Personality Theories

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Identical twins, Jack and Oskar, dressed alike, read alike, talked alike, responded to stress or anger in similar ways and even interacted socially in an almost identical manner. This would not shock many, as the boys were after all twins, but what is remarkable about Oskar and his brother Jack is that Oskar was raised in Germany as a catholic and a Nazi and Jack was raised Jewish on an Israeli Kibbutz. After having been separated at birth, the two men did not meet until well into their adulthood (Holden, 1980). Jack and Oskar’s story raises a point which has been separating scientists and psychologists alike for dozens of years; what shapes one’s personality? In the case above, one might argue without the shadow of a doubt that personality is genetic, others might argue that the way those children were raised, impacted on their personalities and so on. There are six theories of personality, all differing from one to the other, yet attempting to understand and describe the structure of personality and to study the individual differences within personality. In other words personality psychologists seek to understand how are people similar but also, how they differ. Psychodynamic theories and Humanistic theories will be reviewed, compared and contrasted in order to gain a better understanding of personality and perhaps gain a better insight on Jack and Oskar’s case. First it is important to understand what personality is; Personality refers to the enduring patterns of behavior, feeling, motivation and thought that one expresses in different circumstances (Burton, Western & Kowalski, 2009). One can say that personality is consistent and although there are many outside influences acting upon an individual at any given moment, personality can to an extent, predict how a person is likely to respond and behave to certain situations (Atkinson, Atkinson & Hilgard, 1983). As mentioned above, personality psychologists use various theories in order to understand how individuals resemble one another and how they differ, but all agree that personality lies under all psychological processes (cognition, emotion and behavior) and thus that personality is not simply one’s motives, nor the way one interacts with people or even solves problems but the manner in which one’s motives, emotions, and thoughts interact in given situations to produce responses which are characteristically true to an individual (Atkinson, Atkinson & Hilgard). For example; if observing the spectators of a scary movie, most individuals will experience fear as a result of the film but the ways in which they express and deal with the fear come from within the individual and is unique. In order to contrast and compare the two personality theories chosen, one must comprehend what they each entail. Psychodynamic theories view personality and behavior as predetermined by the outcomes of unconscious forces which exist and clash within all individuals (Burton, Westen & Kowalski, 2009). This implies that personality is fixed and that individuals do not control their own fate. Psychodynamic theorists argue that personalities are unconsciously shaped in early childhood by both biological and psychological forces (Burton, Westen & Kowalski). The various stages of development leave the individual with unresolved emotional conflict between his thoughts and urges, a conflict which affects the thoughts of behavior of the individual into adulthood (Burton, Westen & Kowalski). Psychoanalysis delves into an individual’s unconscious in order to understand the source of internal conflict in order to solve psychological problems (Atkinson, Atkinson & Hilgard, 1983). Sigmund Freud is considered to be the father of psychodynamic theories. According to Freud, psychological forces such as intentions and fears have an intensity and direction and when several such motives collide, the balance of these forces determines an individual’s behavior (Atkinson, Atkinson & Hilgard). He described those...
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