Human behavior can be studied from a variety of perspectives. Among them there are humanistic and existentialistic theories that generally come from very different systems of thought, but have several similarities.
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As an approach to human psychology, humanism views people’s values and interests as the most important aspect (Schultz & Schultz, 2005). The concept of humanistic psychology was introduced in 1930 by a psychologist Gordon Allport. Among the other well-known scholars following this approach there were Abraham Maslow, Henry Murray and Carl Rogers. Overall, humanistic theories view human nature as the source of virtues, and perceive people as creative and willing to improve, grow and realize themselves (Schultz & Schultz, 2005). This view of personality is rather optimistic.
According to Rogers, the way a person sees the world around directly influences their behavior and choices (Engler, 2013). In existential psychology the most important need and desire of a human is referred to as “being-in-the-world”, which means that every person’s primary concern is their existence (Ewen, 2010). Existential psychology argues that the point of their own being in this world is the most important question for any human being. Besides, Rollo May (one of the most influential existential psychologists) divided the perception of the world into three main regions – the environment, the close people and personal world (Ewen, 2010).
One of the man similarities of the two approaches is that both of them recognize an individual’s responsibility for their own life and what is happening to them. Moreover, the existential and humanistic theories focus on the positive aspects of human personalities such as thirst for knowledge, personal growth and deeper understanding of the world around. The main difference between the two systems of thought is their perspective on human behaviors.
Looking for causes of particular choices and actions of a person, humanist psychology will study the surroundings of an individual. According to humanistic approach, the environments force people to do bad things. At the same time, to find the powers making humans engage in negative behaviors, existential psychologists will analyze the inner world of people searching for sources of evil within.
Humanistic and existential approaches to individual personality analysis have limitations. Humanistic personality is studied from an optimistic perspective, as one whose flaws come from the outside which limits a person’s ability to impact their own selves. Humanistic personality is also quire restricted in terms of responsibility but is generally affected by circumstances and experiences. Existential personality is very self-centered and is the source of its own success and failure. The exclusion or limitation of the external impact on a personality leads to ascription of an excessive amount of influence to the self which may stress out a person and cause a feeling of unreasonable guilt.
In conclusion, in humanistic and existential philosophy human personality is viewed as a powerful and positive force directed by virtuous desires of self-improvement, self-actualization, the search of the point of existence, and desire to grow. The differences between the two approaches are in their idea about the source of flaws and negative behaviors.
Engler, B. (2013). Personality Theories. Boston, MA: Cengage Learning. Web.
Ewen, R. (2010). An introduction to theories of personality. New York, NY: Psychology Press. Web.
Schultz, D. P., & Schultz, S. E. (2005). Theories of Personality. Boston, MA: Cengage Learning. Web.