natural tendency or pressure toward self-actualization from inside the growing organization, rather than from the outside external environment.
- These types of theories are called organismic because they assume a natural unfolding or life course for each organism.
- These drives are different from the ones to satisfy hunger, thirst, or libido, and is not necessarily for survival.
What are the different needs in Maslow's hierarchy of needs?
- Maslow grouped these needs into two categories. One category contains the deficiency needs or "D-needs" or "D-motives", which are necessary for surviva.
- He argued that the correct social conditions are needed to encourage the highest level of self-actualization; that is, people can't reach the "being level" ("B-level" with "B-values" or "B-motives") if they're preoccupied with satisfying their more basic needs.
- There are some problems with Maslow's hierarchy, but the important take-away is that Maslow and his associates turned the study of personality away from psychopathology and toward the study of the most well-adjusted, self-actualized people. This emphasis has also had a more general impact in our approach to physical as well as mental health.
What evidence is there for Maslow's humanistic conceptualization of self-fulfillment?
- Maslow used any assessment techniques he could—interviews, observations, self-report questionnaires, projective tests, biographical study, etc.
- This broad approach is necessitated in part by the subjects themselves. Self-actualized people tend ot be independent, reistist social pressures, love freedom, and have a high need for privacy. Further, their personalities are complex. Thus, they may be difficult to find, assess, and evaluate.
- However, this loose assessment approach provides insight and perspective, but it's difficult to develop scientifically verifiable solutions from it.
- The Personal Orientation Inventory (POI) seems to be more rigurous. This inventory asks people to classify themselves on a number of dimensions such as whether they can develop intimate relations with other people, whether they're spontaneous and uninhibited, etc. But the POI has various validity and realiability weaknesses.
What is subjective well-being, and how has research confirmed this theory?
- There's no one answer to what it means to be happy, but often we conceptualize it in a way that means an individual has achieved their own defition of happiness.
- Research confirms that happy people, who feel midly or moderately happy most of the time, aren't enthralled by acquiring big houses, fast cars, luxury travel, and glittering jewlery. Conversely, injury and adversity don't necessarily make a person unhappy.
- Research suggests that most people soon adapt to changes in their situations. People will soon adapt to winning the lottery, meaning it won't necessarily produce more than just temporary elation.
What does modern positive psychology focus on?
- Like the ideas of Maslow and Rogers, current positive psychology is more concerned with creativity, hope, wisdom, happiness, and spirituality and less focused on aggression, weakness, and pathology.
- In the health arena, this means focussing attention to positive illusions and to self-healing processes; i.e. people who are enthusiastic, trusting, feel in control, and having coping resources tend to stay healthier and live longer.
- However, May predicted the most recent emphases of positive psychology on studies of wisdom, thriving, and excellence in performance.
What is David Myers's American paradox? How can we address it?
- People in Western, developed countries entered the 21st century with a societal wealth unimaginable in other places or times. Houses are large, computers and cell phones are everywhere, and cruise ships are plentiful. Materially, we're better off than we were before. But morally, we're experiencing social recession and psychological depression.
- There are high rates of divorce, suicide, depression, and conflict. We have more sexual partners and more STIs, more freedom and more disillusionment, more gadgets and more therapists. Are we happy yet?
- To address this paradox, Myers and others recommend altruism, fidelity, family, community, and spirituality, which they believe will lead to fulfillment.
What does Martin Seligman's acronym PERMA stand for?
Seligman proposed a five-component approach to flourishing:
- Positive Emotion: Captures the good moods and feelings which motivate us.
- Engagement: Captures Csikszentmihalyi's notions of flow.
- Relationships: Relationships are our ties to family, friends, and community.
- Meaning: Involves dedication to or working toward things greater than ourselves.
- Accomplishment: Means setting goals and productively attaining some key goals, including aspects of Maslow's self-actualization.
Note that each step goes well beyond happiness and feeling food. Each component is relevant to and involved with the other. However, this doesn't mean comparing yourself to others, as this makes you feel worse.
What are the advantages to the existential-humanistic approach?
- Emphasizes courageous struggle for self-fulfillment and dignity.
- Appreciates the spiritual nature of a person.
- Often based on the study of healthy, well-adjusted individuals.
- Considers each individual's experience unique.
What are the disadvantages of the existential-humanistic approach?