Existential And Humanist Theories – Definitions, Similarities And Differences.

The existential theories  and humanistic  psychology often confused, so it is important to know the similarities and differences between the two theories and related therapies.

Existential and humanistic theories are as varied as the parents associated with them, they are also separated by philosophical disagreements and cultural differences. However, they all share some fundamental assumptions about the human being, nature and human condition that distinguish them from other theories of personality .

The general assumption is that individuals have the freedom and courage to transcend existential data and biological / environmental influences to create their own future. Second, they emphasize the phenomenological reality of the experiencing person and third, they are holistic in their focus on the lived experience and future aspirations of the whole
person in action and in context. Finally, they attempt to capture the high drama of human existence, the struggle for survival and fulfillment despite the human being vulnerable to fear and despair.

Definitions of existential and humanistic theories

Humanistic psychology can be traced to Abraham Maslow as the founding father, but over time it has been closely associated with Carl Roger’s person- centered therapy (or client-centered therapy ). However, today’s humanistic psychology is much broader and more complex than the foundational approach.

Humanist is a term in psychology related to an approach that studies the whole person and the uniqueness of each individual. Essentially, these terms refer to the same approach in psychology. It is a psychological perspective that emphasizes the study of the whole person, humanistic psychologists look at human behavior not only through the eyes of the observer, but also through the eyes of the person who behaves.

On the other hand, Existential Theory is an approach to psychology and psychotherapy that is based on several premises, including: understanding that a “whole” person is more than the sum of its parts, understanding people by examining their relationships interpersonal, understanding that people have many levels of self-awareness that cannot be ignored or put in an abstract context, understanding that they have free will and are participants rather than observers in their own lives, and understanding that people’s lives have a purpose , values ​​and meaning.

Therapists who practice existential psychology treat their clients by immersing themselves in the client’s world. For the therapist, therapy is a process in which they too participate. This is a process that seeks meaning within the totality of the person’s existence, including the client’s personal history.

There are many reasons for this assimilated view of these theories. On the one hand, since their emergence, these two approaches have been in close dialogue, secondly, there have been many attempts to combine them, as ultimately both approaches share many of the same values.

Historical roots of existential and humanistic theories

It presents the empirical evidence and discusses the practical implications of the meaning-centered

The reasons for reformulating the existential-humanistic theory include:

  • Provide a more balanced and realistic view of the human condition by acknowledging
    ongoing conflicts between positive and negative existential data
  • You need a common existential humanist theory capable of explaining both the best
    and worst of human behaviors
  • Need to clarify and put into practice important existential and humanistic concepts
  • Reframe the crucial issues of existential and humanistic psychology in terms of the
    human struggle for survival and fulfillment in a chaotic and difficult world.

Similarities between existential and humanistic theories

Humanistic psychology says that people are striving to be the best versions of themselves, while existential psychology says that people are searching for the meaning of life. They are very similar, however, in the way that people achieve those ends, through personal responsibility and free will. Essentially, both existential psychologists and humanists value the ability of humans to make their own decisions and lead their own lives.

Both approaches are phenomenological, although the term is a complicated one that many psychologists and philosophers disagree with, the essence of what it means for these approaches is that they value personal experience and subjectivity. Psychology, in its attempt to become a science, has developed a preference for the objective, although phenomenological approaches do not discount the importance of objective approaches, they would focus on the limitations of objectivity. This, in part, means that objective knowledge is only part of the big picture.

The “here and now” or the therapeutic moment is a shared value of these approaches, the past is important, it is also important not to forget the present. Included in the here and now is a commitment to understand, process, and value the therapeutic relationship. This relationship is considered to be a real relationship under unique constraints, limits, and contexts. In other words, many psychoanalytic approaches consider the therapeutic relationship to be primarily a product of transference, humanistic and existential approaches focus on the real in the relationship in addition to transference / countertransference patterns.

Both approaches value self-awareness, in the most general sense, this is shared with all deep psychotherapies. However, there is another unique aspect to self-awareness within humanistic and existential thinking . Self-awareness in the most general sense refers to an understanding of the self that is seen primarily as accumulated life experience and unconscious knowledge. In humanistic and existential thinking, self-awareness is also deeply concerned with the human condition and how this impacts the individual being.

Humanistic and existential approaches value the basic goodness in people and human potential, part of the therapy process is understood as the liberation of the individual to embrace their basic goodness and potential. By doing this, it is believed that they will be happier and more satisfied with life.

One final similarity between existential and humanistic theories is that they both emphasize the positive aspects of human nature. Many theories of psychology focus on what the individual is missing: this person has a chemical imbalance, which means that some element is missing in his brain; that person is guided by unresolved problems in his subconscious.

Differences between existential and humanistic theories

However, despite the similarities, there are some key differences in existential and humanistic psychology. The biggest difference lies in the underlying view of human nature.

While both approaches believe in human potential and goodness, existentialism has focused more on the potential for evil and human limitation, this is more of a process distinction than basic values. In other words, humanistic psychology generally takes a position similar to existentialism, but humanistic therapists have not spent as much time living in the shadow or daemonic.

This distinction should not be minimized despite the shared basis of your beliefs. Through time, humanistic psychology has been unfairly characterized as being too “warm and fuzzy.” Many people have turned away from this theoretical approach due to the perception that it does not address the reality of the human condition, on the contrary, existentialists are often accused of spending too much time in dark places and of being quite morbid. None of the characterizations are accurate, however, they have influenced who has been attracted to the different theoretical positions and how they have developed over time.

An important discussion between Carl Rogers and Rollo May highlights and amplifies these differences. The discussion began with an article published by Carl Rogers in the Association for Humanistic Psychology Perspectives, it was followed by a later article published in 1982 along with a response from Rogers. For him, human evil is different from human nature.

For May, people innately have the potential for good and for evil, for Rogers and many humanistic psychologists, evil is an external reality that impacts individuals through culture and socialization, it may express concern in part for this, because he doesn’t think this adequately addresses our own potential for evil.

In this same dialogue, May (1982) points out another important distinction that sometimes arises between humanistic and existential therapists, he may express some concern that in extreme client focus and empathic response in focused therapy, there is a cost to a compromise. deeper genuine insight that requires the therapist to focus on their own subjective experience. In other words, humanistic psychologists may focus on the client, sometimes at the cost of acknowledging their own experience, by doing so the client is deprived of the opportunity for a deeper engagement with the therapist as a subjective self.

These two theories have different philosophical roots, humanistic thinking is not as closely associated with humanistic philosophy as existential psychology is. In fact, the confusion between humanistic psychology and humanism in the historical sense is quite significant. Generally speaking, phenomenological, continental and existential philosophies have influenced humanistic and existential psychology more than humanistic philosophy and humanism, in stating this, it must still be recognized that there are many broad approaches to humanistic psychology.

Humanistic psychology has tended to focus more on the art of therapy, subjective and intentionality, neglecting the science of therapy, aim and human limitation, many humanistic thinkers would correctly challenge this claim, compared to thought existential, there is a strong case for this claim. Existentialism tends to be more balanced, its values ​​are consistent with the approach of humanistic psychologies, but it creates more space for science, objectivity, and human limitation.

Finally, it could be argued that existential thinking maintains a more flexible framework for integrating with other approaches, this is true even with regard to solution-focused therapies. Existential psychology is commonly used as a framework that integrates other depth approaches, this can still be done with humanistic psychology, it is not as natural as it is adaptable.

In the end, adaptability and balance are the strengths of existential psychology.

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Hello, how are you? My name is Georgia Tarrant, and I am a clinical psychologist. In everyday life, professional obligations seem to predominate over our personal life. It's as if work takes up more and more of the time we'd love to devote to our love life, our family, or even a moment of leisure.

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