Discussing human behaviour

From the five perspectives of Psychology compare and contrast any two perspectives. Which seems to be the more reliable when discussing human behaviour? To get a better insight to what this essay is trying to define, a brief explication of what Psychology is all about will be necessary. “Through systematic research, psychologists aim to explore questions about the way human beings, and sometimes animals, behave and how they experience the world around them” (Malim and Birch. 1998).

The word Psychology is derived from two Greek words: psyche meaning ‘mind’ and logo which could be understood as ‘study’, therefore Psychology could be classified as ‘The study of the mind’. It was only in 1879 with the opening of the first psychological laboratory by Wilhelm Wundt in Germany, that Psychology was considered as a distinctive and self standing scientific speciality and no longer simply as an extension of Philosophy, Physiology or Biology.

Throughout the 19th century and just up until recently, there have been many significant innovations which have lead to the development of different perspectives within the realm of Psychology, the five most supported are: the Cognitive; the Humanistic; the Biological; the Psychoanalytic and the Behaviourism.

Throughout this composition, the two perspectives that are going to be compared and contrasted will be the Psychoanalytic perspective and the Humanistic perspective, therefore it is essential to understand what exactly these two approaches have to offer within the domain of Psychology; their resemblances, their variations and their therapies, for this, a brief account of each will be quite helpful. The psychoanalytic perspective concentrates largely on an individual’s unconscious and how divergences that are to be faced later in life are said to stem from early childhood experiences.

Freud argued that a person’s personality and its behaviour are the result of constant tug of war between the id, the ego and the superego; Freud believed that the id was innate, but both the ego and the superego were acquired later. Psychosexual theory was yet another belief of Freud; he stated that an adult’s personality was sculpted by the passage of different stages throughout childhood, some of these stages being: oral, anal and phallic, he advanced that not completing correctly one of these stages could lead to the development of fixations.

His splits with Alfred Alder and Carl Jung were both due to his strong beliefs concerning the psychosexual theory; the same was to be said for his split with Erik Erikson. One of Freud’s major contributions to the field of psychology, was the identification of what he called defence mechanisms, which allows individuals to auto protect themselves unconsciously, many non-Freudian psychologist acknowledge these as being very useful concepts.

“Defence mechanisms distort or delay reality and are essential ways of protecting the ego from distress and allowing the person to cope with life” (Cardwell, Clark and Meldrum, 2000). After this separation, Alder, Jung and Erikson went on to enlarge Freud’s psychoanalytic perspective to a broader approach, which was called ‘Psychodynamic’ believing that the personality was influenced more by the social rather than the sexual traits of the world (Taylor, 1999).

Carl Rogers (1902 – 1987) and Abraham Maslow (1908 – 1970), were the two co-founders of the humanistic perspective or phenomenological approach, but it can also be called the third force psychology. It is believed that each individual is profoundly good and with personal growth the personality can expand with assistance; this assistance takes the form of needs with its hierarchy. Maslow proposed a hierarchy of needs, which took the form of a pyramid, showing how and why each individual or client strives towards a psychological well being.

Through these survival needs ranging from thirst, sleep and hunger to desires for knowledge or belonging, the client is able to become the person that he wishes to be, thus achieving ‘self-actualisation’, the tip of the pyramid. “Self-actualisation is based on using one’s capacities to their fullest. Much like Rogers actualising tendency, self-actualisation is an expression of the potential for growth which is part of life” (Glassman, 1995). Rogers enlarged on Maslow’s work to create what he called ‘person-centred psychotherapy’ which was based on three elements: empathy, unconditional positive regard and congruence.

All three of these conditions were needed to be present within the therapy, so that the client could achieve personal growth thus becoming a ‘fully functioning person’, this can be interpreted as helping the client get a better, more positive image of himself, which allows the passage from incongruence to congruence to happen (Malim and Birch, 1998). The psychoanalytic approach would argue that people in general are ruled by innate desires, stemming very often from their childhood, which influence subconsciously their way of behaving, leaving them at the mercy of principally uncontrollable forces.

The humanistic point of view would differs to that of the psychoanalytic approach, saying that behaviour is not determined by neither present circumstances or precedent experiences, this means that the individual is free to interact and can make choices, this is often referred to as ‘Free Will’ (Glassman, W. E. 1995). Rogers (1980) believed that each individual was in need of what he called ‘Unconditional Positive Regard’ (UPR), a basic attention of love and affection given freely throughout childhood from other people towards the child, usually coming from the child’s parent or carer.

“Just as empathy perfectly integrates with congruence, unconditional positive regard also takes its place as inseparable from the other two” (Mearns and Thorne, 2002). Owing to this ‘unconditional positive regard’ the child will be capable of developing into a well balances adult, therefore according to Rogers, many of the issues or mental health disorders that the client could experience, were due the absence if this attention throughout their early years. This is an opinion that was shared with Freud, who also believed that early childhood experiences were very important for later adult development.

Freud (1909) called this evolution, the ‘psychosexual development’ and maintained that each individual would have to go through certain phases such as the oral, the anal and finally the phallic stage (Pennington, D. 2002). Erik Erikson (1959) argued that each individual had to go through each of his eight stages of human development, the individual has to correctly complete the present stage before being able to move on to the next. Erikson used the word ‘conflict’ rather than stage, among the conflicts that he proposed; there were ‘trust/mistrust’, ‘initiative/guilt, and ‘generativity/stagnation’, to name just a few (Hayes and Orrell. 1998).

A comparable idea was proposed by Abraham Maslow and his ‘hierarchy of needs’, which is often presented under a pyramid form, this pyramid characterize the individual’s consciousness, Maslow stated that before being able to progress to a higher level that it was necessary to fulfil the lower levels of needs first. Though Erikson spoke about stages/conflicts and Maslow talked about needs, they both implied the importance of completing steps in the development of an individual’s personality (Taylor, I. 1999).

Due to the work carried out by Allport in 1937, it can be argued that within psychology, there are two main types of personality theories; the ‘nomothetic’, who concentrates on the features that people share, while the ‘ideographic’ puts the emphasis on the person as an individual, both the psychoanalytic and the humanistic perspectives are part on the latter. The humanistic approach proposes a psychotherapy called ‘Client-centred’ or ‘Person-centred’, it is so called as the people seeking help are seen as clients and not patient thus less clinical (Hayes and Orrell. 1998).

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