ANALYSIS OF THE PERSONALITY OF
SOJOURNER TRUTH, ACTIVIST,
BASED ON NEO-ANALYTIC ASPECTS
By Ung Hai Hoon
Sojourner Truth (c.1797 – 26 November 1883)
Sojourner Truth dedicated her life to fighting slavery, and advocating equal rights for women. She first began speaking in 1827, giving personal testimony of the evils and cruelty of slavery; and later as a staunch supporter of suffrage, also advocated for equal rights for women. At the 1851 Women’s Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio, she delivered her speech “Ain’t I a Woman” which is now revered among classic text of feminism. She lived her life in the water-shed years of American abolition of slavery and became a leader and recognized as an icon for equality of rights and freedom. At birth, Truth was named Isabella and was a slave for the first twenty-eight years of her life because she was a child born by slaves. In 1826, Truth began life as a free woman; but only after eighteen years – in 1843 at the age of forty-six years, she rename herself, “Sojourner Truth is my name, because from this day I will walk in the light of His truth.” (p.77). The moment of naming herself marked Truth’s cognitive freedom from her enslaved past.
Neo-Analytic Approach to Personality
The neo-analytic approach to personality asseverate that the individual’s sense of self as the core of personality; holding that the self “struggles to cope with emotions and drives on the inside and the demands of others on the outside” (Friedman & Schustack, 2011); that human nature is positive and goal-oriented; that society and culture shapes
personality; and that development continues throughout lifespan. For the analysis of Sojourner Truth’s personality, the concepts of neo-analytical theorist Alfred Adler are selected for the purpose.
Adler’s Concept of Humanity
Feist & Feist (2006) described Adler’s concept of humanity as that people are self-determinant, and their unique personalities are shaped by how they interpret their lives and experiences. People are ultimately responsible for their own personalities and possess the creative power to transform feelings of inadequacy towards a final goal of either personal superiority or goal of success for society.
i. Striving for superiority or success
Adler believed that the central core of personality is the striving for superiority towards a final goal. The final goal - while fictional and has no objective existence – unifies personality and renders all behaviour comprehensible. According to Feist & Feist (2006), Adler posit that feelings of inferiority motivate a person to strive for either a self-centered (selfish) goal of superiority, or an altruistic goal of success for all humans. The final goal compensates and reduces feelings of inferiority and weakness, and drives the individual to seek either superiority or success. Truth was a slave for twenty-eight years. During her enslavement, she was abused and treated as chattel or property. Her slave-masters dictated and hold sway her life. Her enslavement caused Truth to feel inferior – but yet her reaction to those feelings of inferiority was to strived for a goal for success (for society).
Throughout her life as a free woman, Sojourner Truth devoted herself to fight against slavery and for equal rights for all. During the American Civil War, Truth risked her life to gather and deliver supplies to black volunteer regiments; and was continually involved in various political causes. With the National Freedman’s Relief Association she continued to strive to better conditions and lives for all African Americans – of which her last campaign (sadly unsuccessful) was a land distribution programme for former slaves.
ii. Social Interest
Adler (1956) state that those who strive for success (instead of self-centered superiority) possess a “sense of personal worth that is tied closely to their contributions to human society. Social progress is more important to them than...
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