Personality refers to the unique set of relatively constant behaviors and mental processes in a person and his or her interactions with the environment (Kevin 2011). It is generally accepted that personality is influenced by genetics in the form of dispositions or temperament at 40-60% and by the environment. The tasks of the psychologist are to characterize and describe personality traits, investigate the relationship between these traits and behavior, and understand and predict behavior from these traits. The approaches to the study of personality are descriptive; biological or genetic; learning; psychodynamic; and humanistic, existential or phenomenological (Kevin).
Existentialism vs. Humanism
Existentialism is difficult to define as those who conceived it denied they started it or it even started (Corbett, 1985). It can be vaguely described as a spirit or atmosphere of one's response to human existence. Among its precursors were Soren Kierkegaard and Fredrich Nietzsche. They were later joined by Jean-Paul Sartre, Martin Heidegger and Albert Camus (Cobertt). Existentialism uses phenomenology as philosophical approach. This refers to the careful and thorough study of phenomena, the creation of Edmund Husserl. Phenomena consist of the contents of consciousness one experiences and allows to reveal experiences to consciousness without bias. This method has been used to investigate emotions, psychological pathologies, and varied experiences (Boeree, 2003). Existentialism sees the essence of humanity as the lack of that very essence, nothingness and freedom. No philosophical system or theory can capture human consciousness or reduce it to simple processes. The future of existence cannot be predicted by statistics. The circumstances and other raw materials of existence differ substantially. But these are not as important as how each of us chooses how to live. It is the only thing, which makes each person what he or she is. Existentialism says that each person actually creates himself or herself. Yet it sees most individuals live their lives in denial of their full humanity with anxiety, guilt and death. These are inauthentic lives. These lives ignore freedom by living in conformity materialism. They take refuge and comfort in conformity and avoid the moral decisions they need to make. They stop evolving. On the other hand, authenticity means being aware of their freedom, the duty to create oneself and the inevitability of anxiety, guilt and death. Being and living authentically require the acceptance of these things as the very act of self-affirmation. Authenticity demands involvement, compassion and commitment (Boeree).
Humanism is the American counterpart of existentialism (Boeree, 2003). It believes that basic goodness and respect reside in human kind (AllPsych, 2002). It evolved from existential psychology but has a brighter view of things. American psychologists Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers set the stage for this approach in the study of personality and in improving overall satisfaction in every individual. Humanist psychologists share basic tenets. These are the focus on the here and now rather than regretting the past or fearing the future; people take responsibility for their acts; decisions are reality-based; the inherent and indestructible worth of every individual; and personal growth and understanding as the goal of life. Humanism sees happiness as possible only through self-improvement and self-knowledge (AllPsych).
Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs summarizes the belief system of the theory (AllPsych, 2002; Boeree, 2006). It states that every person has certain needs that must be met in the right order before he can be fully functional. Unless a certain level of needs is fully met, he cannot advance to the next higher level. In the first level are physiological or survival needs. These are air, food, water and sleep. In the second level is the need for safety and security. A sense of belonging and love is the need in the third level. In the fourth level are esteem needs. And in the final level is the need for self-actualization. At this point, the person achieves a complete understanding of the self and a sense of accomplishment. He now accepts the world and views human nature as inherently good (AllPsych). On the other hand, Rogers describes the healthy person as fully functioning and possessing certain qualities. These qualities are openness to experience, living in the here-and-now; trust in the real self within; recognition of personal freedom and responsibility; and creativity (Boeree).
Personality in Situational Behavior
Existentialism focuses exclusively on the individual and how he uses his freedom (Corbett, 1985). It ignores issues external to his humanity. He must deal with the essentials of existence, such as death, the meaning of human existence, the place or reality of God in human existence, values, interpersonal relationships and conscious self-knowledge. On the whole, the existentialist sees life as very difficult, as something without an objective, no given values and that he must create these things himself. The existentialist does not have too much time for reflection because he is primarily prompted to act on his situation. He engages in the task through literary characterization rather than by abstract thinking (Cobertt). The existentialist is a serious, aimless, autonomous pessimist to whom no givens pre-exist his acts. Since there are no assumptions, his daily life is full of the arduous responsibility of acting and creating every part of it. There are no set rules to follow, to promises for the future that he can expect from the outside world. Upon waking up in the morning, for example, he must decide what to do every minute and not consider what others will be doing. This life perception goes on and he has no rest from the intense responsibility. He cannot derive fun from it. His freedom is overwhelming and gives him a lot of room but he is not happy. And life is a big boredom without happiness, without anything to look forward to and other people not mattering.
Humanism, on the other hand, sees life as a positive thing inside and outside every person. A humanist greets each day and each situation with hope. From the food he eats at breakfast, the clothes he wears to work or school, the activities he undertakes from sunrise to sundown, dinner and night time are all experiences of delight. He sees himself as intrinsically good. He finds quiet pleasure even in little things he does especially if he is a self-actualized or actualizing person. He experiences the full freedom that the existentialist experiences minus the lack of givens and the gravity of creating everything for himself and within himself.
The existentialist is not only bored but also weighed down by the responsibility and freedom he is supposed to cherish day-by-day. He is more aware than anyone else that plain and pleasure are everywhere in the physical world. He is acutely aware that loneliness, heartbreak, fear, guilt, loss and death are not only proximate but also inevitable realities. Without inner fun and freedom from this angst and without an escape or respite from the responsibility and accountability of a life that is too free, he is not only unhappy but also a burden to others and to himself.
The humanist, on the other hand, uses his freedom to make the best out of what he is at the present moment. He does not deny the existence and reality of all kinds of pain and pleasure, guilt, anxiety, loss and death in the physical, mental, social or spiritual world. But he sees these negative occurrences are part of the life that is, in totality, still beautiful, rewarding and worth living. Pain, guilt, anxiety, loss and death do not negate or oppose positive forces in life, which are more enduring. These "negative" forces only color or enhance positive forces. A deep sense of worth enables him to build, to pursue, to endure and to accept pain and loss of any kind. Although he experiences his inner value as a distinct human being, he…