healthy person psychology
During the 1950s, consistent with other improvements to society, new forms of psychotherapy were being discovered and refined, based upon observations of positive outcomes that were way ahead of the best theories of the day. The search for better models led to huge advances in psychology through observing and describing the blossoming of the human potential, and leading to the emergence of a new, positive, growth orientated field of psychology, reflecting human health, wellbeing and greater functionality, and variously called full-humaneness, transpersonal, third force, human potential, etc. The term ‘humanistic’ gained common usage.
Compliance of the individual to conventional social norms ceased to be the measuring stick of therapeutic success. Instead, the integrity of the individual, and realising or actualising the human potential was emerging to become of paramount importance. The slow, torturous, multi-year treatment process of psychoanalysis gave way to increasingly easeful, simpler, more direct and more rapid healing, through assuming the fundamental integrity of the client, working in a more immediate, gentle and caring way, and trusting the client to move in a healthy direction.
Abraham Maslow, Chair of Psychology, Brandies University, made a study of healthy people, including many of his students, and in 1962 published “Towards a Psychology of Being”, based on extensive studies during the 1950s, which concluded that:
“Man demonstrates in his own nature a pressure toward fuller and fuller Being, more and more perfect actualisation of his humaneness. Creativeness, spontaneity, self-hood, authenticity, caring for others, being able to love, and yearning for truth are embryonic potentialities belonging to his species.
“No psychological growth is possible unless this essential core of the person is fundamentally accepted, loved and respected by others and by himself.
“Only healthy persons uniformly yearn for what is good for them and for others, and then are able wholeheartedly to enjoy of it and approve of it. For such people virtue is its own reward in the sense of being enjoyed in itself. They spontaneously tend to do right because that is what they want to do, what they need to do, what they enjoy, what they approve of doing, and what they will continue to enjoy.
“Among the objectively describable and measurable characteristics of the healthy human specimen are:
- Clearer, more efficient perception of reality
- More openness to experience
- Increased integration, wholeness, and unity of the person
- Increased spontaneity, expressiveness; full functioning; aliveness
- A real self; a firm identity; autonomy, uniqueness
- Increased objectivity, detachment, transcendence of self
- Recovery of creativeness
- Ability to fuse concreteness and abstractiveness
- Democratic character structure
- Ability to love, etc
Client Centred Therapy
Carl Rogers, professor of psychology and psychiatry at Wisconsin, and counselling therapist, discovered that many of his clients displayed remarkably benign natures, as they healed. He described the “fully-functioning person”:
An Internal Locus of Evaluation
“The individual increasingly comes to feel that the source or locus of choices and decisions, or evaluative judgements lies within himself. Less and less does he look to others for approval or disapproval; for standards to live by; for decisions and choices. He recognises that it rests within himself to choose; that the only question that matters is “Am I living in a way which is deeply satisfying to me, and which truly expresses me?”. This I think is perhaps the most important question for the creative individual.”
The Process of Functioning More Fully
“The person who is psychologically free moves in the direction of becoming a more fully functioning person. He makes increasing use of all of his organic equipment to sense the existential situation within and without, recognising that his total organism is often wiser than his awareness. He discovers that he is soundly and realistically social; he lives more completely this moment, but learns that this is the soundest living for all time.”
Basic Trustworthiness of Human Nature
“The basic nature of the human being, when functioning freely, is constructive and trustworthy. His reactions may be trusted to be positive, forward-looking, and constructive. He becomes more realistically socialised. His total behaviour will be more balanced and realistic, which is appropriate to the survival and enhancement of a highly social animal. Such a person’s behaviour is exquisitely rational, moving with subtle and ordered complexity toward the goals his organism is endeavouring to achieve – in such a fashion as to live in increasing harmony with himself and with others.”
Greater Richness of Life
“This process of living the good life involves a wider range, a greater richness, than the constricted living in which most of us find ourselves. One is involved in the satisfying experience of a more sensitive living, with greater range, greater variety, greater richness, because they have this underlying confidence in themselves as trustworthy instruments for encountering life. Such a life is enriching, exiting, rewarding, challenging, and meaningful. The good life is not for the faint-hearted. It involves the stretching and growing of ones potentialities. It involves the courage to be. It means launching oneself fully into the stream of life. Yet the deeply exiting thing about human beings is that when the individual is inwardly free, he chooses as the good life this process of becoming.”
Fritz Perls was the originator of Gestalt Therapy, which was developed during the 1950s, and flourished and rose to prominence during the 1960s. As a therapy, it assisted individuals to have rapid breakthroughs out of old, dysfunctional patterns into a freer, higher level of being and functioning:
“Every individual, every plant, every animal has only one inborn goal – to actualise itself, as it is. Maturing is the transcendence from outside support to self-support. The average person in our time lives at only 5% – 15% of his potential at the highest. So 85% – 95% of our potential is unused, not at our disposal. And the reason for this is simple: we live in clichés and patterned behaviour.”
“The aim of therapy is to help the patient not depend upon others, but to discover, from the very first moment that he can do many things, much more that he thinks he can do. We do this by finding the impasse, where a person is in avoidance and cannot mobilise his own inner support. Nobody really wants to get through the impasse that will grant this development. They would rather maintain the status quo, remain mediocre, and manipulate others for support.”
“If we understand the impasse correctly, we wake up. It’s the awareness, the full awareness of how you are stuck that makes you recover, and realise the whole thing is just a nightmare, not a real thing, not reality.”
Therapy had morphed from refitting a person back into a far-from-perfect, rigid society, to enabling a person to become integrated and inwardly free, and outwardly a highly functional and altogether greater being, able to transcend inhibiting societal limitations and constraints.
These major new psychologies and therapies all had their formation and testing during the 1950s, by leading thinkers and practitioners. They flourished during the 1960s, and gave rise to many variations, catering to every niche and nuance of personal dysfunction. By the early 1970s, they became popular for safe, self-healing, and had collectively risen to pre-eminence over behavioural and psychoanalytical schools of thought.