Analyzing Humanistic Theories

In contrast to Freudian and Lacanian psychoanalytical theory which posited the unconscious as the driving force behind human action to which the self had little control, Humanistic theory instead focused on the positive attributes to what they considered it is to be human. To better understand some of the attributes and notions of humanistic theory the following paper analysis’s two humanistic theories in turn; specifically Maslow’s conception of self-actualization and Rogers phenomenological based personality theory. This is followed by discussing some strengths and limitations to humanistic theories in understanding relationships, others and the self.

Maslow and Rogers

On of the main contribution to Humanistic theory from Maslow is the concept of self-actualization. The basic tenants of self-actualization was considered a retort to Freud groundbreaking work in developing the discipline psychoanalysis, and followed the ideal that humans are driven by a desire for something beyond the blind responses to situations. Thus, a self-actualized person would be able to ‘take a step back’ from a given situation and perform as separate to their own characteristics and qualms (Morgan). Indeed, although Maslow’s contribution to academia has been heavily criticized in recent history, it still provides an adequate framework in which to dissect human behavior.

One of the main contributions by Rogers (one of the founding fathers of humanistic theories) to Humanistic theory is his specific take on personality theory. Personality theory is based on the idea that there is a certain level of incongruence between the self and the idealized persecution of the self determined by the standards of society which are out of sync with the biological needs of the individual (Rogers, 1951). At the heart of Rogers personality theory is the belief that relationships between individuals can be discussed in terms of a congruent person who realizes there potential against a closed individual who exhibits hostility towards others (Rogers, 1951)

Strengths and Weaknesses of Humanistic Theories

As with every theory designed for application in the understanding of mankind, Humanistic theories have both strengths and many weaknesses. Thus the following section will address the major strengths and weaknesses of Humanistic theory in turn. One of the major strengths attributed to Humanistic theory is the idea that the subject is fully accountable and in control of their actions. This is in stark contrast to the notions behind psychoanalysis. Leading from this assumption is the notion that humanistic theories promote the idea of being human, self fulfillment and realistic and observable goals that can be obtained. A final strength to Humanistic theory is the idea that from a clinical perspective it offers an open space in which a patent can express any feeling of thought without being led down a path to revisit traumatic events which they may not feel comfortable discussing.

One of the major weaknesses with Humanistic theories is lack of empirical evidence to support its claims. Academics such as Maslow have been widely criticized in this respect in terms of an absence of scientific empirical evidence. A further and related criticism of Humanistic theories is their inability and unsuitability to be used within a metaphysical arena. While Freud and contemporary Freudians managed to move towards ethics and morality through the same criticism of lack of empirical evidence, Humanistic theories have yet to encroach on the metaphysical subject area. A final criticism of Humanistic theories is that many professionals view this discipline as motivated by the cold realities of psychoanalysis and is a discipline which is based on the resistance of the unconscious; furthermore the discipline has seemed to be in decline in recent history.