The humanistic approach

Rogers proposed, that to reduce the gap, a person needed to do three things: develop a positive perception of themselves, not worry what others wanted them to be, and increase their positive experiences in the world. All people, according to Rogers, have the ability to become “a fully functioning person” (Santrock, 2003, p.

492), the relevant attributes of this person being, open to experience, not overly defensive, having an awareness of and sensitivity to the self and external world, and engaging in harmonious relationships.

Both Rogers and Maslow used case studies to formulate their theories (Santrock, 2003). Tate Selua, a 39-year-old female student, was asked to describe her first day at Wits University, with specific focus on her behaviour. She explained that on entering the university she felt a sense of excitement, anxiety and nervousness. Her reasons given were that the excitement was due to the realisation that she was taking the final step towards becoming a student again after a 20-year gap.

Her anxiousness and nervous disposition were put down to, as she described “getting things right”, in other words, the logistics of registering for a degree.

While choosing her subjects she was perspiring unusually, which she felt was a reflection of her agitated state. Upon leaving the university that day, having successfully registered as a student, Tate described feelings of bliss, joy and weightlessness. She was smiling, felt energised, and had a spring in her step. According to Rogers, people have self-actualising tendencies (Santrock, 2003).

To illustrate this, he compared a human with a palm tree being thumped continuously by waves over a period of time, and yet despite this, was “nourishing itself, maintaining its position, and growing” (Santrock, 2003, p. 492). Tate is nourishing herself by enrolling in tertiary education, maintaining her position by being resolute in following her dreams, and growing towards self-actualisation by opening up to the new experience of being a student and gaining further knowledge.

“Rogers saw the tenacity of the human spirit and the ability of a living thing to push into a hostile environment and not only hold its own, but adapt, develop, and become itself”(Santrock, 2003, p. 492). Tate has shown resolve, adaptation and development by following through with her intermediate goals, to put herself in a position to ultimately attain her end goal of becoming a psychologist. The gap between her real self and ideal self, as referred to earlier, would therefore be reduced (Santrock, 2003). Santrock (2003) states that both Maslow and Rogers believed self-esteem was important.

Enrolling for a degree could indicate Tate’s increased self-esteem, because, despite not having studied for a long time, she has a strong belief in her intelligence, capabilities and perseverance, as she explained. Her anxiety, nervousness and unnatural perspiration, however, cannot be explained through humanism, but would fit into the psychodynamic perspective. Sigmund Freud (1856-1939), the founder of this perspective “came to believe that psychological processes, especially hidden conflicts within the mind, motivated much of our behaviour” (Bernstein, 2002, p.

6). A latent conflict could be Tate’s previously unsuccessful attempt at studying, which may be stored as a fear in her unconsciousness, and manifested in anxiety. One of the weaknesses of humanism is it adopts an idiographic approach, in other words, is based on case studies alone (Mi?? ller, 1995). A generalisation cannot be made by simply studying individuals, when the purpose of modern psychology (having a scientific basic and thus relying on empirical evidence) desires to find laws and principles that apply to the general population.

Ironically, the idiographic approach of humanism is also its strength. The reason for this is, because the focus is on the individual, and his/her potential, great strides can be made to rise above circumstances and towards directing one’s own life. The fact that humanism has had a strong influence in education, industry, the clinical setting, and the positive stimulation of psychology, is evidence that, despite it not being ‘fool-proof’ still holds sway in current thinking (Mi??ller, 1995).

The humanistic approach can be used to describe certain, but not all behaviour, as has been demonstrated above. Self-actualisation and self-concept are strong focuses in this area, which centre on the individual, self-perception and assessment, their positive traits, the person as a whole and their potentiality. Although humanism has limitations as a method, it can be used in current settings in a constructive manner by applying the principles set out in this essay.

Reference List:

Bernstein, D.A & Nash, P.W. (2002). Essentials of Psychology (2nd Ed.). Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company

M�ller, A.T. (1995). Perspectives on personality. Durban: Butterworth Publishers (Pty) Ltd

Santrock, J.W. (2003). Psychology (7th Ed.). Dallas: McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

Sternberg, R.J. (1998). In search of the human mind (2nd Ed.). Forthworth: Harcourt Brace

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