Humanistic Psychology Critique of Mainstream Term Paper

Pages: 7 (2210 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 7  ·  Level: Doctoral  ·  Topic: Psychology

Humanistic Psychology

Critique of Mainstream Psychology

Humanistic and transcendental perspectives of psychology have been making inroads into psychology to alter the assumptions and practices of mainstream psychology. The humanistic perspective highlights the primacy of human experiences in forming any assumptions and theories of the human mind whereas the transcendental perspective encourages psychologists to consider peak experiences and higher states of consciousness (Walsh & Vaughan, 1980, pp. 15-16) that cannot be explained in terms of animal instincts or motivations but are instead inspired by spiritual or intrinsic values. This paper identifies and discusses some of the weaknesses of mainstream psychology in the light of the claims of humanistic and transcendental psychology.

Misconceptions about Human Nature

Bugental (1963) stated that "A true psychology of human beings is a psychology of interdependent units" (p. 564) thus implying that mainstream psychologists view that human nature can be analyzed in the same way as other phenomena of nature (Bugental, 1963). In referring to the conventions of humanistic psychology, Maslow (1969) stated that, "This orientation is in marked contrast to the two other forces in contemporary psychology, the behavioristic and the Freudian" (p. 2). This means that the behaviorists, in particular, and the Freudian psychologists have followed the approach of the natural sciences in understanding and analyzing human nature as opposed to the principles of humanistic philosophy (Maslow, 1969). Maslow (1969) also stated that the conventions of natural sciences are "mechanomorphic" (p. 2).

Human experiences are different and influenced by emotions. Maslow (1969) also believed that, "the higher qualities that are unique to the human being, these higher qualities, these higher aspirations, higher values, are handled by the Freudian orientation in an apparently irrational fashion" (pp. 2-3). Hence, mainstream psychologists cannot arrive at an accurate understanding of human behavior and thinking without incorporating the role of values in their study of human nature (Maslow, 1969).

Bugental (1963) clearly articulated the above concern by stating, "…we operated on the basis that the total human being could be sufficiently understood if only we had an inclusive catalogue of his parts" (p. 564). He meant to criticize the current trend of attempting to understand human nature as the sum of the nature of its individual parts as erroneous and faulty. According to Bugental, man cannot be understood in such a "structuralist" way (p. 564). Much subjective perception helps to shape human experience and behavior. Hence, the more appropriate way of understanding human nature is to view it as undergoing a process of change. In contrast to the predominant view of human nature as a composite of the individual parts of man, Bugental (1963) puts forward the idea of man as "man is the process that supersedes the sum of his part functions" (p. 564).

The limitations of the mainstream view of human nature as the structural sum of its individual parts are further elaborated by Maslow (1969). Maslow (1969) stated that, "if you study these people and ask them what motivates them, you find yourself in another realm" (p. 3). He calls this the "transhumanistic" realm (p. 3). Hence, mainstream psychology cannot explain some of the motivations of human beings. Maslow further expressed concern that, "perhaps human nature has been sold short in that the higher possibilities of man have not been seen as biological" (p. 3). This means that not all human motivations are biological or physical in the sense conceived by those who extrapolate studies on animals or inanimate objects to human beings. According to Maslow (1969), the human being are motivated by certain "values which transcend his self" (p. 4) that motivate him or her to experience higher states that are too abstract and subjective in nature for Freudian psychologists (p. 3). Hence, certain human experiences are transcendental in nature and cannot be explained by mainstream psychological theories and models.

In establishing the importance of human experience, Maslow (1969) stated that, "humanistic psychology is coming back to the prime reality -- human experience itself" (p. 2), which serves to emphasize the shift towards humanistic perspectives on psychology that give primacy to the human experience whereas mainstream psychology only relies on those experiences that can be perceived by the five senses as is the methodology for the other natural sciences. Maslow (1969) laid particular emphasis on "growing tip statistics" (p. 5), which was aimed at understanding human nature to arrive at the highest benchmark for human capacity for achievement and self-actualization.

Mainstream psychology is therefore limited in its approach towards analyzing human nature and human experiences. Maslow (1969) highlighted this aspect by pointing out that, "value-free science is a desacralizer; it makes things neutral and positivistic…With transhumanism we have something new" (p. 5). Therefore, human experiences and nature cannot be studied under the assumptions of being objective and value-free in the way that other natural phenomena are studied (Maslow, 1969). This is because the subject matter of those sciences is also value-free. Human beings, on the other hand, are driven by values. The human values are built into human beings through socialization and religion. Over the life of the individual, these values motivate him or her to exhibit certain behaviors and develop certain attitudes. Emotions, wishes and desires cannot be observed by the sensory organs but they still represent, in the words of Maslow (1969), "alternate forms of knowing" (p. 5).

Application of Methodology from Natural Sciences

Mainstream psychology is based on methodology and tools of analysis that it has borrowed from the natural sciences such as physics or biology. As Maslow (1969) stated, "humanistic psychology rests on the assumptions regarding "higher needs" (p. 3). This shows that methodologies and approaches borrowed from natural sciences are different from humanistic psychology involves the study of human beings who possess motivation beyond primary biological instincts (Maslow, 1969). Therefore, they cannot be subjected to controlled experiments in the same way as animals or objects can.

Schneider (1998) stated that, "American psychology has conspicuously distanced itself from its romantic roots" (p. 277). Schneider (1998) documented the struggle towards giving psychology a due place among the sciences while affording the subject the intellectual space and capacity necessary in order to accurately study its unique subject. He argued that romanticism has a due place in psychology (p. 278). He stressed that romanticism does not aim to replace mainstream approaches but that "romanticism attempted to enlarge rationality" (p. 278), which means that romanticism in psychology can supplement the major scientific methodologies that have been incorporated into the field (Schneider, 1998). Schneider (1998) argued that romanticism can be incorporated to make therapy and counseling more effective as it "both stimulates discovery and deepens and elaborates on empirical confirmations" (p. 284).

Schneider (1998) also criticized the current trends of psychological therapy being funded by employers who focus more on cost effectiveness and efficiency to evaluate psychological therapy. Specifically Schneider (1998) identified, "corporate control of costs, persistent undertreatment, and onerous formalization" (p. 279) as significant consequences of neglecting the role of romanticism in psychology. The emphasis on economic efficiency in current mainstream psychology is unreasonable and prevents the identification of the deeper effects and causes of psychological experiences (Schneider 1998). Mainstream psychologists seem to have gotten carried away in their pursuit of justifying psychology as a science and have ignored the distinction between the subjects of the two sciences. Therefore, an approach towards psychology that incorporates romanticism along with the role of documentation and theory formulation in mainstream sciences would likely help romanticism-based approaches to gain a foothold in the current environment.

Schneider (1998) also cited that "the holistic, flexible, and exploratory nature of romanticism led some clinicians to charge exorbitant treatment fees" (p. 279) without often coming close to any conclusions caused this approach to fall out of favor with many people and solidified the place of mainstream scientific methodology within the field.

The Absence of a Holistic Approach

A holistic approach is needed to address the needs of the human mind. Bugental (1963) stated that, "My own feeling is that we must move toward recognizing three basic subdivisions of psychology: that concerned with part functions, that concerned with group functions, and that concerned with the total person as a unit" (p. 565). Current mainstream psychology segregates various aspects of psychology to make for efficient analysis and specialization, thus creating, according to Bugental (1963), "rather extreme number of subpsychologies" (p. 565). However, this has a negative impact since it prevents psychologists from developing a holistic and unified picture of the situation. Bugental (1963) stated that the outcome of this approach "has created much confusion and threat for graduate students" (p. 565). In other words, each student becomes concerned within his or her restricted field of specialization so that the client is unable to arrive at the overarching or deeper causes of his or her particular condition. Hence, there is a need to develop a paradigm of psychology where each element or aspect is viewed in relation to a holistic whole as opposed to segregated parts (Bugental, 1963).

These problems caused Maslow to experience discontent, which led… [END OF PREVIEW]

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