In detail

Degrees of maturation and personal growth in humanistic psychology

Degrees of maturation and personal growth in humanistic psychology

To understand the concept of health and disease within the humanistic approach, it is important to understand the psychological conception that they have of the human being, which has as principles of autonomy and self-realization in man, the search for meaning in existence and the global conception of the human being.


  • 1 The principles of humanism
  • 2 Mature vs. immature personality
  • 3 Difficulties to achieve the maturation process

The principles of humanism

The principles of the humanist perspective are conceived as follows:

  • Autonomy and social interdependence: autonomy here means the ability to direct one's own development, making decisions and accepting responsibilities. It is argued that individual autonomy and social responsibility are not conflicting principles but complementary, so that only an individual who is autonomous can be accountable to the community.
  • Self realisation: it is conceived as an inherent tendency to the organism that drives it towards growth and differentiation. The development of this tendency depends largely on the previous satisfaction of the basic needs of the organism.
  • Search for meaning: Here the emphasis lies on the intentional nature of human action. He maintains that man not only moves by material motivations, but also for axiological principles, such as freedom, justice and dignity, which mean the attempt to transcend his own existence.
  • Global conception of the human being: the human being is considered as a Gestalt, an integral set in which feeling, thought and action form an organic whole.

We must bear in mind that this model accepts that the individual does not react to reality, but to the perception he has; This subjective experience cannot be known by another person, it can only be inferred empathically or understood through the narration of the same subject. The inner world of the person is a field in which all the elements interact, and in which it is difficult, if not impossible, to identify a concrete causality.

In fact, the fundamental belief for this model is that the individual is subject to a growth process called maturation, which consists in moving from the support of the environment to self-support, since the human being seems to direct his life towards a growing process of autonomy and independence. This maturation process will take place properly if the individual is able to discriminate what their needs are and their limits when it comes to achieving them.

Mature vs. immature personality

Characteristics of mature or functional personality

People who work well, guided by their needs, usually have a very rich set of well-accepted and assimilated experiences. They feel their emotions without distorting, and can activate their energy and move in the right direction. They have a great discriminative ability to identify satisfactory experiences and reject inconveniences or separate. They have a whole arsenal of possibilities and alternatives that give them flexibility to adapt to different vital conditions, which guarantees balance and well-being.

Immature or dysfunctional personality characteristics

The dysfunctional individuals, instead, they may have few experiences or many but poorly accepted or assimilated, or be stuck to unfinished situations. They distort their emotions, and that makes it difficult for them to mobilize and use their resources correctly. All this prevents them from living in the here and now the experience, and being able to enrich themselves with this experience and mature.

Other difficulties they might encounter would be the following: they do not feel their sensations; they feel them but they block themselves in identifying them, which makes them transformed into menacing and therefore repress them; they realize what they need, but they don't develop enough momentum to execute what they know is right for them; they have energy, but they cannot get on track to get what they want; present difficulties in discriminating experiences; they cannot replenish after reaching a goal, and thus they are in continuous movement, without being able to properly assimilate their experience. All this would generate dissatisfaction and suffering, which would be manifested by different symptoms.

The neurosis would be related to unmet needs or the satisfaction of those that was interrupted prematurely.

In humanistic models to explain why the individual behaves in a dysfunctional way, he does not appeal to the past, to personal history, but to the mechanisms of the present that act to maintain dysfunction. So, the individual that works well is in the "here and now", even if you consider the past and plan your future; live, think and act in the present. Cross entirely in what you do, you commit to the experience, if you feel it is enriching. Instead, the dysfunctional individual tends to block contact, to restrict himself, to limit himself. He often does not know what he feels, has difficulty expressing his emotions properly and uses them improperly in the activation process.

A healthy person, therefore, is the one who throughout life is enriched with experiences, matures, and thus gains freedom, flexibility and ability to relate to himself and others.

Psychopathological disorders are defenses, denials, stagnations, renunciations or loss of freedom of the person, which in this way cannot follow the process of maturation and vital growth.

Difficulties to achieve the maturation process

According to Rogers, there are two types of pathological behaviors that hinder the maturation process:

Neurotic defensive behavior

It happens when the subject feels as a threat the experiences that are incompatible with the image he has of himself. A rigid structure is then constructed, the objective is to defend the system. To do this, it uses repressive mechanisms, that is, those that cancel part of the experience. When they fail, tension and anguish are generated.


La Rosa is a forty-three-year-old woman with low self-esteem. At school, although he studied hard, his teacher always gave him a five and told him he was very dumb. He married young and while his marriage lasted he devoted himself to housework. When he decided to separate, he removed the FP-1 and the FP-2 from the administrative branch, presented himself to oppositions and took them out. Now he has decided to study a career. She is nervous and does not trust her to be at the level of her classmates. Every time she receives a good grade in some jobs, she attributes it to luck, to the fact that the teacher is very undemanding, that her classmates have not worked much ... It is never because she has enough intelligence to do it well. This would be incompatible with the image of herself as "dumb."

Regressive and disorganized behavior

They occur when the inconsistency between self image and experience is too great and defensive mechanisms are unable to sustain the organization. Under these conditions the structure can collapse, and this produces crises and sudden changes, and results in the erratic and contradictory behavior characteristic of psychosis.


Maria is sixty-four years old and has just retired. She was the owner of a textile factory. His life was the factory. Her husband also worked in the family business but his role was commercial, which made him compatible with the attention of their children. In fact, Maria barely had contact with them. Since she has retired, she says that her husband hides her family jewelry, breaks the baseboards of the bathroom and opens the windows of the room while she sleeps to cool down. He denies everything.

Perhaps Maria feels that she has no role in life and that her structure erodes.

People with neurotic functioning respond to an experience that does not confirm the image of themselves with tension and anguish, since its structure has difficulties in carrying out the changes that this new concept of oneself entails.

People with psychotic functioning do so with erratic and contradictory behavior., since its structure collapses because it cannot assimilate this new internal or external reality.

Humanistic psychologists describe the mechanisms of resistance or avoidance of contact that we usually use to defend ourselves from non-confirmatory experiences of the image of ourselves. These mechanisms are useful and "normal", but they become pathological if they are used in a rigid manner and outside the context in which they are acceptable. These would be:


It is understood as the internalization of an external event in a more or less indiscriminate way.


The pathological introjector conforms to "swallow" the whole things, without "trying them" or "chewing" them, without differentiating between what is unnecessary and what is really needed.

If the introjector is told by someone that he is dumb, they believe it without considering what has happened, what they have done and whether their behavior has been adequate or not, and what are the explicit and implicit reasons of the other to say that. For him, it is easier to assume what others say, however painful it may be, than to face and enter into conflict, since he does not trust his possibilities and / or does not believe his reasons firmly.


It is the opposite of introjection; In this case, the self invades the external world. The "healthy" projection allows the understanding of the other, put in place, while the pathological is characterized by functioning in a usual and stereotyped manner. The pathological projector cannot accept his own inappropriate acts or feelings so that they do not match his own idea of ​​himself, "should not have. Therefore, he does not recognize his problems and his responsibilities and attributes them to others. He is not able to recognize the rejected aspects of himself, but he is very skilled at recognizing them in others.


Luis asks Ana where she is going and with whom. It makes life impossible. He is jealous because he thinks he flirts with the boys. When he is in therapy, he acknowledges that he likes to seduce a lot and that he usually does it at work with all the partners.


Who uses this mechanism? he turns to himself what he wants to do to the other, or he does to himself what he wants another to do to him. "Healthy" retroflexion is necessary, aggressive impulses and sexual desires cannot be expressed in a "wild" manner. This mechanism can be used to rectify and correct. But the usual retroflector abandons any attempt to influence the environment, and becomes an isolated and self-sufficient unit, which imposes severe restrictions on the exchange between the environment and him. When it is chronified as a mechanism, it gives rise to masochistic attitudes, somatizations or narcissistic satisfactions.


La Rosa is a twenty-year-old girl who suffers from anorexia nervosa. She is hospitalized Every time his family announces that he cannot come to visit her, he starts knocking against the wall.


Is a maneuver that tends to avoid direct contact with another person. It is an attitude of avoidance, manipulation, of going around. The deflector jokes about serious things, avoids looking at the interlocutor in the eyes and deviates from the subject when he speaks. He prefers "weak" emotions to "strong" emotions. Deflection can be an effective strategy if the individual does not want to get involved, but chronic use prevents true contact. It is characteristic of the baffle feeling bored, empty indifferent and out of place.


Núria comes to therapy for anxiety problems. He has a hard time delving into things and maintains a fun and superficial tone. At a given time, the therapist points out that her anxiety could protect her from depressive feelings. Nuria replies: "That I will get depressed. How boring, right?"


It is a situation of no contact, no confrontation. It is a style of relationship in which the individual tries not to have friction, runs away from conflicts in the hope of avoiding the aggression of others, or obtaining "rewards" for his "good behavior". The person who uses it does not do the things he likes, but adjusts to what he thinks others demand. Only the thoughts, feelings or behaviors he assumes others expect are allowed. It may be appropriate in certain circumstances, if the person has other goals and prefers not to have problems that distract him. But if it becomes a habitual way of being, it limits your life a lot and is usually a source of dissatisfaction and resentment, especially if you don't get the "prizes" you expected.


Teresa has serious problems of insecurity that, according to her, compensates thinking that it is what the others want that it does and doing it. But this returns a sad image of herself that she can no longer.

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