Humanism and Existentialism: Part 1 - Humanistic Psychologists and Existential Psychotherapies

The Dialectics of Liberation: Anarchism, Existentialism, and Decentralism.
Humanism and Existentialism: Part 1 - Humanistic Psychologists and Existential Psychotherapies

"Humanity is disappearing in egotism." - charlie777pt

1- Introduction - Humanistic Psychology

"All life is a confused symbology" - Fernando Pessoa in The Quest for the Occult Truth (1907-12)

I've finished the posts dedicated to the "existentialists" that ended with a post about the climate change and the movement of Extinction Rebellion, and now we start a trip to the enclave between existentialism and behaviorism that gave birth to the humanistic psychology.
This new paradigm puts the individual and perceived experience and feelings of reality as a node to bring the human being as a key element for the transcendence of the context of life in society and institutions.
The Greek tragedy saw the human being as a hero fighting to build a life and the destiny, in ancient Athens, in Pericles's era was emphasized that the human being is here to develop his/her human potential and talent, and Socrates showed that Man should find goodness and happiness.

Psychological humanism, in the beginning, had ties to socio-political panorama but later was applied to social change, social work, and entrepreneurial creativity, but under the individual concept of self-actualization to fully develop human potential, a concept created by Kurt Goldstein.
Humanistic psychology was born in the gap between psychoanalysis and behaviorism to make a point about the individual driven by the empowering of self-actualization to boom our creativity and human potential and achieve self-realization.

"Emotion makes us what we are; intelligence makes us different. Intelligence spreads and scatters us, and it’s through this scattering that we survive. Every age leaves to future ages only what it wasn’t." - Fernando Pessoa in The Anarchist Banker

The Existentialist philosophy applied to psychotherapies is used in the humanistic psychology, that puts the human being in a field of freedom, and make changes to create meaning for life, by self-determination and self-definition, to become whatever we want.
The humanistic view has its origin in phenomenology and existentialist thought, mainly rooted in Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, and Sartre, that we have been following in this series about existentialism.

In the 1950s and 1960s, psychologists began to try to understand personality from a viewpoint quite different from trait theory of biological determinism and Freud’s focus on unconscious drives from unresolved childhood experiences.
These new humanistic and existential theorists turned attention to how humans make healthy choices that create their personalities.
Humanistic psychologists emphasized a positive, optimistic view of human nature, that highlights people’s inherent goodness and their potential for personal growth and realization.

The humanistic psychology insurgence against the limitations of the behaviorist and psychoanalytic thought, that couldn't see the individual as an active force in building and changing the self, that is constantly acting to learn more and experience new visions of reality, that will change it.
Existentialist psychologists focused on the individual as a responsible agent, who is free to create and live his or her life while negotiating the issue of meaning and the reality of death.
The humanistic-existential approach integrates these insights with a focus on how a personality can become optimal.
There is no map to find the lost treasure of our self, we have to design it ourselves, and constantly get lost in dark alleys of our mind to find the road of life and the light of truth.

Existentialists agree with humanists about many of the features of personality but focus on challenges to the human condition that are more profound than the lack of a nurturing environment.
We have to confront our existence, starting by the unavoidable death and age decay, that people deny and replace by half-truths to stop the angst of facing reality as a defense mechanism that is always a barrier to the growth our human potential.

Otto Rank created the basis for existentialist psychology, and he was Freud's closest disciple, colleague, and most trusted friend that really helped to build and perpetuate the sacrosanct institute and statute of psychoanalysis.

In 1964 the Journal of Humanistic Psychology published the 5 principles stating that, a human being is a gestalt without components and parts, and lives an existence in the cosmos in a unique way, in a self-conscious-awareness and with other people, energized by intentions and choices to act with responsibility, to reach objectives and to find meaning, values, and self-actualization in life.

Rollo May, the US existentialist psychotherapy initiator, was influenced by Otto Rank's ideas of his post-Freudian work, citing him as its most important precursor of existential oriented therapies.
Carl Rogers, a psychologist, develops the concept of relationship therapy, using Rank's concepts and ideas.
Carl Jung had already pointed out that the Self, had an active and creative imagination in the construction of human consciousness.
Carl Rogers in the book "Client-Centered Therapy" develops the use of self-actualization in the subject as an active constructor of change

The existential and humanistic view, seeks to show the individual as the master of himself, the one who dictates his own rules of existence as a response to a rigid and non-transformable world, cold and distant from the human essence, that is drowning human ethics and solidarity and to kill hope, because what was true in reality is increasingly being revealed as a lie and falsity of a manipulative system that abhors the revelation of the path of freedom for humanity.

We can see the cybernetic organism (self-regulative) tending to homeostasis (return to equilibrium) but there is a permanent disequilibrium that demands self-actualization as an adaption to the ever-changing context of existence, knowledge, and experience.

2- Kurt Goldstein ( 1878 - 1965) - The Organicist

"The body is an auto-regulated organism by the principle of self-actualization" - charlie777pt

Kurt Goldstein was a German neurologist and psychiatrist that started to see human beings with psychological disorders as an organism, an indivisible gestalt, emphasizing the principle of Self-actualization as a way to find ontological(self) security and new paths for creativity.

He was jailed and tortured by the Nazis, but a petition of his wife, got him out and expelled from Germany, and went to Amsterdam where he wrote the book The Organism.

"In the final analysis courage is nothing but an affirmative answer to the shocks of existence, to the shocks which it is necessary to bear for the sake of realizing one's own nature". - Kurt Goldstein

The organismic theory of Kurt Goldstein with the principle of self-actualization in the individual, as the main force orienting that, had influenced Maslow's theory of the hierarchy of the Needs, as well as the existential psychotherapy theories of Rollo May, and Victor Frankl and others I have been referring in the last posts.

The theories and methods of Humanistic Psychology changed the visions about psychotherapy and social working and saw the human being as self-determined and self-aware in building his own path to dignify his/her existence, and to unmask the reality behind the curtains of the oblivion of death, to find a fulfilling and meaningful life.

The concept of the whole in humanistic-existential therapies is borrowed from the Gestalt psychology but more focused in perception that Kurt Goldstein extended to the personality dynamics as a holistic methodology of the paradigm of the individual as a body, a social organism constantly doing more and learning more.

In a simple view Humanistic Psychology is the phenomenology of the organism and life, perpetuated by self-awareness.

The Gestalt therapies are based in the model of the Organismic theory with the notion of Holism defended by Goldstein, where the catharsis is generated using the technique of recalling our emotions and release them, to build a new way by self-realization as a drive and motivation for action, and the affirmation our capacities and human potential in a limiting reality.

"Consciousness, as Kurt Goldstein puts it, is man’s capacity to transcend the immediate concrete situation, to live in terms of the possible; and it underlies the human capacity to use abstractions and universals, to have language and symbols. This capacity for consciousness underlies the wide range of possibility which man has in relating to his world, and it constitutes the foundation of psychological freedom." - Rollo May in Discovery of Being

Goldstein created the basis for positive thinking in psychology research, about the subjectivism of happiness and life fulfillment and that human freedom is ontologically-based, what changed all the previous concepts of psychotherapy.
People want to affirm their individuality and identity, but they have to deal with the pre-existing meaning structures that curtail our wellbeing or provoke disturbances in our whole personality.
His holistic theory provided a more intelligible scientific approach, plus the awareness of the ideology of the methods of scientific investigation.
He had an interdisciplinary vision of medicine and science, entangled within the context of society, and on the other way contest the reductionist thinking of orthodox psychoanalysis.

His knowledge revolutionized the paradigms of Gestalt theories in psychotherapies, and had enormous influences in philosophy, experimental psychology, Psychosomatics, and in the body of work of social change, social work, entrepreneurial creativity for innovation, education, youth development, clinical psychology, coaching, and rehabilitation.

“Biological knowledge is not advanced by simply adding more and more individual facts. In the process of biological understanding, it is not true that facts which gradually become included in the 'whole' as parts, can be evaluated simply quantitatively so that our knowledge becomes the more firm, the more parts we are able to determine. On the contrary, every single fact has always a qualitative significance. This single, new fact may perhaps revolutionize the entire conception based on former findings, and demand an entirely new idea, in the light of which the old facts may have to be evaluated in a radically different way.” - Kurt Goldstein in The Organism (1963).

For Kurt, consciousness permits to transcend the context where life happens, to find the possible ways to deal with the world, using language and symbols within a metaphysical base for the maximization of psychological freedom.
The concept of self-actualization of Goldstein of the full potential realization, was later developed by Abraham Maslow that found out that we can self-actualize only after the satisfaction of the underlaying pyramid of needs, and that only 1% of the people use this personality enhancement boom and its manifestation is more revealed in early or in late adulthood because before we are more focused on satisfying our needs.

“There is only one motive by which human activity is set going: the tendency to actualize oneself” - Kurt Goldstein

Maslow called "meta-pathology", to the lack of the person on attaining self-actualization in their adulthood, and to feel in aging that we get less selfish and more selfless and to me, full realization only comes when getting to a higher level of consciousness.

I will finish this posts with a comment I made that expresses my personal view about the interaction of the concept of self-actualization and the surpass of our levels of needs to enhance our motivation towards self-realization, whose supreme level is only attained, when we devote our energies to serve the world, instead of our selves.

"After solving the first three levels of consciousness - physical needs, and emotional like self-interest and love, to feel the sense of belonging) - we get the fourth level of consciousness , the self-transformation trip to raid the lost ark of the Subconscious Mind, looking for new modes for the path of self-actualization, identifying beliefs limiting our views of the world, and developing a new system of values that will orient and reduce anxiety of our choices for the path of life.
Then comes level five where discipline is the master for creative self-revelation and expression in existence, enriching a new kind of experience, to go to the sixth level when we start to make a difference in the world and find a purpose in communal life and about sharing mutual benefits.
This integration level will surely point to the Master level seven, in which serving others and community overrides self-interest, to a transcendent state of awareness of a revelation devoting our energy to selfless service that fulfills our passions and visions for the world."

This post was a kind of an introduction to the emergence of Humanistic-Existential psychology, starting with Kurt Goldstein, that later was followed and developed by many psychologists and psychiatrists, that I'm doing exclusive posts, like Otto Rank the art man, the non-directive Carl Rogers, Erich Fromm with the theory of The Fear of Freedom, Wilhelm Reich and the curve of the Orgasm reflected in the the Character Shield, to finish with Carl Gustav Jung with his Myths and Archetypes and with Thomas Szasz unveiling the Factory of Madness.

Further Reading

Kurt Goldstein – Wikipedia

Short Video: What is Self-Actualization? What does Self-Actualization mean? Self-Actualization meaning

Long Video: Kurt Goldstein, psyc2260

philosophy psychology humanism existentialism psychoterapy

The Dialectics of Liberation: Anarchism, Existentialism, and Decentralism.
Published Posts:

I - Anarchism
II - Existentialism
Next posts on the Series:
II - Existentialism(Cont.)
  • Humanism and Existentialism
    • Part 2 - Humanistic Psychologists - Otto Rank
    • Part 3 - Humanistic Psychologists - Carl Rogers
    • Part 4 - Erich Fromm - The Fear of Freedom
    • Part 5 - Wilhelm Reich - The Orgasm and the Character Shield
    • Part 6 - Carl Gustav Jung - Myths and Archetypes
    • Part 7 - Thomas Szasz - The Factory of Madness
  • Existentialism and Anarchism
  • The Future : Posthumanism, transhumanism and inhumanism
III - Decentralism
  • What is Decentralism?
  • The Philosophy of Decentralism
  • Blockchain and Decentralization
  • Anarchism, Existentialism, and Decentralism
IV - Dialectic for Self-Liberation
  • Counterculture in the 60s
  • Psychedelics, Libertarian and artistic movements
  • The Dialectics of Liberation Congress
  • The Zen Buddism of Alan Watts
  • Psychoanalysis and Existentialism
  • The Anti-psychiatry movement
  • Anarchism, Existentialism, Decentralism and Self-Liberation
V - Conclusions and Epilogue
- charlie777pt on Steemit:
Social Reality: Violence, Power, and Change
Index of Chapter 1 - Anarchism of this series - Part 1 This Series:
Oizerman, Teodor
.O Existencialismo e a Sociedade. Em: Oizerman, Teodor; Sève, Lucien; Gedoe, Andreas, Problemas Filosóficos.2a edição, Lisboa, Prelo, 1974.
Sarah Bakewell, At the Existentialist Café: Freedom, Being, and Apricot Cocktails with with Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Albert Camus, Martin Heidegger, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, and Others
Levy, Bernard-Henry , O Século de Sartre,Quetzal Editores (2000)
Jacob Golomb, In Search of Authenticity - Existentialism From Kierkegaard to Camus (1995)
Herbert Marcuse, One-Dimensional Man: Studies in the Ideology of Advanced Industrial Society
Louis Sass, Madness and Modernism, Insanity in the light of modern art, literature, and thought (revised edition)
Hubert L. Dreyfus and Mark A. Wrathall, A Companion to Phenomenology and Existentialism (2006)
Charles Eisenstein, Ascent of Humanity
Walter Kaufmann, Existentialism from Dostoevsky to Sartre(1956)
Herbert Read, Existentialism, Marxism and Anarchism (1949 )
Martin Heidegger, Letter on "Humanism"(1947)
Friedrich Nietzsche, The Will to Power (1968)
Jean-Paul Sartre, Existentialism And Human Emotions
Jean-Paul Sartre, O Existencialismo é um Humanismo
Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Sense and Non-Sense
Michel Foucault, Power Knowledge Selected Interviews and Other Writings 1972-1977
Erich Fromm, Escape From Freedom. New York: Henry Holt, (1941)
Erich Fromm, Man for Himself. 1986
Gabriel Marcel, Being and Having: an existentialist diary
Maurice Merleau-Ponty, The Visible and The Invisible
Paul Ricoeur, Hermeneutics and the Human Sciences. Essays on Language, Action and Interpretation
Brigite Cardoso e Cunha, Psicanálise e estruturalismo (1979)
Paul Watzlawick, How Real is Reality?
G. Deleuze and F. Guattari, Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia,
Robert C. Solomon, Existentialism
H.J.Blackham, Six existentialist thinkers
Étienne de La Boétie, Discourse on Voluntary Servitude, or the Against-One (1576)