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Abraham Maslow and His Contributions to Psychology: Humanistic Psychology
Holistic-Dynamic Personality Theory
Abraham Maslow is often thought of as the father of Humanistic Psychology and is credited with the inception of theory that departed from the traditional psychoanalytic approach and the behavioral models. With in this paper Maslow's life is addressed as a source of his inspiration for theory, humanistic psychology is defined and Maslow's holistic-dynamic personality theory is given paramount focus.
Abraham Maslow is often cited as the father of humanist psychology. Through the psychological movement that he and others began has developed what many call the "third force" in psychology. The theories surrounding humanistic psychology reject a great deal of those found within the first two forces, psychoanalysis and behaviorism.
During the first half of the twentieth century, American psychology was dominated by two schools of thought: behaviorism and psychoanalysis. Neither fully acknowledged the possibility of studying values, intentions and meaning as elements in conscious existence.
A on the whole mainstream American psychology had been captured by the mechanistic beliefs of behaviorism and by the biological reductionism and determinism of classical psychoanalysis. (Association for Humanistic Psychology 2001)
Maslow was initially an ardent behaviorist, yet the experience of fathering his first daughter proved to him intrinsically that behaviorism was not only wrong but that it was simplistic and immature in comparison to other possible theories on development. "At first an ardent behaviorist, Maslow's firsthand experience with his children convinced him to abandon this approach as inadequate." (Ewen, 1998, p. 415) Experiencing the all to common personal changes that accompany the personal growth associated with the raising of one's own children, Maslow began to see that there was so much more to the human spirit and psyche than had previously been given notice within the school of psychology. Maslow in a 1968 interview, speaking of the universal experience of parenting even went so far as to state that, "I was stunned by the mystery and by the sense of not really being in control. I felt small and weak and feeble before all this. I'd say anyone who had a baby couldn't be a behaviorist." (M. H. Hall, 1968, p.55)
Much of the theory that Maslow developed was intrinsically intertwined with his association with a group of exceptional individuals whose lives he analyzed to look for traits associated with their successes as individuals. The group includes Albert Einstein, Albert Schweitzer, Sigmund Freud, Jane Addams, William James and Abraham Lincoln. (Hergenhahn, 2000, p.512) He referred to these people as self-actualizing people. Which according to his theories meant they achieved a certain amount of personal and professional success and often registered general feelings of confidence and even happiness with themselves and their lives. Though some scholars have recently called Maslow's theories simplistic in that there is a certain sensationalism to his tactical research, and that he fails to even acknowledge the possibility that most people are not capable through nature or nurture of reaching the level of his famous subjects of study. (Kahle & Chiagouris, 1997, p. 112)
Whatever dominates an individual's attention dictates what values are important in terms of influencing judgments and behavioral patterns. As a result, this line of reasoning calls into question the existence of hierarchically "better" values and implies that individual values may not be ranked in the same order when situational circumstances change, in contrast to what has been proposed by Maslow.
1997, p. 112)
Regardless of the possible criticism Maslow's work continues to be very influential. His works continue to be cited ardently and frequently by scholars even today
1997, p. 112)
As a reaction to the ideas that seemed to be missing from the two previous schools of though Maslow determined that the major focuses of both psychoanalysis and behavioral psychology was on correcting destructive maladaptive behavior and did not give enough attention to the aspects of human life that had not previously been examined in the science of psychology as valuable to the human psyche. "Health is not simply the absence of disease or even the opposite of it. Any theory of motivation that is worthy of attention must deal with the highest capacities of the healthy and strong person as well as the maneuvers of crippled spirits." (Maslow, 1954/1987, p. 14)
Humanist psychology is driven by ideals associated with both ancient and modern ideals of human behavior. Humanistic psychology borrows from the ideals of the humanist theories of the renaissance of classical philosophy and literature. "Humanistic psychologists draw on the rich perspectives of existential philosophy, literature, and the arts to develop an understanding of human nature more adequate and comprehensive than that found in psychology textbooks and journals." ((Krippner, 1999, p. xvii) The humanist group of scholars wished to focus on higher thought and how it develops within the individual.
Humanistic psychologists insist that psychological research must develop methodologies that can address the full scope of human experience, and must not limit itself to observable behavior in a laboratory. Humanistic psychology does not reject science, but demands that the science of psychology be a fully 'human science,' with an approach and method suitable to its subject (Maslow, 1971; Giorgi, 1970). (Krippner, 1999, p. xvii-xviii)
Maslow in particular wished to focus upon those things, which must be present both internally and environmentally in order for a person to develop to his or her highest human potential. Through this philosophical focus Maslow developed what is now known as his holistic-dynamic personality theory and began a line of reasoning that changed the practice of both scholarly and clinical psychiatry eternally.
Maslow's Hierarchy consists of levels from the very base to the very high. "The lower the needs in the hierarchy, the more basic they are and the more similar they are to the needs of other animals. The higher the needs in the hierarchy, the more distinctly human they are." (Hergenhahn p. 511) The broad list of the needs are: 1. physiological (including all those needs essentuial to exhistance), 2. safety (including all those needs essential to eliminate fear), 3. belonging and love (including all those needs essential to the belief that one is needed and wanted by the people they choose to associate with and their family) 4. esteem (including all those needs essential to ensure a person feels good about who he or she is and his or her abilities) 5. self-actualization (which will be further detailed later in this work but includes Maslow's ideas of the determination of overall success and exceptionalism.
According to Maslow, values are essentially equivalent to needs, and they are hierarchical in nature...His perspective postulates that values become salient in a sequential order that progresses from primitive (i.e., survival) to advanced (i.e., self-actualization)...In order for a higher level to become salient, each lower-order level must be at least partially satisfied...once satisfied, that value takes a subordinate role to an emerging, higher-order value. (Kahle & Chiagouris, 1997, p. 111-112)
Maslow goes on to say that the higher an individual gets on the scale of needs, based on an intrinsic quest to meet needs and eliminate deficiencies in one's life the happier and therefore more successful they are.
Presumably the higher an individual is in the hierarchy, the greater the subjective life satisfaction. All individuals are motivated by a desire to fulfill their potential and to seek self-actualization. As Maslow (1954) stated, "search for identity is search for one's own... values" (p. 257). (Kahle & Chiagouris, 1997, p. 111-112)
An in-depth analysis of Maslow's theory lends credence to the lasting value of his work as it outlines some of the ways in which people can begin to realize their own potential and to help others experience those same gains as well. Maslow had a different way of approaching the study of human psychology. First and foremost it was to focus specifically on human rather than animal observation.
Maslow believed that human beings driven by innate positive drives will continually strive to achieve the next need upon their list of desires until he or she has reached a point of highest ability, self-actualization in which he or she is capable of the highest thought. Through Maslow's historical analysis of the people some of whom are listed above whom he thinks of as successful and therefore self-actualized he determined a set f characteristics, which separate them from other less exceptional people. Self-actualized individuals are according to Maslow characterized by a list of twelve traits:
1.They perceive reality accurately and fully.
2. They demonstrate a great acceptance of themselves and of others.
3. They exhibit spontaneity and naturalness.
4. They have a real need for privacy.
They tend to be independent of their environment and culture.
They demonstrate a continuous freshness of appreciation.
They tend to have periodic mystic of peak experiences.
They are concerned with all humans not just themselves and their immediate circle of support.
They tend to have only a small circle of friends.
They have a strong sense of ethics but do not necessarily accept the popular idea of…[continue]
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Maslow gave them that self-meaning and appreciation and became one of the pioneers of a movement that brought the focus of individual feeling, yearning and wholeness into psychology. He sort of read them out and spoke their thoughts, feelings and aspirations for them. He devoted much energy to humanistic psychology and the human potential and inaugurated the "fourth force" in psychology towards the end of his life. The first
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