• Humanistic Theory in Psychology

  • Humanistic Definition of Personality

  • Maslow's Humanistic Approach to Personality

  • Humanistic Theory of Personality by Carl Rogers

  • Illustrations of Humanistic Theories of Personality

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Humanistic Theory of Personality: What Is It & Examples

Are you of the opinion that individuals are fundamentally good? Do you think that each person strives to develop into their optimal self? Perhaps you hold the view that given the appropriate environment and backing, every individual can reach their full potential and exhibit good qualities. If this resonates with you, you might be interested in humanistic personality theories.

Humanistic Theory in Psychology

Alfred Adler, known as the pioneer of individual psychology, was among the earliest psychological thinkers to propose that one's birth order in the family plays a significant role in shaping their personality. He believed that the primary goal for most individuals is to feel significant and connected.

Humanistic psychologists assert that an individual's behavior is determined by both their self-concept and environment. They also argue that a person's current identity and decision-making are shaped by their environment and past experiences.

Humanistic psychology is made up of five core principles:

  • Human beings surpass the total of their components.
  • Every individual is distinct.
  • Humans are sentient and self-aware entities.
  • Individuals possess autonomy, have the ability to make their own decisions, and are accountable for those decisions.
  • Human beings intentionally work to achieve future goals. They also seek meaning, creativity, and value in life.

The humanistic theory focuses on a person’s motivation and desire to be good and do good. The humanistic theory of personality also focuses on free will or the ability to choose personal outcomes.

Humanistic Definition of Personality

The humanistic theory of personality posits that individuals are inherently good and strive to actualize their fullest potential. This inherent goodness and drive for personal growth are intrinsic, propelling individuals towards self-fulfillment. Obstacles hindering this pursuit are attributed to external factors rather than internal ones.

The humanistic theory centers on an individual's inclination toward selecting positive behaviors. This theory revolves around the notion that individuals aspire to attain self-actualization, which can be realized through appropriate support and a conducive environment. It emphasizes each person's distinctiveness and their endeavor to exhibit positivity and reach self-actualization.

Maslow's Humanistic Approach to Personality

Abraham Maslow is an American psychologist who believed that people possess free will and self-determination: the ability to make decisions and shape their own lives. Maslow believed that you can choose to become whoever you want to be and you can achieve self-actualization.

Self-actualization is the ability to reach your full potential and be the best version of yourself. Self-actualization is at the top of the pyramid and the final goal in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

Maslow's theory stands out due to his focus on studying successful individuals rather than clinically diagnosed cases like many other theorists and psychologists. He believed that these successful and often well-known individuals exhibited similar traits and had attained self-actualization.

One such famous person he studied was none other than the 16th president of the United States, Abraham Lincoln. Based on Maslow's investigation of Lincoln and others' personalities, he made his assertion that these people were all focused on being self-aware and empathetic, and did not focus on other people's judgment of them.

He said they focused more on a problem at hand than themselves and often concerned themselves with one main focus throughout their lives.

Humanistic Theory of Personality by Carl Rogers

Carl Rogers is an American psychologist who believed that humans had the ability to change and grow into better people. Rogers thought that individuals required a supportive environment characterized by empathy and authenticity in order to develop into morally upright individuals. Rogers believed this to be unattainable.

Carl Rogers posited that one's beliefs about oneself (referred to as self-concept) consist of three key components:

  • Self-Worth
  • Self-Image
  • Ideal Self

According to Rogers, these components must align and intersect to achieve self-actualization.

Rogers believed that adhering to certain life principles is essential for achieving goals and leading a fulfilling life. He observed that individuals who were maximizing their potential shared these principles. Rogers also emphasized that the journey towards a fulfilling life is dynamic, allowing for continuous personal growth and change.

Key Principles for a Fulfilling Life:

  • Being open to new experiences.
  • Embracing an existential lifestyle.
  • Having self-trust.
  • Exercising freedom of choice.
  • Demonstrating creativity and adaptability.
  • Being reliable and constructive.
  • Living a rich and fulfilling life.

While challenging, Rogers encapsulated this pursuit in his book On Becoming a Person:

“This process of the good life is not, I am convinced, a life for the faint-hearted. It involves the stretching and growing of becoming more and more of one’s potentialities. It involves the courage to be. It means launching oneself fully into the stream of life.” (Rogers, 1995)

Illustrations of Humanistic Theories of Personality

How would the humanistic theory of personality interpret someone committing a bank robbery? This theory asserts that individuals are inherently good and make positive choices, but external factors can hinder their potential.

From a humanistic perspective, a bank robber is still fundamentally good, with environmental circumstances influencing their actions. In this scenario, financial struggles may have driven the individual to resort to robbery.

Conversely, the humanistic theory emphasizes personal agency and the capacity for self-improvement. For instance, receiving job promotions through hard work signifies realizing one's potential and striving towards personal growth.

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