Humanism is a philosophical theory that emphasizes the importance of human aspects rather than fixating on divine, religious, or spiritual matters. The theory of Humanism is rooted in the notion that humans have a moral responsibility to lead lives that are fulfilling while at the same time striving to contribute to the greater good of society as a whole.
Humanism stresses the significance of human values and morals. It proposes that individuals can resolve problems with the use of science and reason. Rather than focusing on religious norms, Humanism aims to help people live well, attain personal growth, and make the world a better place.
Humanistic psychology, a part of Humanism, is a perspective that supports the belief that as individuals, humans are unique beings and should be acknowledged and treated as such by their psychologists/psychiatrists.
Humanistic psychology emphasizes looking at the individual as a whole and stresses concepts such as free will, self-actualization, and self-efficacy. (DeCarvalho, R.J., 1990)
The origins of the humanistic approach lie in a reaction to the psychodynamic approach adopted by Sigmund Freud that focused on understanding the unconscious desires that drive behavior and the behavioral approach developed by B. F. Skinner studied the conditioning processes that cultivate behavior which had dominated the field of understanding behavioral psychology during the first half of the 20th century.
Humanistic principles gained application during the human potential movement, which became quite the rage in the U.S. during the 1960s.
Although psychoanalysis and behaviorism contributed to the understanding of human behavior psychology, they did not include a holistic perspective of the individual. The emergence of Humanistic psychology complemented those two schools of thought with its focus on the individual as a whole.
Humanist thinkers felt that both psychoanalysis as well as behaviorism were far too pessimistic, either focusing on the most tragic emotions or failing to consider the role of personal choice.
There was also an extremely pragmatic reason for its development. The II world war conceived a huge requirement for counseling and therapy. The traumas experienced by countless returning veterans did not have roots in esoteric notions of psychoanalysis; rather, a more direct approach to therapy was called for, which could tackle immediate complications and provide a sense of hope after a truly distressing world event.
The twin fathers of the humanistic approach are Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers. They viewed psychoanalysis as overly negative in its view of individuals, with too great an emphasis on the pathologies present.
Instead, Rogers and Maslow went about to develop a more positive approach that sees individuals as inherently good with a built-in ‘self-actualizing tendency’ while focusing on positive growth.
However, it is important to note that it’s not necessary to think of these three schools of thought as competing units. Each psychological theory and its approach has contributed to our better understanding of the human mind and behavior. (Taylor, E., 2001)
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