Biological and Humanistic Approaches to Personality
The origins of the unique personality that gives each of us our constant behaviors and traits is a complex issue. The two prevailing theories on personality are biological and humanistic. Both of these theories have supporters and opponents, each for different reasons. The humanistic approach only considers the present and does not consider the past or what will happen in the future. The humanistic approach places greater emphasis on the feelings of self-value. The biological approach places greater emphasis on the thoughts than the feelings (Ford, 2011). The biological approach relies on genetics rather than experience as the basis of personality. This extreme view is one of the key reasons cited by opponents of the biological approach. Eysenck represents one of the key proponents of the biological theory supporters. His theory is based on the infrequency with which personality traits change (Ford, 2011).
Maslow proposed that there are five major categories of individual needs and that their ability to meet each level of these needs has an effect on the person's personality. The first level includes physiological needs such as air, food, water, protein, salt, sugar, calcium, and other important condition necessary to sustain life (Boeree, 2006). These are the most basic needs and if these are not met, an individual will be on a survival instinct mode. The second category of needs is safety and security. A person who lacks in this area may have a strong desire for structure, order, and limits (Boeree, 2006). They may also have a lack of confidence and motivation.
Safety and security can come in the form of the ability to meet one's daily needs. It can come in the form of having enough financial security to meet one's needs. My personal experience included a high sense of security in the ability to meet my most basic needs. I have a need for a sense of structure and order. I tend to keep schedules and attempt to remain in control of my schedule. I also like to have everything in its place and a place for everything. This does not come from a sense of a lack of security that was missing in my childhood, but these things provide security in my adult life none the less.
The third category in Maslow's hierarch of needs is a sense of belonging and love. These needs extend into wide circle. They include the need for children, friends, affectionate relationships, and a sense of community. When these needs are not met, the person may develop loneliness and social anxieties (Boeree, 2006). Growing up, I was lucky to have a family who provided me a strong sense of belonging. However, I can also recall times in my life when I did not have this sense of belonging. For instance, our family had to move frequently during my Junior High and High School Years. Every time we had to move, I was left having to start over with developing a new circle of friends and I had to develop a new sense of belonging and community.
During these times when my sense of belonging outside of the family were not being met, I found comfort in familiar family rituals and customs. My family was always my family regardless of where we moved. My family gave me a sense of familiarity. They seemed like a base from which to build. Eventually, I made new friends in the new community. I became more comfortable and began to feel a sense of belonging. I found that it was easy to make friends and even though my sense of belonging was interrupted for a time and I had a sense of being "uprooted," after the first few times I lost fear of the unknown. I gained confidence in my ability to regain my sense of community and to make new friends. My family was the only constant in my life and it was this sense of belonging that drove all of the others in each place where we moved. In a sense, having my sense of belonging destroyed and having to rebuild it from scratch had a positive effect on my own confidence in myself to be able to do so.
I was fortunate that my family gave me a strong sense of belonging and an anchor. Everywhere that we moved I had a chance to meet others who did not have this strong sense of family connections for one reason or another. They were more likely to fall into a bad crowd or become involved in gangs. They would reach out for anyone who made them feel like a part of the group. I feel that my confidence in my ability to make new friends and find a new "group" easily contributed to my lack of desire to be drawn to those types of groups. Those who did join gangs often lacked confidence in themselves as human beings.
Goldstein and Rosenfeld (1989) found that people tend to seek persons that are most like oneself. According to these authors, we validate ourselves by gaining the approval of a certain group. As I look back, as I grew and matured, the groups in which I pursued belonging changed. Each time I had a chance to move, I could essentially reinvent myself by the company that I chose.
Maslow's fourth category is self-esteem. From this springs a need for education, achievement, respect, and self-competence (Boeree, 2006). Self-esteem is cited as a basic need that is associated with other needs that build self-confidence. However, from my own experiences I feel that education, achievement, respect and self-competence help to build self-confidence, not that they are a result of self-esteem. Experiences in life that make a person feel good about themselves help to build self-confidence. I believe that self-confidence is built slowly over time. Certain singular events may help to build self-confidence, it takes repeated events to reach this level of self-confidence. I did find that when I began respecting myself, I also had more respect for others.
Maslow's fifth level is a bit more difficult to understand. This level is self-actualization. Maslow did not clearly define this level, but provided examples of people who had reached their full potential (Boeree, 2006). It is everyone's desire to meet their full potential. Maslow felt that only a small percentage of people actually reached this level of development. I do not believe that one can assess this level of development for themselves. Maslow found that those he considered to be self-actualized were comfortable being alone and tended to have deep relationships with a few people, rather than shallow relationships with many people. Maslow found that they were non-conformists (Boeree, 2006). I do not believe that I can assess whether I am self-actualized or not. Self-actualization takes a level of maturity and age.
Using Maslow's hierarchy of needs to explore my own personality makes me see both myself and others in a different way. Maslow's hierarchy of needs seems to explain many of the unique personality traits that I have developed. I found that I fit well into this theory. As I think about others, it is easy to see how a lack of these basic needs led to their personality as well. For instance, a lack of a sense of belonging made some turn to groups such as gangs that filled this need for community and a group.
Biological personality theories view personality as more static than the humanistic theories. An exploration of my own personality in relation to Maslow's theory supports a humanistic view of personality. We continually have new experiences in life and these new experiences fulfill different needs. When a person has all of their needs met, they have no reason to strive for anything else. This is…