Inspired by Freud’s psychoanalytic theory of personality, thinkers like Carl Jung, Alfred Adler, and later Karen Horney developed their own Neoanalytical theories which incorporated some of Freud’s ideas, but dismissed others; adapting their theories to incorporate their own beliefs about personality and behavior—notably, they all dismissed the importance that Freud placed on sexual drives. Carl Jung believed that the psyche was divided into three parts: the conscious ego, the personal unconscious, and the collective unconscious, and that one’s personality was largely in-born. One such in-born personality characteristic described by Jung was extroversion. (Friedman & Schustack, 2016). With Bloom’s prolific nature, writing many books and being involved in many fields of study, as well as media and entertainment, it’s clear that he’s been predominantly extroverted in his behaviors. Furthermore, Jung’s ideas of the collective unconscious seem to be something Bloom tapped into and has been aware throughout life. Jung believed the collective unconscious was composed of many emotional symbols of humanity that he termed archetypes—those familiar images, shared among all humans, that were formed early in human evolution. (Friedman & Schustack, 2016). Over his lifetime, Howard Bloom has personified many of Jung’s archetypes, although perhaps unconsciously aware, he is manifesting them still the same. Based on Bloom’s biography, he’s lived a predominantly extroverted lifestyle, while filling precarious archetypal roles, such as a “religious leader” of a group in the early 1960s. In many ways, Bloom’s personal life shared similarities with Jung’s—particularly, both devoted long periods of time to introspections and analysis during their childhood. (Rogan & Bloom, 2019).
Alfred Adler believed motivation was guided by more than just sexual energy, that it was a more complex process and thus developed the theory of Individual Psychology because he believed that every individual possesses unique motivations for their behaviors, with some of these behaviors having social influences. (Friedman & Schustack, 2016). Bloom may have had many social influences that guided his behaviors, notably his experiences at a young age reading Einstein and being able to spend time on college campuses surrounded by academics. Both Jung and Adler placed much importance on the goal-directedness of human nature, although and it was Adler who coined the termed perfection striving, because he believed that people spend their lives trying to meet the goals of an imagined perfect self in a never ending process he called fictional finalism, which continually moves an individual towards new goals. (Friedman & Schustack, 2016). I believe Adler would hypothesize that Bloom’s rich biography is proof of a strong goal-directedness as an aspect of his behavior and that he is constantly working towards an impossible reward of becoming his imagined perfect self.
Building on concepts from Adler, Karen Horney believed that humans have a natural goal-directedness and self-realization, but they’re buried within our perception of ourselves, which she termed the Real Self. Horney believed this Real Self is damaged by parental neglect, which creates long lasting perceptions of inferiority throughout one’s life. The Ideal Self, our hopefully perfect future self, is a distant goal that we strive towards. (Friedman & Schustack, 2016). In a podcast with Joe Rogan, Bloom stated that he’s constantly involved in new projects, books, organizations, touring, writing, reading, creating, music, and endless other endeavors. I hypothesize, in-line with Horney’s theory, that Bloom’s Ideal Self is involved in countless endeavors and is successful in all of them, which leaves him feeling inadequate in all that he does. Although he’s accomplished many things, he feels less than fulfilled and begins more and more projects. (Rogan & Bloom, 2019).
Erik Erikson expanded upon Freudian and Adlerian theories, suggesting that personality develops throughout one’s entire lifetime and is progressively changing as a result of particular stages the ego goes through. An individual’s ego skills are developed as the result of various ego crisis that one encounters. According to Friedman and Schustack (2016), during late adulthood, Erikson believed one becomes wise, as the result of the ego crisis of Ego Integrity Versus Despair. (Friedman & Schustack, 2016). While I would argue that Howard Bloom is a wise man, it is during this period of late life that Howard Bloom should be coming to terms with his life and achievements and developing a feeling of completeness—yet, Bloom still is incredibly active and creative and appears to remain unsatisfied with many of his accomplishments. Because of this, Erikson may have hypothesized that Bloom was unable to work through previous stages of personality development properly.
Gordon Allport believed personality to be the dynamic organization of psychophysical systems, or traits, that determined an individual’s behavior or thoughts, and that each person has a unique set of traits. At one’s core, an irreducible core, lie the fundamental traits of that person. Allport also believed that there we specific common biologically and culturally based traits and that these were common amongst people within shared groups. (Friedman & Schustack, 2016). Many have wondered why of nearly a thousand Nobel Prize winners, over 20% have been Jewish, although the world’s Jewish population is comprised of less than 0.2%. (“List of Jewish Nobel Laureates,” n.d.). I would hypothesize that one possible explanation for this is trait theory; that there’s certain common traits among Jewish people, like Howard Bloom, that make them exceptionally gifted in the sciences.
According to Friedman & Schustack (2016), sixteen personality factors were developed by R.B. Cattell, they are dichotomies of traits, that he found were present in all people; such as one’s level of imaginative vs. practical, experimenting vs. conservative, or being more or less intelligent. I hypothesize that Bloom naturally has high levels of imagination and intelligence. Perhaps also partially due to genetics. Charles Darwin’ theory of evolution may suggest that Bloom’s intelligence and scientific prowess are the result of the right combination of genes from his parents. Individual differences in one’s biology affect behavior. One such difference may be our activity dimension, the level motion we display outwardly, from being either vigorous to passive. Another such difference is our emotionality dimension, the level of emotional arousal and control one has. (Friedman & Schustack, 2016). Howard Bloom’s emotions may be easily aroused, a trait that often leads to instability in life and constant change.
Cognitive, Behavioral, and Social Learning Theories. A cognitive approach to personality has its foundation in Gestalt psychology, wherein people seek meaning in their environment by organizing the sensations they receive from their senses into meaningful perceptions. Each person perceives the world differently and thus organizes their unique perceptions into schemas. These experiences that we sense and form into schemas were termed by Kurt Lewin as fields; all of the internal and external forces effecting the individual and their unique relationship with their environment. Lewin also believed in contemporaneous causation, which was the immediate manifestation of one’s personality in response to their current field—which was constantly changing yet, whatever they were thinking at the moment is their cognitive position. I hypothesize that Bloom’s field of experiences during his childhood and early teen years developed his unique set of schemas with which he understands and interacts with the world. One of Bloom’s main theories concerns something like a “hive-mind” behavior in humans, he discusses this in his book The Global Brain: The Evolution of Mass Mind from the Big Bang to the 21st Century (2000). Bloom’s fields during childhood, of close-knit Jewish communities, may have influenced his schemas and caused him to see similarities among all humans. Additionally, Blooms behavior changes as he moves from field to field in the form of many different scientific interests—his behavior is affected by the environmental stimulus around him. Similarly, to that of Behaviorism, which emphasizes observable stimulus and response behaviors and supposes that all behaviors are learned through this process. (Friedman & Schustack, 2016).
While many of the theories discussed thus far have concerned an individual’s specific characteristics, traits, or cognitive position, it is social psychology that looks at the impact of the group interactions and social environments on behavior. Similar to cognitive theories, is the social psychological schemata theory, which notes that one’s preconceived ideas or systems of organizing can prevent someone from properly organizing and understanding new information. (Friedman & Schustack, 2016). These preconceived notions, from the schemata theory, of his Jewish upbringing may have led Bloom to make some his off-colored remarks about Islam and aggression.
With its emphasis on ethics and values and the personal worth of the individual, Humanism has some similarities to trait theory in such that values or “virtues” may be traits inherent in people. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi believed that creative people had antithetical traits that produced a dialectical tension—influencing the individual’s creativity. Csikszentmihalyi believed that one who is creative, is probably also smart, but simultaneously naïve; they may also have both extroverted behaviors while considering themselves introverted. I would hypothesize that Bloom is creative and smart, but also naïve in some ways—in particular he’s based his views of the world largely on his experiences within the “rock world” and being surrounded by the extroverted personality types of other famous figures. Howard’s value system is sort of a mixture of science the hippie culture of the 1960s. (Rogan & Bloom, 2018).
From these notions, Erich Fromm later suggested we try to reconcile both our biological and societal influences with the belief that we can transcend to become creative, he termed this dialectical humanism. Howard Bloom’s has and continues to be someone who is at battle with the reconciliation of his biology (developing a debilitating disease) and his societal influences (becoming an original scientific thinker). This dialectical relationship in his later years has given rise to a flood of creativity and new projects.