Origins and Emergence of Humanistic Psychology

The origins of Humanist Psychology

In the beginning of the Modern Age, the term  Humanism (humanist ideology) designated a movement to break with medieval values, whose heyday occurred during the Renaissance that originated in 15th century Italy. There was a great emphasis on the study of classical Greco-Roman authors, in the spirit of research and inquiry and in the appreciation of observation. These characteristics were the necessary assumptions for the development of modern science, insofar as they refuted religious beliefs, thus announcing a definitive split with the church and scholastic philosophy.

The anthropocentrism meant the shift of attention to the man; it now comes to be seen as “the center of concerns” and this was another mark of the evolution of modern thought, since, until then, the “theocentrism” prevailed, according to which God occupied the center of the Universe and everything happened “By his will” so that it would be left for man to turn his attention to faith, religion and life after death. In view of all these arguments, there would be no reason to change the natural order of things.

From there you can see what symbolized the Renaissance, and in particular the  Humanism , for the development of modern thinking , their undeniable importance in the humanity of changes in general terms. With this movement, man was placed at the center of his concerns and started to think that events were not “thanks to God”, but thanks to his determination to solve the problems that life presented him. Thus, he became aware of his ability to act and change reality, being free and responsible for the choices and changes brought about, thus divesting himself of the comfortable role of passive agent in front of the world.

Although the Renaissance movement served as a prerequisite for the advent of naturalism, in many ways Humanistic Psychology denotes similarities with it, in terms of having meant a revolution, in terms of thought, in its time and, moreover, for its theory to identify, and a lot, with humanist and anthropocentric ideologies.

In this sense, we can think that the proposals of Humanistic Psychology rescue a little the concept of man shaken by the “crises” generated in the rapid reformulations to which humanity has been exposed throughout history, crises in which there was a radical change in the understanding of what the human being would be. Copernicus’ discovery, in the early 16th century, that the Earth was not the center of the universe, but a simple point in its immensity; Charles Darwin’s theory of the evolution of species, which dates from the 19th century, based on the mechanism of natural selection; and, finally, the “discovery” of the unconscious by Sigmund Freud, at the beginning of the 20th century, leading to the idea that man is not so “owning himself” or “powerful”, and must recognize that much of himself is beyond his control itself, are ideas that converge to refute the thinking developed in the middle of the 16th century, with the advent of the Modern Age.

The outbreak of the Second World War (1939-1945) destroyed the naive hopes of those who imagined that the First World War (1914-1918) would end wars once and for all. Although the United States emerged as a great economic and warlike power, at the end of the war, the conflict between it and another superpower – the then Soviet Union – was already open. Thereafter, the countries of the world would tend to align themselves as nations of the “socialist bloc” or “capitalist bloc”. The “Cold War” concept came to be used to designate the confrontation and competition between the USA and the USSR, which, due to the danger of using atomic weapons, moved to the military, ideological, cultural, sporting, diplomatic, economic level and, above all, technological.

The rise of Humanist Psychology

American humanist psychologist Charlotte Buhler (in Greening, 1975) claims that it was this situation of constant economic, social and political tension experienced by peoples around the world and, in particular, by Americans, that was responsible for the emergence of a new state of mind. , compared to the time when all people were looking for was “fun”. He says that at the time there was a previously unknown introversion, an absurd despair. Psychologists of this period, such as Karen Horney (1885-1952) and Eric Fromm(1900-1980), questioned the possibility of trusting this society that builds atomic bombs to annihilate populations. Thus, this moment allowed young people to doubt traditional values ​​and morality. Scientific discoveries have also given rise to doubts about the Church’s dogmas and preaching, such as the existence of God.

The feelings of young people and also the questions of adults were shaken and expressed in terms such as: “What is the meaning of everything?”, “Who are we, who am I?”, “What is the right way to live?”. There were various forms of reaction to these questions, such as a youth faction that fought for reforms. According to Bühler (in Greening, 1975), this group had definite ideas and convictions, which could be political or revolve around freedom and human rights, and, in this last version, it got closer, even though through unrealistic programs. , of Humanist Philosophy . Bühler (in Grening, 1975) also addressed the importance of another group of young people, whom he called “constructive”, in shaping the ideals of Humanist Psychology, since they saw the need to improve personal and social experiences, seeking help from older people they trusted to find deeper values ​​and beliefs, in order to release their creativity and express their potential.

At the beginning of the 1960s, during the Kennedy administration, the United States was undergoing great economic growth due to post-war social changes. Gomes (in Aquino, 1986) states that the emergence of Humanist Psychology  cannot be dissociated from this framework of development , since it was responsible for the emergence of values ​​such as independence, hedonism, dissent, tolerance, permissiveness, self-expression, that increasingly reinforced the climate of concern for the individual, in which the subject presented itself as the center of concerns.

It is noted, therefore, that the thirty years that preceded the emergence of Humanist Psychology (1930-1960) were years marked by war and the struggle for power , in which men were for the government just one more within the army battalions, death was “the neighbor” always present and often unfortunately already expected, in which we did not know about the future day (will we be winners or losers? will we find more misery or wealth?).

The  Humanistic Psychology then emerges as a way to answer the aspirations of society, with concepts that ensure the possibility of transformation that depends on the individual will, as a way for people to conceive as “EUS” and not just generic individuals, as different and should therefore be treated. It resumes, rescues individuality, subjectivity, the emotions and peculiarities of each human being.

During the late 1950s, Abraham Maslow  and other humanist thinkers began to formalize the growing humanist approach.

Some important events in the history of humanistic psychology:

  • In 1961 the American Association of Humanist Psychology was created .
  • The publication   of Maslow’s Introduction to the Psychology of Being in 1962 is often considered the official introduction to what Maslow called the  “third force” in psychology  (with psychoanalysis and behaviorism being the first and second forces).
  • In 1971, humanistic psychology gained its own separate division from the American Psychological Association.
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