Humanistic Theory Debate

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Humanistic Theory Debate

Psychology/ 310

There are many theories out there for psychology. Some of them are very different from others, but there is one that really stands out. That theory would be the psychodynamic approach. The psychodynamic approach was founded by Sigmund Freud, one of the most famous psychologists in the world. Freud was very big on the unconscious mind and how it affects us. So when Freud actually came up with a theory for the human mind it would be based on looking past the first layer of us, it would be based off of the unconscious mind. The unconscious mind would come to play a huge part in the psychodynamic approach.

Psychodynamic theorists focuses on the unconscious mind versus that of behaviorist who regard all behavior as a response to some sort of stimulus. They assume that what an individual does is determined by the environment in which it is done.

In the following debate between Carl Roger’s and Abraham Maslow, both who share a common ground in the teaching of Sigmund Freud will focus on the details of self-actualization, how it is gained, how our childhood help shape it and how individuals gain self-esteem.

1. What is Self-Actualization and how is it achieved?

Carl Rogers response: Self- Actualization is “The organism has one basic tendency and striving – to actualize, maintain, and enhance the experiencing organism” (Rogers, 1951, p. 487). I do not believe that anyone else can perceive our situation as we do, “As no one else can know how we perceive, we are the best experts on ourselves.” I believe that humans have one basic motive that is the tendency to self-actualize – i.e. to fulfill one’s potential and achieve the highest level of ‘human-beingness’ we can.  Like a flower that will grow to its full potential if the conditions are right, but which is constrained by its environment, so people will flourish and reach their potential if their environment is good enough.

Abraham Maslow’s response: I believe that an individual must complete lower basic needs before moving up to higher needs. Once these needs have been fore filled, this individual may reach a higher level called self-actualization. Self-actualization is a term meaning “to reach ones full potential”. I considered that everyone is capable of moving up in the “hierarchy of needs model” towards self- actualization. This development can happen when a person’s basic and mental needs are met and the actualization of an individual capacity is met.

2. How does childhood experience influence self-actualization?

Carl Roger’s Response: I believe feelings of self-worth developed in early childhood and were formed from the interaction of the child with the mother and father. As a child grows older, interactions with significant others will affect feelings of self-worth. Children feel self-actualization when they complete behaviors that will lead to a positive approval. Unconditional positive regard leads to a better level of self-esteem. Positive regard is regard given without judgement, in which a child becomes comfortable enough to try things without knowing the outcome because they do not have the fear of judgement from their parents. Children who are able to self-actualize are more likely to have received unconditional positive regard from others, especially their parents in childhood and will likely continue into adulthood.

Abraham Maslow’s response: Childhood experiences influence self-actualization through growth. As a child grows, that child also follows self-concept or belief about themselves. Maslow also believed that humans have a motivation system. This system included the hierarchical levels of physiological, safety, love and self-esteem. Maslow stated that feeling the need to be respected coincides with self-esteem. Each person has an aspiration to feel wanted and important. Self-esteem is then achieved by self-actualization.

3. Explain Self-Esteem and how it is achieved?

Carl Rogers response: How we think about ourselves, our feelings of self-worth are of fundamental importance both to psychological health and to the likelihood that we can achieve goals and ambitions in life and achieve self-actualization. Over time, a person develops a self-concept based on all the feedback from this field of reality. In the development of self-concept, positive regard is key. Unconditional positive regard is an environment that is rid of preconceived notions of value. Conditional positive regard is an environment that is full of conditions of worth that must be achieved to be considered successful. Human beings develop an ideal self and a real self- based on the conditional status of positive regard. Correspondence between an aspect of the ideal self and an aspect of the real self is called congruity. Fully functioning people can achieve ‘the good life’ in which they constantly aim to fulfill their potential and allow their personalities to emanate from their experiences.

Abraham Maslow’s response: It is my finding that people need to feel as though they have some value to others; People who are able to satisfy the esteem needs by achieving good self-esteem and the recognition of others tend to feel confident in their abilities. Those who lack self-esteem and the respect of others can develop feelings of inferiority. I believe there are two levels to self-esteem; The lower level consists of the need for the respect of others through status, recognition, fame, prestige, and attention. The higher ranking is the need for self-respect, the need for strength, competence, mastery, self-confidence, independence and freedom. The latter one ranks higher because it rests more on inner competence won through experience. 

4. How does the environment & peak experience influence self-actualization?

Carl Rogers Response: I believe there are two components involved with Self-esteem development. Self-Image is how we see ourselves. This has an effect on how we think, act, feel and behave. Ideal self is another component to how self- esteem is developed, and this is how we perceive who we want to be. It is how we visualize our goals, dreams and desires. When we can see that we are at a point in our lives that we are reaching the goals that are set for the ideal-self is when self-actualization begins to grow. We begin to gain this self- worth through unconditional regard form our parents as young children.

Abraham Maslow’s response: I believe environment and peak experience influence self-actualization in many ways. For one, in order to reach self-actualization you have to have a safe environment. If you don’t have a safe environment you will constantly be worrying about your surroundings and so forth. Without safety and security you can never truly reach self-actualization. Experiences affect self-actualization because without experiences you don’t have the knowledge you need to take on life and life it to its fullest.

5. How have you contributed more to the field of psychology than your peer?

Carl Roger’s Response: I have contributed to the field of psychology by explaining that “Experience is, for me, the highest authority. The touchstone of validity is my own experience. No other person’s ideas, and none of my own ideas, are as authoritative as my experience. It is to experience that I must return again and again, to discover a closer approximation to truth as it is in the process of becoming in me.” -Carl Rogers, On Becoming a Person My client based therapy has been a great contribution in allowing clients to reach self-actualization. “In order for an individual to experience total self-actualization the therapist must express complete acceptance of the patient. I found that this was best achieved through the method of “reflection”, in which the therapist continually restates what the “patient” has said in an attempt to show complete acceptance and to allow the patient to recognize any negative feelings that they may be feeling. Throughout the counseling session the therapist may make small interruptive remarks in order to help identify certain factors. For the most part the “patient” is allowed to direct the course of the session (Hall. 1997).”

Abraham Maslow’s response: I personally haven’t contributed a substantial amount to psychology because I am still learning about it, so I have yet to really apply it to studies and other things. So personally I feel I am on the same level as my peers and the people around me. I believe everyone contributes something in there own way.

References : Carl Rogers by Saul McLeod twitter icon published 2007, updated 2014

Carl Rogers Biography (1902-1987) By Kendra Cherry

Carl Rogers (1902 – 1987) Compiled by Kathy Jo Hall (May 1997)

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. (2014). Retrieved from

* Abraham H. Maslow, Motivation and Personality. 2nd ed., Chapter 11 “Self-Actualizing People: A Study of Psychological Health”

* (2015). Retrieved from

*Olsen, A. (2015). The Theory of Self-Actualization. Retrieved from

McLeod, S. A. (2007). Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Retrieved from

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