Human personality is the product of familial, genetic, and social factors integration. The way the brain espouses psychological character, personality, is determined not only by the accidental environmental incidents, but also by the genetic make up of the individual (Gazzaniga, 1985, p. 11 as cited in Fillipo, 1992).
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According to Motangu (1996, as cited in Fillipo, 1992), satisfaction of an individual basic want’s accounts for his/her functionality at the organic level. On the other hand, s/he must attain sufficient emotional satisfaction to guarantee personal balance in order to function adequately on the social level (Fillipo, 1992).
Therefore, in Joe’s circumstance the father’s lack of concern for the family can be accounted for his emotional imbalance, since apparently it appears difficult for him to comprehend the father’s behavior towards the wife and the son, Joe.
According to Barbu (1971, p. 150 as cited in Fillipo, 1992) the family presents the initial atmosphere for social interaction, thereby molding in a person the temperament and need to compromise with fellow humans. Further, he (p. 162) asserts that a personality orientation tends to re-enforce, consolidate, and develop a collection of distinct values, beliefs, ideologies, conceptions, and particular social organizations and structures. Generally, a familial background provides a developing child’s brain with atmosphere conducive for developing social abilities including communication skills, desirable impression, attitude, and the capacity to compromise (Fillipo, 1992).
In this context, Joe and mother were subject to neglect by the father when he disappeared leaving behind a 5-year-old Joe to face live challenges without the protection of a father. These challenges are so hard on a child, but Joe did not find an alternative except to face them head on. With all the burdens, it is obvious that he could not concentrate on his education which may have enlighten him about the lives’ challenges and equip him with problem solving techniques.
His feeling of inadequacy can be accounted for by the coming back of the father and then leaving again after siring two more children within a short time interval of two years. From Joe’s view, the two siblings are an extra burden. I can speculate that Joe must be blaming himself for allowing the father the chance to return and abuse them and disappear again. Beside the two siblings, the fatal accident which happened to the mother worsened his worsened his situation. The different events account for the phrase “I just never seem to be good enough” which he repeatedly uses to signify his frustrations.
As for the bouts of depression, I can attribute this to the attitude he develops towards other members of the society including the experts associated with his problem; that like his father, they do not care about his predicaments. He cannot come to terms with the reality that the closest person he could rely on for protection from the wild world, the unloving father, is actually responsible for all his troubles. This causes him to feel withdrawn, dejected, and hopeless, such that he finds solace in self-reproach and cannot trust an external factor such as the relevant authorities and professionals.
His occasional anxiety can be explained from the seemingly unpredictable disasters which apparently befall him when he is not well prepared to meet them. Firstly, he had suffered abandonment by the father when he was age 5. Secondly, the father returns and just when he thought that live could restore back to normal, the father disappears again leaving behind him extra “burden” for Joe to single handedly, contend with.
Then as if fate was not done with him, the mother indulges in a fatal accident that leaves her paralyzed, invalid and fully dependent on Joe for help in fundamental all the daily routines alongside the demands of his two siblings. This situation is worsened by perhaps his premonition that the uncaring father might show up again in their lives. Probably, this premonition keeps recurring in his mind resulting in occasional attacks of anxiety; the worry that something terrible is going to happen.
The genetic aspects of personality have been explained by many theorists. It is conventionally acceptable that the genetics predetermines the initial neurological development of the premature brain, which intern dictates an individual perception, information processing, and the subsequent response to brain stimuli. Moreover, he asserts that the reactions to these stimuli determine the manner in which the person establishes individually and the way s/he interacts with the family and the society at large (Fillipo, 1992).
In aligning the above hypothesis with Joe’s situation, I will relate his indignant towards the father; he hates his father and wishes him dead, to the conformity of his brain to the adverse brain inputs which he experienced from various events during his childhood. These adverse inputs include the neglect at age 5, the return of the father, the unprecedented arrival of his siblings, the second abandonment and finally, the fatal accident that renders the mother paralyzed and wholly dependent on him.
Family usually comprise of individuals who share many common genetic and social elements. According to Erickson (1972, p. 1 as cited in Fillipo, 1992) the family is a unit with distinct characteristics that are in equilibrium and that are common to any individual member (Fillipo, 1992).
The above supposition connects the attitudes and behaviors of Joe towards the situation that befalls him, to his genetic resemblance to the father. Apparently, it is frustrations, anxiety and probably depression that caused the father to run away. Clearly, these three elements are expressed in Joe’s attitude and behavior. The hate Joe’s father express towards his family is the same one that Joe feels towards the father, when he wishes that he dies. Scientists call this phenomenon genetic predisposition.
From the social aspect, the general personality or behavioral variation with regard to social compliance and social control develops within the family background. In the course of developing awareness of the social surroundings, interaction with different people and/or groups, an individual determines his/her personal and social growth Fillipo (1992).
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Obviously, in this context, Joe did not experience an enriched familial background, which perhaps is accountable for his bout of depression. Logically, poor personal and social growths pose high risk of psychotic disorders such as depression and anxiety. Thus, effective social interaction protects an individual whatsoever from risk of such psychotic disorders.
Martin Seligman is a renowned psychologist who in 1975 (as cited in Magnavita, 2002, p. 264), derived the concept of learned helplessness by studying the response of dogs which were shocked, confined and then allowed to escape by jumping over a barrier. Notably, the dogs rapidly learnt how to jump over the barrier. He observed that by shocking the dogs and not providing them with an escape route, a psychological response which he denoted as state of helplessness was induced.
This state was characterized by lack of attempts to escape the undesirable conditions, expressed by crouching, standing and anxiously shaking of the dogs. He suggested that this animal model could be extended to humans suffering from depression, and who seem to perceive their environment negatively loosing trust that any effort they make can help lessen their troubles. Seligman argues that such depressed people are likely to have experienced similar conditioning (Magnavita, 2002, p. 264).
Joe’s circumstances can be aligned with this model in the sense that when the father abandons them, he is shocked, and senses desperation because he beliefs that he could do nothing to change the situation; relatively he feels confined within the situation. When the father returns, he senses relief since he psychologically escapes from the shock and confinement. However, the relief is short lived since sooner than later, the father disappears again. This time round, the route of escape is not apparent that is why he succumbs to bouts of depression and occasional anxiety. The phrase he frequently adopts emphasizes his state of helplessness.
In 1950s Julian Rotter conceived a theory which he used to describe a person’s understanding of the underlying factors responsible for the various experiences s/he undergoes in life; a concept he termed the locus of control (Rotter, 1966, as cited in Neill, 2006). This theory, more or less describes a person’s understanding of his/her future as dependent on inside factors – self, or outside factors. This concept integrates both the behavioral and cognitive psychology. In this concept, Rotter projects the view that a person’s behavior is primarily determined by reinforcements, rewards and penalties, through which individuals assimilate beliefs concerning the causative of their response. Consequently, these beliefs determine the kinds of behaviors and attitude people assume (Neill, 2006).
The locus of orientation can take two different perspectives depending on an individual’s belief about whether the consequences of our response are contingent on our actions or on events beyond our influence (Zimbardo, 1985, p. 275 as cited in Neill, 2006). These perspectives are external locus of control and internal locus of control. The external locus of control is concerned about the individual’s belief that her/his behavior is determined by fate, luck or different external factors. On the other hand, internal locus of control refers to the belief that the individual’s behavior is contingent on his/her personal decisions and efforts; internal forces (Neill, 2006).
In this context, Joe seems to assume the external locus of control in which he presumably blames his situation to some external force, fate, or bad luck. This plunges him to bouts of depressions and intermittent anxiety which apparently he seeks no help from.
After experiencing limitations in his topographical theory, Freud discarded it and focused on another which he named the instinct or drive theory. He applied terms related with biology to represent psychological development. For instance, he used the term instinct which refers to a pattern of distinct species behaviors which are genetically predetermined and which cannot be influenced by learning, to signify a psychological response (Sadok, J., Kaplan & Sadok, A., 2007).
Based on Freud, the instincts are the major motivational factors in the mental sphere that drives the thinking processes. He categorized the various instincts into two; namely, Eros – life instinct and Thanatos – the death instincts. Eros encompasses all the erotic and self-conserving instincts, as opposed to Thanatos which entails every instinct towards cruelty, aggression and self-destruction (Thornton, 2005).
Instincts or drives signify the neurological version of physical demands. Instincts perpetuate the life of a person from two perspectives including by motivating them to search for food and shelter; and by arousing them to desire for sex. He used the term libido to denote the motivational power of such life instincts. He collectively called these instincts life instincts. Later on, he began to appreciate the inadequacy of his life instincts theory because, although libido keeps men in perpetual motion, the objective of such motions is to be fully satisfied, to be at peace, to have no demands, and to be still.
This led him to conceive the existence of another class of instincts from his believe that all persons have an unconscious desire to die. This conception was rejected by most of his students, but he supports that the idea has some truth in real life events, in the sense that life can be strenuous and painful. Further, more pain than pleasure characterize the lives of most people. Even though people are unwilling to admit; death promises relief from all life’s troubles.
This Freud’s idea was founded on a nirvana principle, commonly translated as heaven, but which actually denotes blowing out. Alternatively, death instinct may express as suicidal wishes or actual suicide. Moreover, Freud proposes that in certain circumstances an individual can focus his/her Thanatos outward in one of four form that include, destructiveness, murder, cruelty, and aggression.
From a Freudian perspective, Joe’s personality and behavior is mainly an attribute of inherent Thanatos. This conception is supported by Joe’s aggression and prayers for death to befall the father. Further, I find that Joe has neglected his sense of wellbeing to the point of succumbing to emotional disorders which translates to self destruction. However, his love for his mother and his two siblings is proof of his Eros. Obviously, Joe has struggled through live and a possibility of existence of suicidal wish in his mind should not be refuted; in fact most victims of depression eventually may commit suicide.
However, the evidence of Thanatos and the nirvana principle does not present in Joe’s dilemma. Joe has not expressed a desire for peace, substance addiction, or affinity for reading or TV programs among others. Thus, the death instinct theory cannot fully explain Joe’s situation.
Adler’s theory argues that every individual every person strives to overcome life’s challenges and attain a specific goal from whence s/he derives high self esteem. Further, he argues that such motivational factors, “striving for superiority” or “drive”, translates to individual life’s prime objectives; to overcome life’s crisis. Typically, Adler appreciated self progress to be all people’s life’s driving force.
For instance, children derive motivations from successful adults within their surrounding which will make them thrive to develop useful skills and talents (Weiten, 1992, p. 484, cited in Neuroscience, consciousness, brain atlases). Further, he conceived that beyond the quest for basic improvement, every individual has an ideal model they strive to emulate which is never fully reflected in perception. This model of ideal self is termed, in Elverud (1997 cited in …brain atlas), the fictional finalism.
Converse to Freud and Jung’s conception of conflicting aspects of the mind, Adler believed that the conscious and the subconscious integrate to attain the objectives of fictional finalism and self improvement. Noteworthy, every person strived towards the attainment of these goals in their unique manner; unique lifestyle including distinct patterns of thoughts, behaviors, emotions and feeling. Based on Adler there are four subdivision of the unique style of life including,
- ruling – seeking for dominance, competing, undermining, bragging;
- getting – dependence, passive, lazy;
- avoiding – challenges and defeat, withdrawn, isolated;
- socially significant – social aspect, extrovert perception of life, conformity to problems, sense of belongingness.
Also, he claimed that parenting played a major role in childhood development. Contextually, he believed that a child lack of confidence in own capacity to accomplish responsibilities, inferiority complex, is an attributed to parental neglect. Moreover, he claims that a status in birth order may also determine a child’s growth. Particularly, a first-born may express some misbehavior with the intent of restoring parents’ attention lost after the arrival of other children (2009).
Thus, from Alder’s concepts, Joe’s lacked a model to emulate because the father was ever on the run and portrayed a negative picture which was not ideal for a child in Joe’s position to copy. This explains the phrase Joe uses often which reflects his inferiority disorders. Moreover, Joe falls under the avoiding category of Adler’s styles of life, whereby he derives self gratification from isolating himself from the social settings as evidence by his bouts of depression and occasional anxiety.
The personality theory as proposed by Carl Jung’s entails a three-fold subdivision of the psyche. These are the Unconscious, Ego, and Personal Unconscious. The latter two subdivisions are in alignment with Freud’s concepts, except the collective unconscious wherein Jung defines it as a reservoir of the events of a human species’ lives. The components of the collective unconscious are termed archetypes, ancient models. Archetype refers to an inherent tendency to perceive things in discrete manner. An archetype is undefined, though it functions as an “organizing principle” on things we practice or experience (2009).
Based on Jung, opposites create the power of the mind often called libido. The process of overcoming or compromising with the opposites was coin transcendence by Jung. He argues that the aspiration of life is to appreciate the self, the analogy of God [supreme self] and the transcendence of all negatives. Jung believed that coincidence of events which are not related were determined by our interactions with society and general nature; a relation mediated partly by the collective unconscious (2009).
From Jung’s perspective Joe has passed through unbearable experiences that have discouraged him to the point of losing self esteem; “I just cannot seem to be good enough.” However, Joe expresses deep concern for the mother which concurs with Jung’s anima archetype.
According to Horney neurosis is evidence of maladaptive and counterproductive manner of social interaction. Such people are normally sad and are desperately seeking out for relationship in order to gain self reassurance. Most of this people are very irritable and often frighten away people because of their emotional dependence, prominent low self esteem, including anger and threatening behaviors (Personality synopsis, 2004).
Furthermore, she identified three ways of approaching the world that are an attribute of a neurotic familial background. They include; moving away from people, moving towards people and moving against people. A neurotic background shapes an individual to develop a personality style characterized with asocial behavior and indifference to others. This they adopt on the grounds that it protects them from being hurt by other people. Nevertheless, in spite of protection from emotional suffering of relationship, it keeps away many positive aspects of relationship (Personality synopsis, 2004).
Joe is irrevocably hurt by the actions of his father such that he becomes antisocial and indifferent to the members of his social surrounding, since he lacks friends. Supposing the situation has pushed Joe to the breaking point, he loathes any relationship for fear that it will cause him more suffering than good. Theoretically, he adopts the moving away from people approach to sustain his personal and social ‘security’. This explains Joe’s bouts of depression and irregular anxiety. Such mental disorders are common evidence of low social and personal status.
Fillipo, D. S. (1992). The effects of societal, familial, and genetic factors on individual life-style. Web.
Magnavita, J. J. (2002). Behavioral models of personality. New York: John Wiley & sons. Inc.
Neill, J. (2006). What is locus of control? Web.
Neuroscience, consciousness, brain, mind, mind-brain, neuroinformatics, neural networks, brain atlas. (2009). Alfred Adler (1970- 1937). Web.
Personality synopsis. (2004). The virtual psychology classroom. Allpsych & Heffner media group. Web.
Sadok, B. J., Kaplan, H. I. & Sadock, V. A. (2007). Theories of Personality and psychopathology. Philadelphia; Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.