Personology of Murray

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CHAPTER 5

Henry Murray: Personology

For me, personality is [a] jungle without boundaries.
—HENRY MURRAY

The Life of Murray (1893–1988)
Childhood Depression and Compensation
Education
The Influence of Carl Jung
The Harvard Psychological Clinic
Principles of Personology
The Divisions of Personality
The Id
The Superego
The Ego
Needs: The Motivators of Behavior
Types of Needs
Characteristics of Needs

Questions About Human Nature
Assessment in Murray’s Theory
The OSS Assessment Program
The Thematic Apperception Test
Research on Murray’s Theory
The Need for Affiliation
The Need for Achievement
Reflections on Murray’s Theory
Chapter Summary
Review Questions
Suggested Readings

Personality Development in Childhood
Complexes
Stages of Development

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PART TWO

The Neopsychoanalytic Approach

Henry Murray designed an approach to personality that includes conscious and unconscious forces; the influence of the past, present, and future; and the impact of physiological and sociological factors. The influence of Freudian psychoanalysis can be seen in Murray’s recognition of the effect on adult behavior of childhood experiences and in his notions of the id, ego, and superego. Although Freud’s imprint is clear, Murray gave unique interpretations to these phenomena. His deviations from orthodox psychoanalysis are so extensive that his system must be classified with the neo-Freudians rather than with the Freudian loyalists.

Two distinctive features of Murray’s system are a sophisticated approach to human needs and the data source on which he based his theory. His proposed list of needs is still widely used in personality research and assessment and in clinical treatment. His data, unlike those of theorists discussed in earlier chapters, come from so-called normal individuals (undergraduate male students at Harvard University) rather than from patients undergoing psychotherapy. Also, some of the data were derived from more empirically based laboratory procedures rather than from case histories.

Because of his long affiliation with a major university instead of relative isolation in a clinic or private practice, and because of his personal charisma, Murray gathered and trained a large number of psychologists, many of whom have since achieved prominence and carried on his teachings.

The Life of Murray (1893–1988)
Childhood Depression and Compensation
Henry Murray’s childhood contained maternal rejection, elements of Adlerian compensation for a physical defect, and a supernormal sensitivity to the sufferings of others. Born into a wealthy family, Murray grew up in New York City, in a house on what is now the site of Rockefeller Center. His summers were spent on a Long Island beach. As a child, he accompanied his parents on four long trips to Europe. For the Adlerians among you, Murray reported that some of his earliest recollections focused on his privileged background (Triplet, 1993).

Another significant early memory is more intriguing. Murray called it “the marrow-of-my-being memory” (Murray, 1967, p. 299). At about age 4, he was looking at a picture of a sad woman sitting next to her equally sad son. This was the same kind of gloomy picture Murray later used in his Thematic Apperception Test. Murray’s mother told him, “It is the prospect of death that has made them sad” (Murray, 1967, p. 299). Murray interpreted the memory as indicating the death of his emotional ties to his mother because she had abruptly weaned him when he was 2 months old, preferring, he believed, to lavish her affection on his siblings. He insisted that his mother’s actions led to his lifelong depression, a condition that formed the core of his personality.

Murray referred to his depression as a source of “misery and melancholy” and he attempted to mask it in everyday behavior by adopting an ebullient, cheerful, and outgoing manner (Murray, 1967). This lack of...
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