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 Pioneers of Humanistic-Existential Psychology


Carl Jung (1875-1961)

Carl Jung is possibly one of the most important figures in psychology, and yet he remains controversial. For many psychologists he is little more than a historical curiosity. Someone who worked with Freud in the early days of the founding of psychoanalysis, and then went his own way, founded his own school of psychology, became rather eccentric, and is worthy of only the most cursory of mentions in introductory text books. To other psychologists, he is possibly the most complete psychologist that there has ever been. He made radical and significant contributions to all four of the major areas of psychology. A feat that is quite unequalled by anyone else. For example:- (i) in behavioural psychology, his research on word association, was fundamental to the development of the lie-detector test, and was recognized by the award of an honorary degree by Clark University, USA, on a visit in 1909; (ii) in psychodynamic psychology, he was second only to Freud in status, and was elected the first president of the International Psychoanalytic Association; he developed his own school of Analytical Psychology, and pushed the boundaries of psychodynamic theory much further than Freud ever could have expected, indeed further than Freud was prepared to accept; (iii) in humanistic psychology, it is clear that Jung’s work anticipated all of the major themes of the humanistic-existential approach, especially his concepts of "Self" (an integrating principle of the human psyche), active imagination and human consciousness; and (iv) in transpersonal psychology, Jung was a pioneer of this field for some fifty of so years before it was ever recognized as a new branch of psychology. Indeed, the work of some of the most important current researchers in the transpersonal field, i.e. Stanislav Grof, Michael Washburn, etc., is almost entirely dependent on the theoretical ideas of Jung.

Any evaluation of Jung’s work needs to take into account the breadth of his scholarship and vision. Besides his medical training and life-long clinical work, he was also influenced by such disparate fields as the paranormal, gnosticism, Taoism and medieval alchemy. Strange as these interests may be, they reflect Jung’s belief that modern psychotherapy was really only a re-discovery of what was a proven ancient tradition. Some of his other major concepts include:- the collective unconscious, the "complex", the model of the psyche, archetypes and symbols, psychological types, introversion and extraversion, individuation, synchronicity, etc.

Jung's major writings include: The Psychology of the Unconscious (1917); Psychological Types (1921); Modern Man in Search Of A Soul (1933); Psychology and Alchemy (1944); Answer to Job (1952); Memories, Dreams and Reflections (1961); Man and His Symbols (1964).


Rollo May (1909-1994)

Rollo May, the distinguished existential psychologist and existential psychotherapist, was a co-founder of the Humanistic Psychology movement. He was an outspoken critic of his contemporaries, and was largely responsible for integrating the humanistic and existential traditions. He was born in Ohio, and after graduating from Oberlin College in 1930 he worked and travelled in Europe, where he met and studied with Alfred Adler. Returning to the USA he worked as a counsellor at Michigan State University, and studied theology at the Union Theological Seminary. In 1939 he published The Art of Counselling, notable as both a present-day classic in the field and the very first text on counselling to be published in America. Turning away from the ministry, he studied at Columbia, but contracted tuberculosis. After his struggle with the illness, during convalesence he had the opportunity to study the work of Kierkegaard and others. On recovery, he completed his Ph.D. thesis on counselling psychology under the supervision of Paul Tillich. Influenced by his own experience of fighting the illness, and his study of european philosophy, he argued that human nature can only be understood by focussing on the individual's subjective experience. He felt that anxiety was the key to selfhood, since it sets us in search of ourselves. He emphasized the central role of freedom, choice and responsibility in human existence, and proposed that the authentic self was only experienced when we assert ourselves - take a stand against what we find unacceptable. One illustration of the tension between his ideas and those of Rogers is over "the problem of evil", published in an open letter to Rogers (J. Hum. Psychol., 1982). For Rogers, evil was the result of cultural influences, the human being is " . . essentially constructive in their fundamental nature, but damaged by their experience." In contrast, May proposes that the evil in our culture is the reflection of evil in ourselves, as well as vice versa. The individual's autonomy is achieved not by avoiding evil, but by directly confronting it. The human being is an organized set of potentialities, which are the source both of our constructive (i.e. good) and our destructive (i.e. evil) impulses. In a dialogue with Martin Buber at the University of Michigan in 1951, moderated by Maurice Friedman, Rogers had said, "Man is basically good", to which Buber had answered "Man is basically good - and evil", a sentiment that May, as well as Carl Jung and Erich Fromm would have shared. For May, there is a real danger that the humanistic movement colludes with human narcissism in failing to confront the issues of evil in ourselves, our society and world. May does not mince words with Rogers when he concludes:- "Life to me, is not a requirement to live out a preordained pattern of goodness, but a challenge coming down through the centuries out of the fact that each of us can throw the lever toward good or toward evil."

May's major writings include: The Art of Counselling, 1939, 1989; The Meaning of Anxiety, 1950; Man's Search for Himself, 1953; Existential Psychology, 1960; Psychology and the Human Dilemma, 1967; Love and Will, 1969; Power and Innocence: A search for the sources of violence, 1972; The Courage to Create, 1975; The Cry for Myth, 1991.


Abraham Maslow (1908-1970)

Maslow was a major American psychologist, a visionary, an inspired thinker, who radically altered the course of development of the discipline of psychology. Born in New York, he was educated at the University of Wisconsin, where he studied primate behaviour under Harry Harlow and Clark Hull. He returned to New York in 1935 by accepting a research position with Edward Thorndike at Columbia University. Through his contact with the New School for Social Research, near Greenwich Village, he came to know and study with:- Alfred Adler, Erich Fromm, Karen Horney of the psychoanalytic school; Kurt Goldstein, Max Wertheimer and Kurt Koffka of the Gestalt school of thought; together with many other recently arrived émigré intellectuals from europe. He also fell under the influence of Ruth Benedict, an anthropologist at Columbia, who persuaded him to undertake some fieldwork with the Blackfoot indian tribe. This was a crucial and formative time for Maslow, who had been largely trained in the behavioural school of psychology, which he now began to realize had little bearing on real world issues, and could contribute very litte to solving social problems. After teaching at Brooklyn College for fourteen years, he left in 1951 to take up the new chair of psychology at Brandeis University, near Boston. With the publication of Motivation and Personality in 1954, his change of direction was complete. He was the co-founder, with Carl Rogers and Rollo May, of the Humanistic Psychology movement. He coined the idea of a Third Force, and in the late 60's instigated a Fourth Force - Transpersonal Psychology. He was president of the APA in 1967-68. Maslow was primarily a theoretician and researcher in the new movement. His major concepts included:- self-actualization (a term he borrowed from Goldstein), human motivation and the hierarchy of needs, metaneeds, d-needs and b-needs, peak experiences, etc.

Maslow's major writings include: Motivation and Personality, 1954, 1970; Religious Values and Peak Experiences, 1964; Towards a Psychology of Being, 1968; The Farther Reaches of Human Nature, 1971.


Carl Rogers (1902-1987)

Rogers pioneered the development of client-centred therapy. A major figure in the history of psychology, with a basically optimistic view of humankind, he was a co-founder of the Humanistic Psychology movement. Born in Oak Park, Illinois, he was educated at University of Wisconsin and Union Theological Seminary, leaving to study psychology at Columbia. After his Ph.D., he began working in child guidance. This work led him to seek better ways of understanding and helping his clients through their difficulties and suffering, which lead to the development of his person-centred approach to counselling - a non-directive technique that values the person themself. Rogers regarded the self as an organizing principle - "an organized consistent gestalt, constantly in the process of forming and reforming." Thus a person is in a process of becoming, and, the fully functioning person is regarded as the norm, such that the person can trust their own ability to deal with the world, and consequently show a high degree of spontaniety, compassion and self direction. He was president of the APA in 1946, and founded the Centre for the Study of the Person in La Jolla, California. His main theoretical concepts include:- client-centred/person centred counselling/therapy, actualizing tendency, becoming, self, encounter groups, cross-cultural communication, and the Core conditions:- Empathy, Unconditional positive regard, Congruence, etc.

Rogers' major writings include: Counselling and Psychotherapy, 1942; Client-Centred Therapy, 1951; On Becoming a Person: A therapist's view of psychotherapy, 1961; Freedom to Learn: A view of what education might become, 1969; On Encounter Groups, 1970; A Way of Being, 1980.


James Bugental (1915- )

James Bugental is an important figure in the early development of humanistic psychology, and in the practice of a humanistic approach to psychotherapy. He was born in Indiana in 1915, and educated Texas West Stae College and George Peabody College, and completed the doctoral program in clinical psychology at Ohio State University in 1948. Between 1948 and 1955, he taught at the University of California at Los Angeles, but became so disillusioned with the infighting and resistance to humanistic psychology he resigned., and became a full-time psychotherapist. Bugental was the first president of the Association for Humanistic Psychology (1962-63), he published a manifesto for the new force entitled "Humanistic Psychology: A new breakthrough", his leadership was critical in directing the new association in a positive direction. He helped to organize the conference at Old Saybrooke in 1964. Bugental’s vision was that humankind was on the verge of a new era because of the emergence of the new paradigm, and that would foster a new evolution of human consciousness. This paradigm viewed the person holistically, rejected the medical model as a guiding principle for psychotherapy, and saw practitioners rather than researchers as pioneers in advancing psychological knowledge. In his practice, although influenced by psychoanalytical thinking, Bugental adopts an existential perspective, understanding the person in terms of intentionality rather than causality, and subjectivity rather than drive theory. He regards psychotherapy as a "philosophic venture", not be seen as the treatment of an illness, but "a daring to confront self and world" (1965). He saw psychotherapy as a struggle, the success of which ultimately depends on the client’s willingness to risk reconnecting with his or her "inner sensing."

Bugental’s major writings include: The Search for Authenticity: An existential-analytic approach to psychotherapy, 1965; The Art of the Psychotherapist, 1987; Intimate Journeys: Stories from life-changing therapy, 1990.


Erich Fromm (1900-1980)

Erich Fromm was a German psychoanalyst and social theorist, who always saw himself as neo-Frudian in orientation, but who many regard as having occupied a key position on the periphery of the humanistic movement. He studied psychology and sociology at the Universities of Heidelberg, Frankfurt and Munich, and in 1927, began a psychoanalytic training at the Psychoanalytic Institute in Berlin, with Hans Sachs and Theodore Reik. In 1929, he joined the Institute for Social Research (the neo-marxist oriented Frankfurt School), where he worked with Max Horkheimer and Herbert Marcuse. In 1933, he went to the United States at the invitation of the Chicago Psychoanalytic Institute, eventualy moving to New York a year later. During this time, he worked with Karen Horney and met up with Abraham Maslow. He set up a private practice in psychoanalysis, and later in his career he divided his time between the National University in Mexico City and New York University. Fromm saw human life as basically a contradiction because we are both a part of nature and separate from it, we are both animal and human being. Out of this arises five basic existential needs:- relatedness, transcendence, rootedness, identity and frame of orientation. Fromm proposed the idea of social character as a mediating process by which the individual is unconsciously molded by the social and economic order. Particular character types develop to fit into the roles and functions that the society requires. In Western culture, five basic types are found:- receptive, exploitative, hoarding, marketing and productive.

Fromm's major writings include: Escape from Freedom, 1941; Man for Himself, 1947; The Forgotten Language, 1951; The Art of Loving, 1956; Psychoanalysis and Zen Buddhism, 1960; The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness, 1973; To Have or To Be, 1976.


Roberto Assagioli (1888-1974)

Assagioli was an Italian psychiatrist and founder of Psychosynthesis. He trained as a psychoanalyst and was a member of the Freud Society in Zurich. He withdrew from membership as he became discontented with a lack of consideration with the growth of human potential by Freud and his followers, and during the 20's and 30's began to develop his own theory and methods. Only in the 50's and 60's was his work recognized outside of Italy. During his education he was encouraged to read and travel extensively, and was deeply versed in the philosophy and spiritual practices of both the Eastern and Western cultures. Assagioli placed high value on human intuition, creative thought and inspiration, and he argued that therapy should be as much concerned with studying the higher unconscious (supercosciousness) as it was studying the depths of the unconscious. He argued that the individual can integrate the seemingly different and conflicting parts of the self when they are able to engage in inner work with ease. Achieving our individual purposes, honouring our true self, will bring psychological health and spiritual fulfillment. Psychosynthesis methods include:- creative visualization, fantasy, free drawing, sub-personalities, training the will, meditation, interpersonal and group work, etc.

Assagioli's writings include: Psychosynthesis: A manual of principles and techniques, 1965; The Act of Will, 1974; Transpersonal Development: The dimension beyond psychosynthesis, 1988.


Fritz Perls (1893-1970)

Perls was a Freudian trained psychoanalyst, the founder of Gestalt therapy, and a charismatic figure. Born in Berlin, he received his M.D. from Frederich Wilhelm University, and then received a psychoanalytic training with Wilhelm Reich as his analyst. He met many of the key founders of Gestalt psychology (Kohler, Wertheimer, Lewin) and worked as Kurt Goldstein's assistant. He went to South Africa in 1934, where he set up the Institute of Psychoanalysis, and met Jan Smuts, the inventor of the term "holism". Moving to the USA in 1946, with his wife he set up the New York Institute of Gestalt Therapy in 1952. From 1964 to 1969 he was on the staff of Esalen. Gestalt therapy does not try to "uncover the past", but instead focusses upon what people are doing now, paying particular attention to non-verbal behaviour as well as verbal behaviour. Gestalt therapy emphasises:- the holistic principle - that human beings are unified organisms and always function as wholes; the principle of homeostasis, and balance of opposites; here-and-now awareness; reponsibility for self, and the existential choices that we make for ourselves. Gestalt techniques include:- the empty chair, dream work, experimentation, unfinished business, etc.

Perls' writings include: Ego, Hunger and Aggression, 1947; Gestalt Therapy Verbatim, 1969.


Jacob Moreno (1889-1974)

Moreno was an Austrian psychiatrist, who originated and developed Psychodrama. He was educated at the University of Vienna, where he studied philosophy and medicine. He settled in the United States in 1925. Interested in understanding make-believe play in children, he became convinced of the importance of spontaniety in the creative process of living. In the 20's he developed the "Theatre of Spontaniety" along with a group of actors, and is credited with such innovations as the self-help group, sociometry, group psychotherapy, and concepts such as here and now, encounter, etc. One important aspect of Psychodrama, is that it is a therapeutic technique that can both stand alone, as well as integrate with many other therapies.

Moreno's writings include: Who Shall Survive, 1934; Psychodrama, Vols. 1-3,1946-69.


R.D. Laing (1927-1989)

Ronald David Laing was a famous psychiatrist and Britain's foremost exponent of existential psychotherapy. A critic of the dogmas of psychiatry and psychoanalysis, there are many who would regard him as a prophet, a cult figure, or simply a flawed genius. Born in Glasgow, he studied medicine at Glasgow University. He was a severe critic of modern psychiatric practice and the medical intervention with mental illness. He proposed that psychiatric illness was largely the consequence of social conditions, such as family dynamics, pathological communication, intolerable social pressures, or failure to conform to the dominant model of social reality in force. He pioneered the running of therapeutic communities where patients could "go with" their illness experience, without the intervention of drugs, ECT, psychosurgery, etc. He was greatly influenced by Existential philosophy and Phenomenology. The great store he placed on subjective experience, and the special qualities of the "I -Thou" relationship in the therapeutic alliance, place him squarely within any Humanistic-Existential approach to psychology. Laing is perhaps most insightful when describing the therapeutic relationship. He saw psychotherapy as, " . . an obstinate attempt of two people to recover the wholeness of being human through the relationship between them." He felt that the idea of therapy springs from the hope that authentic meeting between human beings is still possible, and observed that therapy involves:- " . . a partaking of the sacrament of every present moment - that is the healing factor."

Laing's major writings include: The Divided Self, 1959; Self and Others, 1961; Sanity Madness and theFamily, 1973; The Politics of Experience, 1967; The Voice of Experience, 1983.


Viktor Frankl (1905-1997)

Frankl is an important existential psychotherapist, and founder of Logotherapy. Born in Vienna, he received his M.D. from the University of Vienna. He ran the Youth Advisement Centre, and later became a specialist in Neurology and Psychiatry. From 1942 to 1945 he was imprisoned in Auschwitz and Dachau. He survived (as only one in twenty-eight were able). His mother, father, brother and wife all perished in the camps. From these experiences in the Nazi concentration camps he reflected on how some people survived and some did not. He observed that suffering, particularly suffering imposed by one human being on another, seemed so utterly meaningless, and it was this meaninglessness that was so difficult to bear. Those who did survive created and held onto meaning in simple, often trivial ways. He, himself, found meaning in helping others rather than concentrating on his own survival, pain and distress. Frankl saw that each person's suffering is unique, and opportunity for growth lies in the way the person bears their suffering. Logotherapy is an attempt to implement that insight in a therapeutic context. Frankl had been strongly influenced by the existential philosophers, Heidegger and Jaspers, and began to develop a philosophy of his own. As the titles of his many popular books suggest, Logotherapy is concerned basically with meaning, the will to meaning, the unheard cry for meaning. Finding meaning for life is central to individual growth and wellbeing. The search for meaning in one's life is the primary motivational force. A human being is not determined, but rather determines themself. We are free, however harsh the circumstances, to give meaning to our lives. Ultimately, Logotherapy is a therapy that seeks to bring to awareness the unconscious spiritual factors of the human personality.

Frankl's major writings include: Man's Search for Meaning, 1963; Psychotherapy and Existentialism, 1967; The Will to Meaning, 1981; The Unheard Cry for Meaning: Psychotherapy and Humanism, 1987.


James Hillman (1926- )

James Hillman is an internationally renowned psychologist, Jungian analyst and scholar, who is foremost recognized as the originator of post-Jungian "archetypal psychology." Born in Atlantic City, New Jersey, he graduated from Trinity College, Dublin, and became a Jungian analyst in Zurich in the 1950s. He earned his Doctorate from the University of Zurich in 1959. and became the Director of Studies at the Jung Institute in Zurich. Hillman rejects the simple Jungian notion of "archetype". There are no archetypes as such, there are only phenomena, or images, that may be archetypal. In 1975, Hillman wrote Re-Visioning Psychology, which emphasized a psychology of soul through a long celebration of its historical champions (people like Marsilio Ficino, Giordano Bruno, and Giambattista Vico). He has especially looked to classical myths for a polytheistic way of reading the psyche that involves a way of living that is multiple-minded rather than single-minded, that is fragmented rather than holistic in perspective, and is archetypal rather than moralistic. The soul, according to Hillman, is the proper subject matter of psychology. The soul lies hidden behind our routines, dogmas and beliefs, and is more likely to emerge in those chaotic, pathological moments when we experience the disintegration of our beliefs, values and security. Psychopathology is our most valuable ally, and is the primary vehicle through which soulfulness is achieved. He agrees with Otto Rank that there is an intimate connection between psychopathology and creativity. Hillman regards the soul as the imaginative possibility of our human nature. The soul makes all meaning possible, and turns events into experiences. Furthermore, Hillman sees the goal of psychology as the deepening of meaning and experience per se. But he is concerned less with the psyche of humanity and more with the soul that is at the heart of world. Nevertheless, he is critical of contemporary humanistic psychology, particularly with respect to the notions of the unity and essential "health" of the self, and the focus on self-actualization and spirituality at the expense of the chaos, multiplicity and the disintegrative aspects of the soul and the world (1975). In 1978, he moved back to Dallas, in the United States, and later to Thompson, Connecticut, where he continues as the publisher and editor of Spring Publications. He has held teaching positions at Yale University, Syracuse University, the University of Chicago and the University of Dallas.

Hillman's major writings include: Re-Visioning Psychology, 1975; Healing Fiction, 1983; We’ve Had a Hundred Years of Psychotherapy and the World’s Getting Worse (with Michael Ventura), 1992; The Soul’s Code, 1996; The Force of Character, 1999.


Ram Dass (1931- )

Ram Dass is an American psychologist and spiritual teacher and an important figure on the periphery of the development of humanistic psychology. He is a renowned speaker, and is closely associated with the notion of service, compassionate action as a technique for spiritual growth, and the practical application of humanistic values and insights. Born as Richard Alpert, in 1931, he was the son of the founder of Brandeis University. He was educated at Tufts College and Weslyan University, and received his Ph.D. from Stanford University in 1957. From 1958 to 1963 he taught at the Department of Social Relations and the Graduate School of Education at Harvard University, and conducted research into human consciousness. In collaboration with Timothy Leary, Aldous Huxley and Allen Ginsberg he pioneered the research with LSD and other psychedelic elements, and because of the controversial nature of this research he was dismissed from Harvard in 1963. In 1967, he travelled to India where he met his spiritual teacher, Neem Karoli Baba, studied yoga and meditation, and received his name Ram Dass (Servant of God). In 1974, Ram Dass created the Hanuman Foundation which is responsible for many developments such as the Prison-Ashram Project and the Living Dying Project. He is co-founder and board member of the Seva Foundation (Seva is Sanscrit for "service"), an international organization dedicated to the relief of suffering in the world.

Dass's major writings include: Psychedelic Experience, 1964; The Only Dance There Is, 1970; Be Here Now, 1971; How Can I Help (with Paul Gorman), 1985; Grist for the Mill, 1988; Still Here, 2000.


Ken Wilber (1948- )

Wilber has emerged as a leading contemporary thinker and transpersonal theorist. He was educated at Duke University and the University of Nebraska, leaving the graduate program with an MA in biochemistry, and a disillusionment with positivist science. He quickly became absorbed in Eastern philosophy and religion, and is a practitioner of Zen meditation. He is a prolific writer, demonstrating a remarkable capacity to integrate and synthesize across disciplinary boundaries. His theories of consciousness and transpersonal experience encompass psychology, philosophy, Eastern and Western religions, mysticism, evolution, sociology, anthropology and postmodern thought. His key ideas and concepts include: the spectrum of consciousness, pre/trans fallacy, Levels: Personal/Centaur/Subtle/Causal. His most recent focus has been in the development of a possible fifth force in psychology: integral psychology.

Major writings by Wilber include: The Spectrum of Consciousness, 1977; The Atman Project, 1980; No Boundary, 1981; Up From Eden: A transpersonal view of human evolution, 1981; Eye to Eye: The quest for the new paradigm, 1983; A Brief History of Everything, 1996; The Marriage of Sense and Soul, 1998; Integral Psychology: Consciousness, spirit, psychology, therapy, 2000.


Stanislav Grof (1931- )

A Czech psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, who was a pioneer in the field of LSD research (began in the 50's), transpersonal psychology and transpersonal therapy. He was chief of psychiatric research at Maryland Psychiatric Center, and assistant professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. He was founder and former president of the International Transpersonal Association. Some of his important concepts include: non-ordinary states of consciousness, BPMs - Basic Perinatal Matrices, holotropic breathing, spiritual emergence, spiritual emergencies.

Major writings by Grof include: Beyond the Brain: Birth, death and transcendence in psychotherapy, 1985; The Adventure of Self-Discovery, 1988; The Holotropic Mind, 1990; The Stormy Search for the Self, 1990.


George Kelly (1905-1966)

Kelly was an American clinical psychologist, and founder of Personal Construct Theory (PCT). PCT incorporates both a theory of personality and an approach to therapy. Kelly was born in Perth, Kansas, and was educated at the University of Kansas and State University of Iowa. Kelly defined a personal construct as the way in which an individual construes, interprets or gives meaning to some aspect of the world. Constructs are bipolar, and they develop by being validated and invalidated by experience, a point that can be exploited in therapy. Kelly's theory has a cognitive orientation, but is humanistic by virtue of its ability to describe an individual's personality ideographically, i.e. by using their own set of constructs, and not by some set of normative types or traits. Some of the key concepts of PCT include:- personal constructs, repertory grid, fixed-role therapy, laddering, etc.

Kelly's major work: The Psychology of Personal Constructs, Vol. 1 & 2, 1955.



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