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Human nature allows a person to demonstrate the cognitive, social and emotional behaviors that enable him or her to function in society and satisfy biological, psychological and emotional needs. The drive to display such behaviors is inborn but is shaped through environmental forces. New behaviors are learned and unlearned through experience and instruction. Functional human beings are able to read the situation, identify their goals and select from a repertoire the most appropriate behaviors to satisfy their needs. Psychodynamic theory explores how the conflict between inner drives and social expectations determine human behavior. Redecision theory attempts to influence human behavior through an exploration of childhood experiences and identifying dysfunctional decisions to replace them with more productive and relevant ones. Finally, constructivist theory seeks to increase the individual's level of consciousness and personal responsibility to encourage functional behavior learning.
THEORETICAL INTEGRATIVE FRAMEWORK ON HUMAN NATURE AND BEHAVIOR
A number of theories such as psychodynamic theory, redecision theory and constructivist theory are used to explain how human nature and behavior are shaped through the interaction of hereditary, environment and personal volition. These theories prescribe enriching explanations of how early childhood experiences may create impressions, meaning patterns and decisions that become rooted in the subconscious and shape human nature and behavior in future. However, the three theories possess sufficient similarities to be synthesized into an integrated framework to enable the therapist to empower the client to move from dysfunctional to functional behavior.
HUMAN NATURE, FUNCTION AND DYSFUNCTION
Human nature consists of the set of behaviors and feelings that an individual regularly displays. At the same time, human nature is something more than observable behaviors and the feelings that motivate the behaviors. Behaviors and feelings are transient and are prompted by some stimulus. Human nature is characterized by a sense of permanence and is more enduring than the behaviors and feelings that reflect it. It is based on the exercise of moral and practical reason (Hacker, 2010).
Human nature determines the specific feelings and behaviors that a stimulus may evoke in an individual. Human nature is therefore shaped by expectations as well as internal factors. Freud identified these as internal drives or wishes that create a sense of need or urgency (Bronson, 2000). Societal, cultural and environmental forces condition human nature to respond in particular ways to the urge. Therefore, human nature is shaped by the combination of societal forces and internal drives. These drives exist from the time an individual is born. Some of the drives are innate such as hunger, sleep and affection, while others are learnt through environmental conditioning. These include the need to be praised, the need to be independent, and so on.
While human nature is partially determined by hereditary, childhood experience (Gabbard, 2004) and societal influence, it is also involuntarily shaped by the unique perception of each individual. Perceptual processes are shaped by values and experiences and these determine the meaning and value individuals ascribe to the same object, event or person. These perceptions shape expectations, which ultimately influence human behavior. In this way, human nature determines human behavior and is shaped by it in turn. Human nature is therefore unique while being subject to universal influences. Human nature can also be shaped through voluntary effort based on conscious and rational thinking and decision making. Such an understanding of human nature allows room for appreciating the role of environmental factors while empowering individuals to shape human nature through personal effort.
Normal Human Functioning
Normal human development is a continuous process that takes place throughout life. Therefore, at no particular stage can one claim that an individual has become functional. Human functionality and dysfunctionality thus occur on a continuum. Generally, a functional human being can be identified as a person who progresses along the path towards independence, self-awareness, self-control in the pursuit of goal attainment. Therefore, a functional human being is goal oriented and strives towards some objective, e.g. knowledge, tranquility, wealth, and so on. He possesses motivation and functional autonomy (Carducci, 2009). These efforts are shaped by unique patterns of perception and behavior (Disque & Bitter, 1998). Functionality is also a societal concern. Therefore, only an individual with goals that do not conflict with societal values can be termed functional. In the pursuit of his goals, the functional individual is capable of acting independently on the strengths of his intelligence and personal traits. He is conscientious and emotionally stable (Landy & Conte, 2010). He or she can also collaborate with others through communication skills and the capacity for empathy. He does not pursue goals at the cost of emotional and interpersonal needs.
A functional human being also has a reasonable level of self-esteem and is capable of accepting positive as well negative criticism to shape his behavior accordingly. He can also control his emotions depending on social factors. Even while moderating his behavior and feelings as required by environmental situation, the functional human being possesses a stable personality and a sense of personal identity. He is not confused about his identity and can adjust his behavior while keeping his identity intact. At the same time, a functional human being is persistent and tries to think of ways of controlling or changing the environment to fulfill his needs. He interprets environmental and social cues intelligently and develops a response that brings him closer to his goals. The functional human being is also aware of his responsibilities and actively seeks it. Functional human behavior depends on positive and nurturing childhood experiences. In addition, identity, self-awareness, self-control and behavior modification are inculcated through an effective process of socialization.
Dysfunctional Human Behavior
Dysfunctional human behavior is based on irrational and unhealthy behaviors. A dysfunctional human being is not able to perceive environmental and social cues intelligently. At the same time, he or she does not possess self-monitoring and self-control which prevents him or her from developing positive feelings of identity and self-worth and adopting behaviors that lead to need or goal fulfillment. This failure to attain goals or have any clear set of goals in the first place leads to feelings of stress and anxiety, which in turn make the individual unable to deal with normal life problems (Ursano et al. 2004). Again, because of poor interpretation, low self-esteem and lack of self-regulating behaviors, the dysfunctional human being experiences depression. The dysfunctional human being possesses a weak sense of identity which causes him or her to experiment with different behaviors and adopting various habits. The weak sense of identity also makes the dysfunctional human being dependent on other for need fulfillment attainment. He or she does not possess a sense of personal responsibility in discharging his duties (Wells & Matthews, 2006). The dysfunctional human being experiences powerlessness, lack of control over the environment. He is not assertive and is less likely to be cooperative. The dysfunctional human being is motivated by negative forces such as punishment and negative reinforcement instead of positive factors like praise and self-actualization. Dysfunctional behavior is shaped by negative and disabling childhood experiences. Children who are repressed from expressing their emotions and fulfilling their needs independently grow up to become dependent and withdrawn individuals, incapable of working with other people in a goal-oriented way (Gordon, 2009). Their capacity to acknowledge inner drives and urges is reduced which leads to a weak self-image.
EVALUATION OF THEORIES
Evaluation of Psychodynamic Therapy
The psychodynamic therapy is based on the concepts developed by Freud psychodynamic therapy (Cardwell & Flanagan, 2005). Psychological problems are believed to be rooted in early childhood experiences and the quality of interpersonal relationships with influential individuals such as parents and caregivers. Early childhood experiences are believed to shape the stability of the individual's personality and ability to form social relationships in the future (Huprich, 2009). These early childhood experiences leave impressions on the unconscious which influence behaviors but remain unperceived by the person, making it difficult to detect and deal with dysfunctional behaviors.
Psychodynamic therapy is based on the premise that human dysfunctionality is based on poor functioning of the ego functions (Leichsenring et al. 2006) and because of factors and motives lying within the unconscious (Huprich, 2009). Hence, psychodynamic therapy aims to resolve repetitive conflicts by bringing the unconscious motives and drives to the consciousness of the individual to develop insight (Leichsenring et al. 2006) and self-awareness (Miller, 2010). Psychodynamic therapy places special emphasis on the quality of interpersonal relationship between the client and the therapist and its role in enabling the client to reflect and express the negative experiences and impressions formed during early childhood (Weiner, 2009). Free association is a commonly used technique to bring underlying motives into the conscious. Huprich (2009) states that psychodynamic therapy enables individuals to change their mental perceptions and improve their interactions, thereby moving from dependant individuals to independent individuals. The interaction between therapist and client is not one-sided; rather it involves a process of negotiation through which different dimensions of the self emerge and influence the therapeutic alliance (Wiseman et al. 2012). Such collaboration is successful when…[continue]
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