This paper will analyze how humanistic and existential theories affect individual personalities and it will also aim to explain how humanistic and existential theories influence interpersonal relationships. The theorists and their theories presented in this paper will aid in understanding the different variables that makes up an individual’s personality. The different theories in this paper lends a variety of perspective on personality and explanation for behavior.
How Humanistic and Existential Theories Affect Individual Personalities The learning theories lean toward the belief that personality is an accumulation of learned inclinations that continue throughout the lifespan. Individuals believed present awareness guides the development of personality according to how one anticipates specific events and as such, all human activity is influenced by anticipation (Feist & Feist, 2009). Skinner thought genetics plays a significant role in the development of personality, and genetic variance accounts for unique personalities, but ultimately, environment shapes the personality (Feist & Feist, 2009). Skinner believed climate, geographical environment, and personal physical strength in relation to animals helped shape the general personality of humankind, but the social environment affects and produces unique personality types. Skinner noted personality as “at best a repertoire of behavior imparted by an organized set of contingencies” (Skinner, 1974, as cited by Feist & Feist, 2009, p. 472).
Bandura understood human nature as “self-regulating, proactive, self-reflective, and self-organizing” (Feist & Feist, 2009, p. 486). He recognized observational learning enables individuals to learn without performing behavior. Rotter believed individuals’ personal history and experiences shapes their personalities and goals, but emphasized the similarities in them, whereas Mischel considered individual differences and variations in behavior more significant. He thought human behavior adapts to the interaction of “stable personality traits and the situation, which includes a number of personal variables” (Feist & Feist, 2009, p. 546). Kelly’s theory of dichotomy corollary determined personality constructs are double-sided and individuals choose the one they believe will extend their future options. Learning theories are criticized for neither accommodating “individual differences, intelligence, genetic factors, nor the whole realm of personality” (Feist & Feist, 2009, p. 472).
Humanistic and existential theories of personality and the dispositional theories are parallel in nature as they search for understanding about the significance of behavior based on one’s personal perception of life. Fundamentally it is thought that personality is greatly influenced by internal traumas stemming from the past and mitigating outside factors. Situational behavior can be explained through a multifaceted understanding of human behavior and also through traits and factors that stem from our complex interaction with family, society and culture. Humanistic psychology believes in the natural drive toward personal development, and individuals freely make decisions regardless of environmental factors. Free will is an important cause in the development of personality, and the drive toward self-actualization is a powerful motivation for the creation of the personality (Boeree, 1997).
Humanism contends individuals make choices and actively participate in the creation of their personalities. Rollo May theorized that three relationships form the basis for personality: one’s relationship with the environment, with others, and with oneself. The influence of all three relationships produces and contributes to the personality’s ongoing evolution (Feist & Feist, 2009). Maslow thought biological components provided the basic parameter for the individual; however, environmental and cultural affects shaped the ego identity or personality (Feist & Feist, 2009). Rogers recognized self-awareness in humans, and this awareness enabled them to make choices and actively participate in the creation of their own personalities (Boeree, 1997).
How Humanistic and Existential Theories Influence Interpersonal Relationships
Humanistic Psychologists interpret human personalities as being a direct reflection of one’s personal self-reflection and inner thoughts of self-concept. Humanistic behavior includes the ability to strive to be the best that one can be from what they have as environmental influences and self-perception. Existential behaviors include the discovery of discovering oneself with the influences of the interactions between others and their findings of life, and how they fit in it. The saying: “the apple does not fall far from the tree.”-Anonymous, sums up that behavior(s) are inherited and otherwise learned from one’s surroundings. To assume that an apple would be red and somewhat round in color would be to note the traits within the seeds of an apple.
For science has proven that if one plants an apple seed, do not expect a pear tree. To note that an apple seed will always produce an apple is to recognize the genetic tie and direct correlation to a product that will produce the same product time and time again. Psychology theories state that individuals, much like an apple, will carry out the same abilities and traits of their producer. The apple tree is on a hill and when the apple tree blossoms it will produce apples from the branches. When the apples have grown they will drop and fall down the hill with the other apples. Because the surroundings are fit for the laws of gravity to keep the apples shifting downward, every apple thereafter will continue to follow suit.
In the matter of humans, individuals adept to their surroundings, strive and self-motivate from the examples of their family members, and peers. Behavior is a direct reflection of one’s personal self-concept and their ability to see themselves and where they are within the world. An individual cannot be optimistic and hopeful if that individual is self-loathing and insecure. The Humanistic and Existential theories explain that if an individual is depressed then their action will show that; if an individual is cheerful and upbeat then it will show in their behavior as well. Humanistic theories prove that an individual is inclined to aim for the best self they can be with examples from their surroundings. Just like the apple and the tree, an individual can mimic and excel to the likeness of their surroundings. An individual’s ability to strive to have a purpose in life is their ability to become “human” thus the “Human”istic theory.
“Human beings are driven by the need for transcendence, define as the urge to rise above a passive and accidental existence and into the “the realm of purposefulness and freedom” (Fromm, 1981) (Feist & Feist, 2013) The positive effect that society can have on one to excel in their own right and motivate for the greater good can also have an adverse effect. An individual’s behavior within the world is how they view themselves in it. An individual being bullied can lead to bullying others, or even killing someone else because of their low self-esteem. An individual that feels left out and does not see their place in the world can become angry. Their anger can lead them to doing harmful acts to themselves and others. The ability to have free will gives an individual the discernment to make decisions based on the results they want to achieve in life.
“One of the general doctrines of behaviorism is that references to unobservable, subjective mental states (such as consciousness), as well as to be unobservable, subjective processes (such as expecting, believing, understanding, remembering, hoping for, deciding, and perceiving) were to be banished from psychology proper, which behaviorists took to be the scientific study of behavior.”- (Galotti, 2008) Behaviors are garnered by the soul searching of an individual and their introspection of evolving to be better. Human behavior is influenced by a multitude of factors including environmental perceptions, personality traits, one’s ability to be hopeful and their ability to overcome negative situations. Human beings interact with one another on the accord in which they see themselves as an individual as well as their place in society. Their behaviors as a direct relation on the interactions they will receive and the cycle will continue be it positive or negative.
In summary of this paper, theorists have different views on what variables help and affect the shaping of an individual’s personality. Theorists, such as, Skinner considers genetics and environment as the playing variables in shaping an individual’s personality; Bandura views the human nature as capable of learning through observation even without performing the behavior; Rotter and Mischel had opposite views with Rotter emphasizing on the similarities of people, and Mischel considering individual differences as more significant; and Kelly’s dichotomy corollary theory suggests that individuals construe events in an either/or manner.
Humanistic theory suggests that individuals are constantly striving to become the best version of themselves, whereas, existential theory suggests that individuals are searching for life’s meaning. Achieving either one of what the theories suggests involves free will and personal responsibility. The ability of humans to make decision and their own choices in leading their lives allows them to choose the option that best suits their needs/wants, from a variety of different options that their external environment presents them. The goodness and evil within an individual also affects the choices that they make in their discovery of themselves and their life.
Boeree, C. G. (1997). Carl Rogers. My Webspace Files. Retrieved April 6, 2015, from http://webspace.ship.edu/cgboer/rogers.html
Feist, J. & Feist, G. J. (2009). Theories of personality (7th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw Hill.
Galotti, Kathleen (2008) Cognitive Psychology In & Out of the Laboratory, 2008, Thomas Wadsworth Corportations, United States.