The humanistic orientation proposes more positive
views about the human psyche (Resnick et al, 2001). Subsequently, within this tradition, it is
assumed that the self is essentially good and that much of our behaviour is
under conscious control (Glassman, 2000).
This approach emerged as a result of growing dissatisfaction with
psychoanalytic and behaviourist paradigms that often see individuals largely at
the mercy of uncontrollable forces (Criswell, 2003; Hutterer et al,
1996). This school of thought was
largely influenced by the European tradition of existential and
phenomenological philosophy (McLeod, 1998).
Existentialism denotes the idea of aloneness in the world by
ascribing full responsibility to human beings for their actions and
consequences (Glassman, 2000).
Phenomenology simply refers to a philosophical method of inquiry which
is concerned with the idea that valid knowledge about the world (or indeed
reality) can be acquired through people’s subjective experience (McLeod,
1998). In this way, by drawing upon the
aforementioned philosophical notions, the humanistic approach to the nature of
self is based in two basic premises; firstly, that individual’s subjective or phenomenal
experience of the world is the key to understanding people’s behaviour (Cain,
2003). This means that we all have our
unique way of understanding and interpreting the world which surround us. And, secondly, that people have control over
their behaviour rather than being at the mercy of their drives and instincts per
se (Bekerian & Levey, 2005).
This means that "behaviour is not constrained by either past
experiences or current circumstances (Glassman, 2000: 251). This approach to the nature of self conflicts
significantly with the psychodynamic paradigm which asserts that personality is
largely a product of unconscious and psychosexual drives (see Buckley &