Psychodynamic and Humanistic Approaches to Personality Psychodynamic Essay

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Psychodynamic and Humanistic Approaches to Personality

Psychodynamic and Humanistic Approaches

Personality can be defined as the unique characteristics that various individuals possess. These characteristics differentiate individuals from others. In other words, personality can also be defined as a unique system of feelings, thoughts and behaviors that prevail over time and that is evident in various situations. Different psychologists have determined different approaches to study personality. Some psychologists try to examine various aspects of personality that an individual possesses, whereas, others try to understand why there are differences in the personalities of various individuals. (Morris et al., 2010)

Listed below are the two different approaches to personality;

Psychodynamic Approach

Psychodynamic theories establish the thought that our personality is an outcome of inner psychological forces which are not under the control of our conscious mind. Psychodynamic approach basically studies the energy of our unconscious mind and it also explores how this energy transforms into the behavior that various individuals portray at different situations. (Morris et al., 2013) This perspective focuses on how different internal processes such as, needs, desires, emotions and drives lead towards motivating individual behavior. This perspective evolved over time and its emphasis has shifted from innate or unconscious processes to the learning capabilities of human beings and their interaction with their surroundings. (Unknown, 2008)

The historical work in relation to this perspective was done by famous psychologist, Sigmund Freud. Other eminent psychologists that contributed a lot to this approach include, Carl Jung, Anna Freud, Melanie Klein, Margaret Mahler, Karen Horney, Heinz Hartmann, Robert W.White, Donald Winnicott, Otto Kernberg, Heinz Kohut, and Erik Erikson. (Unknown, 2008)

In order to understand the evolution of the psychodynamic approach it is necessary to analyze the work of Simund Freud. Freud analyzed personality from different points-of-view and all of these points-of-view or perspectives were interrelated to each other. Summarized below are some of the important theories that Freud proposed in order to understand the personality development and behavioral patterns in various individuals (Unknown, 2008).

Drive or Instinct Theory: This theory states that human behavior is motivated by two powerful drives namely, 'thanatos' or the instinct of aggression or deterioration and 'eros', which can be defined as the drive for life or the instinct for survival. Modern psychologists have included two more drives in this approach that have been observed to motivate human behavior. These drives include, the drive for power or mastery over others and the drive for connection or relationship with others. According to the drive or instinct theory, these are the four major factors that develop and motivate human behavior in various situations and that shape human personality. (Unknown, 2008)

Topographical Theory of The Mind: This theory divides the activities of mind into different stages. These stages include, the 'conscious activities', these are the activities of which we and our minds are fully aware, 'pre conscious activities', these activities can be defined as the thoughts, feeling and emotions that can be easily perceived by our minds or that can be easily brought to our minds and 'unconscious activities', these can be defined as the repressed feelings and thoughts of which, we and our minds are not aware. These feelings and thoughts are not under the control of our conscious mind but can have an influential and powerful effect on our behaviors and personalities. All the psychologists, advocating the psychodynamic approach, believe in the power of the unconscious, even though different theories put emphasis on varying aspects of the unconscious. (Unknown, 2008)

Structural Model Of The Mind: This model suggests that the structure of our personality consist of three parts namely, 'id', this is the unconscious part of our personality and it strives to get the basic instincts and drives fulfilled, 'superego' this part is made up of values, ideals, morals and conscience and it always remains in conflict with the id and the last part is 'ego' it can be defined as the rational part of the personality and it acts as a mediator between superego and id. (Unknown, 2008)

Psychosexual Stage Theory: This theory suggests a model of child development, which consists of five stages. All these stages are based on the sexual instincts that an individual confronts. These stages include, the 'Oral Phase', ranging from birth to eighteen months, in this phase, it is suggested that the search for pleasure by an individual is centered into the mouth; the 'Anal Phase', ranging from eighteen months to about three years, in this phase, an individual's search for pleasure is centered into the anus; the 'Phallic Phase', ranging from three years to six years, in this phase, it is stated that the search for pleasure is centered into the genitals; the 'Latency Phase' ranging from six to eight years, it is the phase in which individuals repress various erotic urges and send them to the unconscious phase; and the last stage is the 'Genital Phase', it exists from adolescence and continues till the end, it is the phase in which the search for pleasure is centered in the genitals and fulfillment of sexual intimacy. Freud argued that, the personality development stops in the adulthood but the modern psychologists challenge this point-of-view, they state that personality development is a consistent process and it continues over the entire lifetime. In addition to that, the modern psychodynamic theories put less emphasis on the sexual instincts as compared to that of Freud. (Unknown, 2008)

The Psychodynamic approach states that we are often not aware of the basic instincts and the factors that motivate our behavior. These theories have an influential impact on how people view themselves and their surroundings. In addition to that, the critics argue that, the psychodynamic approaches cannot be tested through experiments and hypothesis. (Morris et al., 2010)

The Humanistic Approach

The humanistic approach is also termed as the 'third force' in the psychology. The humanistic approach has gained its various aspects from the German Philosopher, Edmund Husserl. It is also reported that the Humanistic approach is influenced by the concepts of 'existential psychology'. The existential psychology led towards great chaos and disturbance in the Europe during the World War II. This psychology consisted of four main themes. These themes stated that, (1) Each person is different from his fellow men and each person has his own, unique, values and beliefs, (2), Human growth is triggered by suffering. In other words, suffering is an essential component of human growth, (3), for personal growth it is necessary that the person stays and lives in the immediate moment and not in the past and (4), In order to grow personally, it is necessary for a person to get committed to the goal of personal growth and development. (Unknown, 2008)

The major difference that exists between existential psychology and humanistic approach is that, existential psychology puts emphasis on suffering as an essential component of personal growth, whereas, the humanistic approach does not do this. Abraham Maslow, who was a humanistic psychologist, studied how 'peak experiences' or moments of extraordinary feelings occur in various people. He suggested that people who were able to realize their inner potentials and who attained the heights of their abilities, were the ones in whom the 'peak experiences' occur the most. Maslow also designed a hierarchy of wants and he suggested that it is not possible for a person to fully satisfy the higher level wants, until and unless he has satisfied the lower level wants to the fullest potential. According to Maslow, at the bottom of the hierarchy are the 'physiological needs', that is the need for food and shelter. Above them are the 'safety needs', which include the avoidance of pain, anxiety and stress and the desire for safeguard and security. On a higher level are, 'belongingness and love needs', these are the needs for love and affection and they…

Sources Used in Document:


Morris, C. And Maisto, A. (2010). Understanding Psychology . Oxford: Orford University Press. pp.45-65. [Accessed: 11 Jun 2013].

Unknown. (2008). Theoretical Perspectives on Human Behavior. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publishers. pp.53-65. [Accessed: 11 Jun 2013].

Unknown. (2005). Personality. Thousand Oaks: Cluj-Napoca: University of Medicine and Pharmacy. pp.1-5. [Accessed: 11 Jun 2013].

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