guts and a velvet touch

June 1, 2012

I definitely feel most at home in the humanistic theories of personality psychology. Although it’s easy to see the effects of biological and behavioral etiologies on human development, I think that the majority of positive development springs from the human will to evolve and improve and the motivation to actually carry these desires out through action. One of the reasons I am interested in psychology in the first place is that I think that all or at least most ‘evil’ behavior has its roots in a complex tangle of genetic inheritance, environment, and experience; and I think that most if not all dysfunctional behavior can be understood, empathized with, acknowledged and overcome. These beliefs keep me going when the world seems too harsh and ugly to love, and I have never found a situation that refused to eventually respond with a stream of cracked open positivity to compassion and a genuine desire to understand and love.

I think that there are obvious learned mechanics to each personality, because we are all to some extent the products of our environments. But I am a flower through the sidewalk believer. I am inspired every day by stories of people who had no support or encouragement and even faced consistent, devastating obstacles and yet survived, flourished, and triumphed. The human being is not merely a product of its environment because there are so many situations in which a person is in all logic set up to fail from childhood onward and instead uses each obstacle as a stepping stone toward greater experience and deeper understanding of the world. There are also people who have been given it all from day one, people who from a behaviorist perspective are set up to succeed brilliantly and widely, and instead squander their resources and opportunities. The mechanical behaviorist process has its place within all of us and should never be underestimated, but there is no way it will ever encompass the indefinable, indefatigable human spirit.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs completely resonates with me. The concept that basic needs must be met first in order to achieve the highest human potential is for the most part painfully accurate. For example, it is very difficult for me to study if my house is not clean and it is almost impossible for me to go to a party and enjoy myself if my homework isn’t done. None of these things go well if I’ve neglected my eating and am riding the edge of a hypoglycemic crash. The hierarchy of needs as posited by Maslow is very accurate in my opinion. However, I just want to point out that again, it cannot account for the human spirit and will. Not every hero, known or unsung, has had all of his basic needs met before he committed himself to acts of soaring beauty and altruism. Some of the most amazing wisdom and works the world has ever seen have come from the poorest, most desperate places. I agree with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs but I do not deem it to be absolutely necessary to achieve the highest personal potential; necessity after all is the mother of much invention.

I am


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