Phenomenological Psychology

Phenomenological Psychology header image

Theories of Personality – Maslow, Rogers, Fromm, May – Questions and Answers

June 4th, 2009 by David Kronemyer · No Comments

QUESTION: “It’s too early for angst,” you groan to yourself and peek at the clock – 8:10 am. Only ten minutes have past as you realize this is going to be a very long hour. “I love my husband and kids,” your client says. “We have enough money, I have friends, I should be happy. I just don’t understand? Do you think the antidepressants are working?” You ponder her question and consider the best way to respond. Carl Rogers said there are three important qualities your client needs from you. What are they?

ANSWER: (1) counselor congruence – genuineness; (2) unconditional positive regard; and (3) empathetic listening.

QUESTION: How did Carl Rogers describe his method of therapy?

ANSWER: Client-centered therapy, person-centered therapy.

QUESTION: What are two of Roger’s basic assumptions about human nature?

ANSWER: (1) formative tendency – we evolve from simpler to more complex forms. (2) actualizing tendency – we move towards completion or fulfillment of potentials.

QUESTION: What are the characteristics of the “fully functioning person” according to Rogers?

ANSWER: (1) adaptability; (2) openness to experience; (3) trust in organismic self; (4) live fully in the moment; (5) experience harmonious relations with others; (6) integrated with no artificial boundary between conscious and unconscious processes; (7) basic trust of human nature; and (8) greater richness in life.

QUESTION: “Okay, it’s early,” you think to yourself, “but I do feel compassion for this person. We all are in the same boat, existentially.” What is the “existential dilemma” for human beings?

ANSWER: The tensions between freedom and responsibility and choice and necessity, which never can be fully resolved; reconciling the contingency of human existence to a positive course of action; how to respond to the present moment (“respond-ability”); coping with the angst/anxiety of the thrownness of human existence and discerning a path forward that authentically expresses oneself.

QUESTION: Thinking about your client’s depression you wonder if she has acquired all five existential needs according to Fromm. What are they?

ANSWER: (1) relatedness; (2) transcendence; (3) rootedness; (4) sense of identity; (5) frame of orientation.

QUESTION: Fromm’s list reminds you of Maslow and you think about his hierarchy of needs. What are they, from lowest to highest?

ANSWER: (1) physiological; (2) safety; (3) love and belongingness; (4) esteem; (5) self-actualization.

QUESTION: You doubt your client is “self-actualized.” If she were, you imagine she would be enjoying some of the characteristics of self-actualized people. What are they?

ANSWER: (1) openness; (2) spontaneity; (3) accepting of one’s situation and others.

QUESTION: She would also be motivated by “being-needs” or “b-values.” What are they?

ANSWER: wholeness; perfection; completion; justice; aliveness; richness; simplicity; beauty; goodness; uniqueness; effortlessness; playfulness; truth; honesty; reality; self-sufficiency.

QUESTION: You realize there are physical reasons why your client might be depressed but you sense it would be efficacious to explore her spiritual resources and sources of meaning. You ask her if she remembers a time when she experienced a sense of deep joy. She does remember a time that seems to fit Maslow’s description of a “peak” or “transcendent” experience. What is this?

ANSWER: A fleeting, quasi-mystical experience leading to a feeling of transcendence. It is not orchestrated or premeditated. It results in a sense of connection with the world and others.

QUESTION: What effects might such an experience have?

ANSWER: It changes one’s perspective to reality; leads to greater awareness and sense of reality; a capacity to distinguish what’s important and what isn’t.

QUESTION: You discover your client had many such experiences when she was young but now she has the burden of home and family and feels anxious when she spends time by herself doing things she loves. You wonder if her anxiety is normal or neurotic. According to Rollo May what are three characteristics of “neurotic anxiety”?

ANSWER: (1) it is disproportionate to the threat; (2) it involves repression and other forms of intrapsychic conflict; (3) it is managed by blocking off activity and awareness.

QUESTION: Obviously your client’s anxiety has developed into what Fromm called a “mechanism of escape.” What is that?

ANSWER: Freedom is the essential characteristic of human nature. We either embrace it or attempt to escape it. The former is healthy whereas escaping freedom through the use of escape mechanisms is the root of psychological conflict.

QUESTION: What are three such escape mechanisms, according to Fromm?

ANSWER: (1) authoritarianism; (2) destructiveness; (3) conformity.

QUESTION: To which do you think your client is most susceptible?

ANSWER: Conformity. She is locked into a role with family responsibilities and little chance to express herself creatively.

QUESTION: Escape mechanisms allow one to avoid “ontological guilt.” What is that?

ANSWER: It arises from one’s very being. It comprises two elements: (1) regret for decisions one has made that one would have preferred not to have made, or to have made differently; and (2) regret for decisions and courses of action one would have preferred to have made, when one did not do so.

QUESTION: To early for angst or not, you know that you and your client both will be enriched by your efforts to move deeper into your own spiritual resources and find your source for “agape.” What is that, according to May?

ANSWER: Agape is selfless, altruistic love for another, which one bestows without the possibility of counterpart reward.

QUESTION: Of what value is agape to you and your client?

ANSWER: It creates the possibility of experiencing without judgment or conditions and with human values.