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The Essence of Humanism

Frozan Safiari

Humanistic Psychology is a newer branch of psychology developed in the twentieth century with a point of view known as humanism.  The essence of humanism is based on rejection of Freudian idea that personality is ruled by unconscious forces.  Humanists stress free will, the human ability to make choices.  They do believe that past experience affect personality, but they also believe that people can freely choose to live more creative, meaningful, and satisfying lives.   Humanists stress the need for love, self esteem, belonging, self-expression, and creativity.   They believe that such needs are as important as our biological needs for food and water.  For example, newborns deprived of human love and emotional warmth may die just as surely as they would if deprived of food.

Humanists stress free will, the human ability to make choices.

Humanists try to focus less on psychology as an objective behavioral science.  Instead they focus on subjective factors such as one’s self-image, self-evaluation, and frame of reference.  Self-image is the total perception of one’s self, including body image, personality, and abilities.  Self-evaluation consists of positive and negative feelings toward one’s self.  Finally, frame of reference is how one judges events in one’s life.

American psychologist, Abraham Maslow, was one of the founders of this school of thought.  A unique feature of the humanist view is self-actualization.  Self actualization is the need to develop one’s potential fully, to lead a rich and meaningful life, and to become the best person one can be.  Humanists believe that everyone has this potential.

Maslow organized all of human needs on a pyramid and placed the physiological needs of food, water, air, and other essential biological functions at the bottom because he believed human survival depends on those needs.  He placed other higher level needs including safety, security, love, belonging, esteem, and self esteem on top of those physiological needs.   Self actualization was placed at the top to recognize that all other needs have to be met before one can self actualize.

Maslow listed self actualization needs in the following order:

1 – Wholeness, one’s need for unity;

2 – Perfection, one’s need for balance and harmony;

3 – Completion, one’s need for ending

4 – Justice, one’s need for justice for self and others;

5 – Richness, one’ need for complexity;

6 – Simplicity, one’s need for idealism;

7 – Aliveness, one’s need for spontaneity;

8 – Beauty, one’s need for rightness of form;

9 – Goodness, one’s need for benevolence;

10- Uniqueness, one’s need for individuality;

11 – Playfulness, one’s need for ease;

12 – Truth, one’s need for reality;

13 – Autonomy, one’s need for self-sufficiency;

14 – Meaningfulness, one’s need for values;

Maslow estimated that one in ten people are primarily motivated by self-actualization needs.  Most are concerned with esteem, love, or security.  Perhaps this is because incentives and rewards in society are based on conformity, uniformity, and security in jobs and relationships.  In traditional societies conformity is the focal point of the actions of individuals.

Maslow placed physiological needs are at the bottom hierarchy. These are the dominant needs.

Maslow’s Theory is not viewed as a scientific theory, but rather a philosophical viewpoint, which has been influential as a way to understand and appreciate the interplay of human motives.

Studying this theory raises one’s awareness into the needs of self and others.  There is no question that the essence of Man is made of needs and humanists recognize that.  Needs create desires and motivate people to achieve.  If needs are motivators for achievement, then by observing people’s actions the needs that influence their behavior can be determined.   The strongest need(s) is going to be the motive behind one’s actions and behavior.  Think for a moment about the needs that influence your behavior.  Which need is the strongest at this moment?  Which need do you spend more time on satisfying?

Maslow placed physiological needs are at the bottom hierarchy.  These are the dominant needs.  Satisfaction of these needs is dominant over higher needs, therefore satisfaction of food is a dominant need and one can say, that “to a starving person, food is god.”   What would a man on the brink of starvation be motivated to do?  A starving man would be motivated to do anything, I mean anything.

Frozan Safiari is a humanist and freelance writer. 

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Rawan Online.

 

 

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