Psychology Theories & Self Reflection

Topics: Behavior

Psychology is the scientific study of behaviour and mental processes. It is a broad discipline which seeks to analyze the human mind and study why people behave, think, and feel the way they do. There are many different ways to approach psychology, from examining biology’s role in mental health to the role of the environment on behavior. Some psychologists focus only on how the mind develops, while others counsel patients to help improve their daily lives.

There are seven (7) major perspectives in modern psychology which include psychoanalytic/psychodynamic, behaviourist, humanist, cognitive, biopsychological, evolutionary and sociocultural.

This assignment is an integration of knowledge; three dominant theories of psychology will be examined to see how each has influenced my behaviours through self-reflection and the use of personal examples. Having an understanding of oneself is important as it helps it to perceive things positively and assists in determining the things that one enjoys doing.

It also helps in the way one faces challenges and the make decisions in life.

Psychodynamic/Psychoanalytic Psychodynamic theory was the dominant school of thought within psychiatry and much of clinical psychology during the first part of the 20th century. Early psychodynamic approaches focused on the interrelationship of the mind (psyche) and mental, emotional or motivational forces within the mind that interact to shape a personality.

Dr. Sigmund Freud, who is credited with inventing psychodynamic theory and psychoanalysis, influentially suggested that the unconscious mind is divided into multiple parts, including the irrational and impulsive Id (a representation of primal animal desires), the judgmental Super-ego (a representation of the rules and norms of society inside the mind), and the rational Ego (which serves as an attempt to bridge the other two parts).

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Alexander, 2010) According to Freud, the conscious and unconscious parts of the mind can come into conflict with one another, producing a phenomenon called repression (a state where you are unaware of having certain troubling motives, wishes or desires but they influence you negatively just the same). In general, psychodynamic theories suggest that a person must successfully resolve early developmental conflicts (e. g. gaining trust, affection, successful interpersonal relationships, mastering body functions, etc. ) in order to overcome repression and achieve mental health.

As part of this theory, he believed that humans have two basic drives: Eros and Thanatos, or the Life and Death drives. According to Psychoanalytic theory, everything we do, every thought we have, and every emotion we experience has one of two goals: to help us survive or to prevent our destruction. Freud believed that the vast majority of our knowledge about these drives is buried in the unconscious part of the mind. This would suggest that we go to school because it will help assure our survival in terms of improved finances, more money for healthcare, or even an improved ability to find a spouse.

We demand safety in our cars and in our homes. We want criminal locked away and we want to be protected against anything else that could lead to our destruction. According to this theory, everything we do, everything we are can be traced back to the two basic drives. I have always felt that this theory offered unique, controversial insights into how the human mind worked. We as humans do tend to internalize, repress and suppress memories and emotions that we find painful or shameful. I also believe that experiences that we have as a child do shape our actions as an adult.

As a child I never had a good relationship with my father and I think this has carried over into my relationship with men on a whole. I find it hard to trust, to forgive and to love. I think this has something to do with the fact that there was never any trust between my father and I, nor was there any affection. I probably perceived our interpersonal as a failure and this has carried over into my later years. It is important to remember that Freud was not the only psychodynamic therapist although his work has paved the way for extensions of his ideas.

Examples of this are Carl Jung who thought of the unconscious as the source of potential and creativity rejecting Freud’s ideas of the sexual instincts. Karen Horney criticized Freud’s penis envy theory and made her own interpretation that it was a cultural phenomenon in a male dominated society. Alfred Adler developed a theory that all people are born weak and thus resolves to overcome this weakness by being at one with others. Alfred Adler believed are born with physical inadequacies and as a result, people commit very early in life to rid themselves of these feelings of nferiority. There are, however, two ways to overcome those feelings: striving for success and striving for superiority, the latter of which is less mentally healthy. Behaviourism Behaviorism originated with the work of John B. Watson, an American psychologist. John Watson coined the term “Behaviorism” in 1913. Behaviorism assumes that behavior is observable and can be correlated with other observable events. Therefore, there are events that precede and follow behavior.

Behaviorism’s goal is to explain relationships between antecedent conditions (stimuli), behavior (responses), and consequences (reward, punishment or neutral effect). Watson claimed that psychology was not concerned with the mind or with human consciousness. Instead, psychology would be concerned only with behavior. In this way, men could be studied objectively, like rats and apes. To the behaviorist, human behavior has nothing to do with internal unconscious conflicts, repression, or problems with object representations.

Rather, a behavioral psychologist uses principles of learning theory to explain human behavior. Behaviorism is a theory of learning based upon the idea that all behaviors are acquired through conditioning. Conditioning occurs through interaction with the environment. According to behaviorism, behavior can be studied in a systematic and observable manner with no consideration of internal mental states. (DeMar, 2004) Watson’s work was based on the experiments of Ivan Pavlov, who had studied animals’ responses to conditioning. In Pavlov’s best-known experiment, he rang a bell as he fed some dogs several meals.

Each time the dogs heard the bell they knew that a meal was coming, and they would begin to salivate. Pavlov then rang the bell without bringing food, but the dogs still salivated. They had been “conditioned” to salivate at the sound of a bell. Pavlov believed, as Watson later emphasized, that humans react to stimuli in the same way. Behaviorism is also associated today with the name of B. F. Skinner, who made his reputation by testing Watson’s theories in the laboratory. Skinner’s studies led him to reject Watson’s almost exclusive emphasis on reflexes and conditioning.

People respond to their environment, he argued, but they also operate on the environment to produce certain consequences. Skinner developed the theory of “operant conditioning,” the idea that we behave the way we do because this kind of behavior has had certain consequences in the past. For example, if your girlfriend gives you a kiss when you give her flowers, you will be likely to give her flowers when you want a kiss. You will be acting in expectation of a certain reward. Like Watson, however, Skinner denied that the mind or feelings play any part in determining behavior.

Instead, our experience of reinforcements determines our behavior. (DeMar, 2004) Operant conditioning is a method of learning that occurs through rewards and punishments for behavior. Through operant conditioning, an association is made between a behavior and a consequence for that behavior. Major Thinkers in Behaviorism are Ivan Pavlov, B. F. Skinner, Edward Thorndike and John B. Watson. I have been a teacher for the past five (5) years and I can remember doing a Classroom Management course in college that looked at the learning theories of behaviour.

It was a very good course and it enabled me to be a good manager of my classroom using various techniques/strategies of rewards and punishment as well as positive and negative reinforcement to control and mould behaviour. Classical conditioning and Operant conditioning is a major factor in real life as it forms a fundamental part of human training whether in or out of the classroom. The main use of conditioning is in dealing with habit formation either trying to form good habits such as good school performance or break bad ones such as walking around the classroom while a lesson is being taught.

In assuming that behaviour is learnt, behaviourists also hold that behaviour can be unlearnt and replaced by new behaviours. It can be used to shape a child to learn innumerable behaviours and skills. In education, advocates of behaviorism have effectively adopted this system of rewards and punishments or positive and negative reinforcement in their classrooms by rewarding or positively reinforcing desired behaviors and punishing or negatively reinforcing inappropriate ones. Rewards vary, but must be important to the learner in some way.

For example, as a teacher I wish to teach the behavior of remaining seated during the class period, the successful student’s reward might be marking the teacher’s class register or being allowed to use the computer lab during their lunch hour or giving praise to the students who remained seated while smiling would also be positive reinforcement. Humanistic During the 1950s, humanistic psychology began as a reaction to psychoanalysis and behaviorism, which dominated psychology at the time.

Psychoanalysis was focused on understanding the unconscious motivations that drove behavior while behaviorism studied the conditioning processes that produced behavior. Humanist thinkers felt that both psychoanalysis and behaviorism were too pessimistic, either focusing on the most tragic of emotions or failing to take the role of personal choice into account. (Luttrel, 2009) Humanistic psychology was instead focused on each individual’s potential and stressed the importance of growth and self-actualization.

The fundamental belief of humanistic psychology was that people are innately good, with mental and social problems resulting from deviations from this natural tendency. According to this theory, humans are driven to achieve their maximum potential and will always do so unless obstacles are placed in their way. These obstacles include hunger, thirst, financial problems, safety issues or anything else that takes our focus away from maximum psychological growth. The best way to describe this theory is to utilize the famous pyramid developed by Abraham Maslow (1970) called the Hierarchy of Needs.

Maslow believed that humans have specific needs that must be met and that if lower level needs go unmet, we cannot possibly strive for higher level needs. The Hierarchy of Needs shows that at the lower level, we must focus on basic issues such as food, sleep, and safety. Without food, without sleep, how could we possible focus on the higher level needs such as respect, education, and recognition? Throughout our lives, we work toward achieving the top of the pyramid, self actualization or the realization of all of our potential.

As we move up the pyramid, however, things may get in the way which will ultimately slow us down and often knock us backward. Imagine working toward the respect and recognition of your colleagues and suddenly finding yourself out of work and homeless. Suddenly, you are forced backward and can no longer focus your attention on your work due to the need for finding food and shelter for you and your family. There are five different levels in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs; all my physiological needs which are the most basic and instinctual such as the need for air, food and sleep are being met.

These are vital for my survival and must be met as all other needs become secondary. My safety and security needs are next and are very important, these include a desire for steady employment, health insurance, safe neighborhoods and shelter from the environment and are currently being met. Everyone has a need for belonging, love and affection which is referred to as social needs. Relationships such as friendships, romantic attachments and families help fulfill this need for companionship and acceptance, as do involvement in social, community or religious groups.

I am currently in the Esteem needs phase which becomes increasingly important after the first three (3) needs have been met. These include the need for things that reflect on self-esteem, personal worth, social recognition and accomplishment. I am in the process of changing professions and working towards achieving a diploma from Norquest University as a LPN. I want to be a good nurse and earn enough that I am able to care for my family. All my energy is focused on achieving as much as I can which would reflect on my self-esteem. I want to be able to look back at my life and not have any regrets.

I do not want to be a failure. The last set of needs is the Self-actualizing Needs. This is the highest level of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Self-actualizing people are self-aware, concerned with personal growth, less concerned with the opinions of others and interested fulfilling their potential. According to Maslow, nobody has ever reached the peak of his pyramid. We all may strive for it and some may even get close, but no one has achieved full self-actualization. Self-actualization means having a complete understanding of oneself, a sense of completeness, of being the best person you could possibly be.

To have achieved this goal is to stop living, for what is there to strive for if you have learned everything about yourself, if you have experienced all that you can, and if there is no way left for you to grow emotionally, intellectually, or spiritually. (Luttrel, 2009) Another major thinker in Humanistic Psychology is Carl Rogers. who maintains that the human “organism” has an underlying “actualizing tendency”, which aims to develop all capacities in ways that maintain or enhance the organism and move it toward autonomy.

This tendency is directional, constructive and present in all living things. The actualizing tendency can be suppressed but can never be destroyed without the destruction of the organism. Conclusion Throughout history humans have been puzzled by human behavior, the reasons behind it, and have been faced with the consequences of their own as well as others’ behavior. Many studies have been done and theories developed in an attempt to explain this fascinating area of human existence. These theories enable us to understand and determine how the mind and body of an individual works.

The psychodynamic, behaviourist and humanistic perspectives are very different theories but they all seek to answer basically the same questions, who and what we are, why we are like that, why we act and think like that and what we could be as a person, just in different ways. It is not necessary to think of these three schools of thought as competing elements as Abraham Maslow argued in his book Toward a Psychology of Being (1962), in which he described humanistic psychology as the “third force” in psychology, the first and second forces being behaviorism and psychoanalysis respectively.

Each branch of psychology has contributed to our understanding of the human mind and behavior. Psychoanalysis looked at the mind, Behaviourist Psychology looked at behaviours and the Humanistic psychology added yet another dimension that took a more holistic view of the individual. There has been many criticisms of psychoanalysis and behaviourist perspectives but the fact remains that these theories have paved the way and laid the foundations upon which psychology stands.

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Psychology Theories & Self Reflection. (2019, Jun 20). Retrieved from

Psychology Theories & Self Reflection
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