In the history of choices and the way in which they leave an indelible mark by which a person has judged the decision of betrayal made by Benedict Arnold has forever marked him in infamy as a traitor to the American Revolution and the measure by which future traitors are compared with (Evisum, 2000). Under the psychoanalytic theory of motivation Freud postulates that an individual’s actions or behavior are a direct result of their internal biological instincts; when combined with Freud’s theories on Id, Ego, Super Ego and the defense mechanism of the Ego one can assume that the actions of Benedict Arnold were a result of outside conditions reacting with inherent biological instincts resulting in his decision to betray the revolution.
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While history has marked him a traitor to America Benedict Arnold was actually a revolutionary hero before he became a traitor. His actions at the Battle of Valcour Island, the Battle of Ridgefield, and the Battle of Saratoga contributed immensely towards ensuring the survival of the revolution. Unfortunately, despite his successes at the battlefield he was repeatedly passed over for promotion and was accused numerous times by political and military opponents of corruption. Even though he had contributed vast sums to the war effort the early Continental Congress accused him of owing them money (Evisum, 2000). As a result of all these allegations in spite of his efforts to help win the war, Arnold became disenchanted and turned traitor to the revolution. Under the psychoanalytic theory, it can be said that Arnold’s reaction was a direct result of his own superego being subverted by the actions of the outside world resulting in increased realistic anxiety which the defense mechanism of Ego attempted to cope against using the mechanism of rationalization to justify his betrayal of the revolution.
The humanist theory on the other hand takes a different approach to interpret the actions of Arnold. According to the humanist theory human behavior is motivated to achieve the so-called “maximum potential” of the self and as such people will always attempt to reach this maximum potential unless they are hindered by obstacles. The best way of explaining the actions Arnold would be to use Maslow’s pyramid of the hierarchy of needs. Maslow suggests that all humans have specific needs which they try to meet which come in a certain hierarchical order. It can be assumed that after the war was over Arnold planned to return to his life as a merchant yet with the accusations hurled against him and his supposed debt to Congress this would not be feasible. Here the obstacles to Arnold meeting his needs under Maslow’s pyramid are the debts he has to congress and the accusations against him. For him to continue to achieve his maximum potential he would need to overcome these obstacles and as a result, he chose to betray the revolution and join the British which did result in him gaining enough money to become a merchant again.
A human is a complex being and as such various facets of an individual’s behavior cannot be truly placed into one category or the other. The theory of diversity takes this into account and posits that the behavior and motivations of human beings can be various things with goals, objects, and incentives differing from person to person. This particular view rejects the idea that human behavior and experience can be reduced to a small set of behaviors and needs and instead posits the idea that when it comes to motives and goals each individual is different with their own reasoning behind their actions. It is this particular viewpoint that this paper agrees with, the actions of Arnold could have been the result of any number of reasons or behavioral nuances that cannot be truly categorized unless an individual was able to talk to Arnold himself. Under Murray’s theory of needs, he suggests that the inherent personality of certain individuals is a direct reflection of their behaviors which are controlled by their own inherent needs. Some needs are temporary while others are deeply seated in the human psyche. Murray stipulates that such needs function mostly on an individual’s unconscious without them fully realizing it however such needs do play a role in how an individual’s personality is shaped and formed. For Murray the types of needs are classified under two categories; primary needs which are biological in nature such as the need for oxygen, food, water, etc and secondary needs which are more psychological in nature such as the need for achievement, independence etc (Hefner Media Group, 2004).
Evisum. (2000). Benedict Arnold.
Hefner Media Group, Initials. (2004). Personality Synopsis. Allpsychonline. Web.