Psychoanalytic Versus Humanistic: Comparative Analysis

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Personality is a consistent set of characteristics possessed by an individual which influence cognition, motivation, and behavior in various situations. There is a total of six major approaches to studying personality – psychoanalytic, trait, biological, humanistic, behavioral or social learning, and cognitive. This essay will be only focusing on Freud’s psychoanalytic and Rogers’s humanistic approach and discuss their strengths and limitations.

Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) was an Austrian neurologist, (Courtney Ackerman, 2018) who mentioned Freud’s goal of psychoanalytic is to bring what exists at the unconscious or subconscious level up to consciousness. Freud used psychoanalytic methods to treat his patients with mental disorders. Ranging from hypnosis, free association, and dream analysis. Freud’s psychoanalytic approaches are his iceberg metaphor, defense mechanism, and psychosexual theory.

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Freud believes personality can be explained with a model of the iceberg: our mind model is put into three metaphorical parts -Id, Ego, and Superego. The id operates at the unconscious level which has Libido or eros (the instinct to survive) and Thanatos (Death wish). It is solely basic desire and needs. Ego is to check on the id, to act appropriately by delaying the gratification of pleasure. Superego is the one that has the conscience to influence ego act for perfection. A healthy personality must have all these three checked in balance. Example: In the middle of grocery shopping, my sudden hunger kicked in, which is my Id instinct to eat, my ego tells me to hold on to my hunger a little while – reality by not eating my bread in my grocery cart before it is paid. Superego -morality influences me to hurry up what I need to buy and then quickly line up to pay my grocery bills. Finally, I drive to my nearest eatery place to fix my hunger because I don’t want to eat that bread that is meant for my supper tonight. Simple to conclude as my superego makes the best decision to ask my ego to act upon Id.

Freud believed the id, ego, and superego are always in conflict because each part has a purpose to achieve. When the conflict is too much to handle which causes anxiety, the ego will use the defense mechanism to relieve the pressure. These defense mechanisms are Repression, suppression, denial, projection, reaction formation, fixation, and regression. Example: A child who is constantly abused or not receiving any love attention from parents may turn into a big bully at school where he replaces his own anxiety -reaction formation to have misbehavior personality such as vandalism, aggressive or bad temper.

The psychosexual stage of development by Freud describes that we have few development stages during our childhood (first five years) which will define our personality later. Failure to fulfill certain stages of development will lead to fixated at the stage. In short, our childhood experience will form our personality into adulthood. Example: A child who is overly pampered and fulfilled each of his demands will end up having passive and dependent characters later in life. Therefore, Freud believed in moderation for family upbringing.

To look at the strength of Freud’s psychoanalytic theory is considered comprehensive and used as references widely for many other theories. (Essays, UK., 2018) mentioned we can use psychoanalytic as a fundamental resource but should not follow blindly. However, Freud’s psychotherapy also being popularly used and applied in many health institutions and organizations for mental illness treatment, such as dream interpretation, free association, and others. Limitations are because Freud’s way of collecting data while treating his patients was highly criticized for the accuracy. Others also claimed his concept of unconscious theory, death instinct cannot be scientifically measured. His Oedipus complex theory of causing abnormality during childhood was also highly criticized and disagreed as too much focus on sexuality was on it and Freud overlooks other factors like genetic, environmental, and social learning of adult experience.

Humanistic approach counteracts with the psychoanalytic approach as saying human are not victims of internal instinct conflicts but a human has the power to control own behavior. Carl Roger (1902 -1987) was an American psychologist known for his person-centered theory: humans have the self-actualization capability and wish to achieve a fully functioning person.

Roger’s person-centered theory mentioned human nature and motivation: humans innately have the self-actualizing tendency or the basic desire to be a highly functional person. These self-actualizing experiences are a total process of a person perceive his or her life experiences and it depends on the external environment which is either positively or negatively inserted.

Roger’s self-concept (self-worth and self-image) for example, is defined as how we think and see about ourselves is influenced by our life experience and during childhood formative years. (McLeod, S. A., 2014) mentioned ideal-self is the person we wish to be. This ideal self is ever-changing from childhood until adulthood. Self-actualization will likely happen if the self-concept is matching with the ideal self and the converse applies. (Roger mentioned as cited in McLeod, S. A., 2014), “We want to feel, experience, and behave in ways which are consistent with our self-image and which reflect what we would like to be like, our ideal-self.” Example: A child who is raised and nurtured with unconditional love, valued and not judged upon, respected of who he is will turn out to have a high esteem person compared to another child who is always ridiculous condemned, and humiliated will likely to have low self-esteem.

Roger highlighted acknowledging children’s right to access their own emotional cues and respect them as unique persons on their own is the key to produce high functioning persons. (Revisiting Carl Rogers Theory of Personality, 1994-2018) mentioned there are few characteristics which are possessed by a fully functioning person: 1) An acceptance of all experiences and do not shut them out. 2) Living in the moment, which each moment is appreciated and lived to its fullest 3) Trust with one’s own decisions, 4) Increasing freedom of choice, 5) Creative and highly adaptive, 6) Reliability and constructiveness, 7) A preference for living a rich and meaningful life.

Rogers’s humanistic approach seemed to be more patient-centered in counseling. One of the strenghth if compared with Freud’s psychoanalytic approach where the psychiatrist has all the saying to interpret. Rogers’s counseling approach is more well accepted and more comfortable when communicating as a patient is well-acknowledged of their interpretation of their own’s feeling. Rogers’s humanistic theory also emphasizes humans’ free will to excel rather than Freud’s theory of human life and death instincts, Roger looked like the positive side of humans than Freud’s emphasized on human’s own destruction. Limitations include the same as Freud’s, cannot be verified or tested empirically with scientific methods. Another weakness of the humanistic approach to counseling is not all people can accept the freedom given to themselves to think for themselves which eventually being stressful because they are not given any answer for their problems.

In conclusion, both psychoanalytic and humanistic able to describe the personality of an individual on their own with logic and acommon-sensee approach. Except Freud’s psychosexuality to define personality received the higher chance of criticism and rejection. Psychoanalytic focused on human instinct while humanistic focused on free will to change. Both have its’ strengths and limitations which much saying one size never fits all.

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