Studying a human personality is by far one of the most complicated tasks, since it presupposes embracing a number of issues, starting from the factors that the environment in which a person develops in can be characterized, to the values and principles that the person in question was raised in accordance with.
That being said, the number of theories of personality is rather large, and it is bound to grow as other factors of personal development are discovered. However, among the ones that already exist, certain theories deserve being taken a better look at. Despite the fact that these theories were provided quite a while ago, they still remain challenging and inspiring.
Maslow: Holistic Dynamic Theory
Starting from the basics, one must mention that Maslow’s Holistic Dynamic Theory must not be confused with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs; even though the two theories have a lot in common, with one of them practically being the logical continuation of another one, there is a basic difference between the two.
As Feist and Feist explain, the famous hierarchy of needs makes one of the elements of the Holistic Dynamic Theory; to be more exact, it allows for distilling the key reasons for people being motivated. As for the theory itself, Feist and Feist put it in the following way: “it assumes that the whole person is constantly being motivated by one need or another and that people have the potential to grow toward psychological health, that is, self-actualization” (Feist & Feist, 2008, p. 275).
In other words, Holistic Dynamic Theory presupposes that every single step in a person’s development is predisposed by the need in self-actualization, which, in its turn, can be defined as “achieving in action” (Simmermacher, 2005, p. 15). To be more exact, self-actualization is the manifestation of a person’s need to grow and become more experienced, more developed and more sociable.
Another way to consider Maslow’s theory is to view it from the position of the argument between determinism and free will. Allowing for the assumption that such concept as destiny might exist, determinism somehow tones down the need for self-actualization specified by Maslow.
Indeed, with every single event being predetermined, there is little motivation for striving for personal success. The theory of free ill, however, provides the Holistic Dynamic Theory with more reasons to exact, seeing how both explore the opportunities for personal development.
Likewise, self-awareness, which intersects with the concept of self-actualization, also serves as the proof for Holistic Dynamic Theory. Without further evolution, being self-aware, i.e., building awareness of changes in one’s personal needs and the variety of the latter is practically impossible; hence, the need for self-awareness as an integral part of personal growth is defined as a part of Maslow’s concept of the Holistic Dynamics Theory.
Truly, Maslow’s theory has its limitations, and most of them are linked to the criticism of the way in which the needs are arranged in his hierarchy. The very fact that the researcher put self-actualization as the top priority caused quite a stir among the academics and raised a number of questions, the primary one being whether it was possible to measure self-actualization and if it was not, how the theory of personality could work.
Despite the fact that POI (Personal Orientation Theory) was later on developed by Everett L. Shostrom (Feist & Feist, 2008, p. 297) to support Maslow’s theory and measure self-actualization, the lack of diversity in Maslow’s concept of actualization as a part of development of self seems to be a major issue.
Rogers: Person Centered Theory
The basics of Roger’s theory are quite simple. Founded on two key assumptions, the formative tendency and the actualizing tendency, the given theory presupposes that an individual personal experience should be used as a basis for developing trustworthiness between therapists and their patients, as well as stressing the necessity to adopt an individual approach towards the clients’ psychological needs, seeing how every single individual’s perception of the world is unique and, therefore, requires a unique approach to be adopted.
In the given theory, the formative tendency defines the evolution from simpler to more complicated forms, while the actualizing tendency puts the emphasis on people’s need to “move toward completion or fulfillment of potentials” (Feist & Feist, 2008, p. 313)
Rogers’ Person-Centered Theory can be seen in a different light when considered through the lens of determinism-versus-free-will dilemma. It is quite peculiar that, compared to the deterministic argument, the Person-Centered Theory can be considered as rather optimistic in nature.
Indeed, with the emphasis put on personal development, Person-Centered Theory is much closer to the concept of free will than the traditional behaviorism theories and, therefore, allows for more room for personal development, making it clear that a person’s evolution depends basically on the person in question.
In terms of the awareness of self, the given theory can be considered a giant step forward in recognizing the need for self-actualization. Even though Maslow also mentioned the necessity for self-actualization, basically calling it the top priority in the hierarchy of people’s needs, Rogers developed and improved the given idea by stressing the role of self in personal growth.
In addition, Rogers expanded Maslow’s theory by adding the concept of contact as one of the basic personal needs: “First, an individual must make contact—positive or negative—with another person. This contact is the minimum experience necessary for becoming a person” (Feist & Feist, 2008, p. 371).
There is no doubt that the given theory has its limitations; the latter are especially obvious when viewing the theory as a means to approach an average person. Since the Person-Centered Theory is focused on the individual patterns of a person’s development and, therefore, disregards the average manifestations of self, it does not allow for conducting researches that provide average results.
Hence, it is practically impossible to prove the actual accuracy of the theory, as well as its efficiency once the theory is applied to practice. In other words, the efficacy of Rogers’ concept must be proven on a case-by-case basis.
That being said, none of the theories provides a flawless interpretation of self and people’s personal needs, which begs the question whether each of the theories is worth being credited as a worthwhile idea of self. However, it is worth keeping in mind that these theories handle a very complicated concept of personality growth, which is practically impossible to nail down with impeccable precision.
Therefore, with all their flaws, the given theories provide decent explanations for people’s motivation and have a number of points of contact, which is why they are worth being considered credible.
Feist, J., & Feist, G. J. (2008). Theories of personality (7th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
Simmermacher, D. G. (2005). Becoming the me I want to be: A self-help guide to building self-esteem. Albuquerque, NM: Health Press NA, Inc.