In detail

Humanist Psychology: what it is and what it consists of

Humanist Psychology: what it is and what it consists of


  • 1 Origin and bases of Humanist Psychology
  • 2 Basic human needs and personal self-realization (Maslow)
  • 3 The current situation of Humanist Psychology

Origin and bases of Humanist Psychology

The Humanist Psychology It is a movement that appears in the 60s of the twentieth century in response to the therapeutic models of the time: the behaviorist for its rigidity and psychoanalysis for its emphasis on pathology of a rather pessimistic type. This "third force" brings together the valuable contributions of the other two and introduces concepts such as therapeutic practice growth, creativity, love, affectivity or self-realization.

It is a fairly heterogeneous and open movement, so there are several therapeutic schools encompassed in the humanist current, but nevertheless share some common basic principles, coming from the philosophical and psychological ideas of figures such as Abraham Maslow, Carl Rogers, Erich Fromm, Eric Berne and many others. These principles would be:

  • The value of perceived experience, in its different planes: cognitive, emotional, somatic and behavioral. That is, what we think, what we feel, what we perceive and what we do. All are interrelated, have the same importance and influence each other, so it makes no sense to isolate them.
  • Man is a global whole, beyond the simple sum of its parts, in which mind and body interact together and related.
  • Stop thinking in terms of patient-patient. Psychological problems are difficulties in updating or realizing our growth potential.
  • Focus on the study of the healthy person, more than in classic mechanisms such as neurosis or psychosis. Man tends to seek a healthy state of balance, fullness and personal fulfillment. So "humanistic psychology is that person-centered psychology, subject to it, that meets their needs and that takes into account, for the psychological explanation and for personal improvement, the environment and culture of each, as well as the relationships established between the person, their environment and their culture. ”(Antoni Ramis Caldentey, 1992).

Basic human needs and personal self-realization (Maslow)

Maslow denounces the attitude, common in clinical psychology, consisting of focusing on the study of the abnormal and the study of pathologies, looking at the negative and disintegrating aspects of the personality, even with the intention of "curing" or correcting the pathology or disorder. Maslow believes that psychology (science of the person) should focus on the study of healthy and emotionally smooth people since, for him, the person is naturally good and tends to his personal self-realization ("The self-realized man").

The person to reach your personal self-realization must exceed a scale of basic needs own:

Obviously the first needs that the person must cover are those of vital or physiological survival, basically food and drink, without which he could not live. Once these are covered, you need to have a security, security that can provide you with a roof: home, family, and social protection regulations. Thirdly, every person has the need to feel a member of a group, accepted and appreciated by its members. The first three needs are covered, the person has the need to be positively valued as a person and as a professional in their work.

The next step is that of the personal self-realization: We all decide our life project: to achieve a specific career, that allows us a job, that gives us satisfaction in their performance and sufficient remuneration to achieve personal economic autonomy; We also decide whether to start a family with or without children,… The achievement of this personal project constitutes our personal self-realization.

However, this is not the last basic need: who has achieved the set of all previous needs, self-realization included, has the need to know, to know and finally has the aesthetic needs: its self-realization and its knowledge are not enough, you need to be recognized and know how to act in an esteemed, beautiful, well seen way. The care of all your basic needs, of all, must be taken care of permanently, throughout life.

Only if their external environmental circumstances (society forms part of their personal environment and presses in many cases in the opposite direction) or their own will prevent the satisfaction of any of these basic needs, the person will not be able to self-realize and frustration will occur. corresponding and the self-aggressive or hetero-aggressive reactions, which will involve the situation of imbalance, or lack of "goodness" and personal satisfaction, the lack of their state of happiness and balance. This, consciously or subconsciously, will blame itself or part of its surroundings.

Maslow is positioned against the passive psychology, static adaptation to the environment, which does not allow any positive change in oneself for a active psychology of creation and self-creation that makes the person grow, improve and author performs. Maslow associates this type of active person, based on their own self-realization and cognitive and aesthetic growth with the reality of the "healthy person". The self-realizing person does not tend to self-destruction (to his illness), but tends to his personal growth and creative training.

According to Maslow, antisocial trends are acquired and never inherent in the person himself. Aggressive human behavior arises, in addition to the imitation of models (Bandura), when the satisfaction of basic human tendencies or needs is prevented, when it is frustrated.

The central tendency, although, as we have seen, not the superior one, which tends to the person, and for the achievement of which he strives is his personal self-realization, which will allow his creative expressiveness.

This creative expressiveness is evident in what Maslow calls "summit experiences", which are very special moments that each of us, thanks to his personal growth, experiences very positive sensations through any of the steps of his scale: aesthetic, knowledge, erotic, friendship, ... or simply of the activities of our daily life.

The current situation of Humanist Psychology

The enormous amount of techniques developed during these last years, oriented to self-expression, self-realization and self-gratification have produced a popular image in which Humanist Psychology and the Movement of Human Potential are identified or confused. This situation poses a real dilemma, regarding the current delimitation of the Humanist Psychology: Is it still a psychological problem or has it dissolved in practice in a sociocultural movement? It is not so simple to answer this question ...

Within Humanist Psychology, however, there are currently a multitude of techniques, particularly psychotherapy or "personal growth"of the most diverse origins, the common denominator of which is difficult to identify. Therefore, any attempt to trace an overview of its current status is less than useless.

We can conclude, like Moustakas (1985) that "humanist" does not mean the same then than today, but rather continues to be understood according to the conceptions and values ​​of each one, related to freedom, science, faith, nature and human experience.

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