Psychology: Psychoanalysis and Humanism

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The different psychological schools of thought reflect ideas and emotions of each time period in which they developed, and yet it can be said that they still have relevant value today. Each approach to psychology –the biological, the humanistic, the cognitive, the behavioural and the psychoanalytical– all have relevance in today’s society in their own ways, as well as having distinguishing features yet similar aspects to their teachings. As an example of this, when we first look between psychoanalysis and humanism, we can name the basic and drastic differences between these theories. For starters, the time frame between the development of each spans around fifty years, with Freud growing his idea of psychoanalysis in the 1890’s, and the humanistic view point not coming to the spotlight until the 1950’s. Another obvious difference between these two schools of thought lies within the basis of humanism as an optimistic philosophy, and by most accounts psychoanalysis is formed from what many would view as a pessimistic study of psychological conditions. At its birth psychoanalysis was viewed as a form of psychology that would fill the gap in psychiatry, and find a common ground between physical and mental health (Freud, 1915). Humanism came about as a reaction to the pessimistic aspects of psychoanalysis, to try and focus more on the actual human and personal choice. Because of this, it became known as the ‘third force’ of psychology (Maslow, 1962). Psychoanalysis literally means to take care of the psyche, and how through the talking cure we can use our psyche to realise unconscious psychological concerns that may be present; whereas the humanistic approach is more concerned with personal choice, self-help and the patient’s own abilities to solve their psychological issues. However, both approaches have intergraded similarities as well as the pre-mentioned opposing views, and yet they are both equally important sides in psychology today.

One of the main views that psychoanalysts pose is their theory of development, which Sigmund Freud first developed. At the same time, the humanistic approach has its own theories on human development, which were proposed by Abraham Maslow. Freud’s ideas were based around different age groups, and the changes associated with these stages. He believed there to be five such stages –the oral stage, the anal stage, the phallic stage, the latent stage, and the genital stage. The first stage is concerned with the mouth and activities such as eating and generally falls around the ages of 0-2. The next, the anal stage, naturally occurred when the child is going through toilet training, assumed at the age of 2-4. The third stage happens between the ages of 4-6 and is the first genital stage, which is known as the phallic part of development, where the child begins to realise their own sex. The following stage is a particular time in development that Freud and psychoanalysts believe no psychosexual development occurs at all. They call this stage the latent stage, and believed it took place between the ages of 6-12. There is now however widespread disbelief that this could be true in our culture today, and thus, that this particular believe was a product of Freud’s time, where teenagers weren’t the socially active beings they are in today’s society. The last psychoanalytical stage of development occurs around the ages of 12-18 and is seen as the main genital stage, with the child now going through puberty. On top of all these changes to happen through development, psychoanalysts also believe that a child can become fixated on any particular stage, and that this can have a lasting effect in adulthood. For instance, if this happens during the oral stage the adult tends to become obsessed with activities to do with their mouths, resulting in over-eating and adult obesity.

Humanist’s theory of development differs as it is not concerned with child development, and focuses more...
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