Introduction to Personality
Introduction to Personality
This paper is devoted to the discussion of Veronica’s and Edward’s personalities from Paulo Coelho narrative Veronica Decides to Die. The personalities of the main characters were discussed form the psychoanalytic, behaviorist, and humanistic perspectives. The main concepts of three approaches to psychological research were discussed with regard to the practical implementation to the main characters’ personalities. A particular attention was paid to the analysis of the main concepts of each theory applicable to a certain occurrence. This paper is focused on the personality development. The aspects influencing the development of the personality were examined with regard to a particular approach analyzed.
1. Main Concepts of Psychoanalytic Approach
Psychoanalytic approach is centered over studying consciousness and unconsciousness processes rather than human behavior. The approach emphasizes on the childhood events shaping adulthood. Particular attention is paid to the conflict between consciousness, unconsciousness processes and mental disorders. This is the main difference from behaviorist approach. Psychoanalytic approach had contributed into psychological research but is rejected today because of being considered theoretically unscientific.
This approach is addressed to the studies of the most common terms and their interaction: repression, sexuality, self, the Oedipus complex, dream interpretation (condensation, displacement, regressive transformation, secondary revision) the unconscious, disorders, transference, superego, and cultural formation.
1.1 Analysis of Veronica’s Personality Using Psychoanalytic Approach
According to psychoanalytic approach the mind has three areas, namely: the preconscious, the unconscious, and the memory. The preconscious contains the information about repressions and cultural norms which are also available to the conscious part of self. The preconscious can substitute attainable rewards for unattainable ones (Schlegel, Hicks, King and Arndt, 2011). After Veronica found herself in the hospital, she felt discomfort because of unsuccessful suicide. Her memory preserved the reminiscences of war horrors and hatred. Thus, she needed to remove this discomfort of prohibitions and repressions by doing something pleasant. She played piano, something she liked to do most of all, to forget about unpleasant moment in her life to feel alive again.
As well as Edward, Veronica was fixated in her childhood and experienced repression from her parents’ part. She tried to be obedient not to upset them. The inability to make her own decisions was the reason of her inner depression she did not realize. She was happy to make decisions of her own, even if it was a decision to die, when she became adult. Oedipus complex is less evident in her case than in Edward’s: she knew that the next step in her life will be creating a family and having children (like many other people, including her parents, do), but felt inner conflict because she did not want to live routine life (Brinkmann, 2009).
Veronica revolted against repression she felt being obedient daughter all her life. After she got to know that she had done much organic damage to her organism by her suicide trial, Veronica decided to relieve a stress by pleasing her before Edward until she felt free from inhibition (Coelho, 2006). She has done what she wanted for the second time, after her first decision made of her own (committing a suicide).
1.2 Analysis of Edward’s Personality Using Psychodynamic Approach
Edward’s situation can be described using psychoanalytical approach concepts of self, the Oedipus complex and disorders. The self of Edward was repressed by his parents, mainly father, as father was often mentioned as the person who expressed the family will. The image of father as the symbol of family power imputed respect in sensitive boy unconsciousness. Obviously, Edward was fixated in Oedipal phase. He did not object his father’s will that was the reason why his ego came into the sway of unconsciousness resulting in schizophrenia. This is also an example of how Oedipus complex was fixated: Edward consciously submitted his father while his unconsciousness protested giving the way to psychosis.
On the contrary to Veronica’s reaction, Edward removed his discomfort by finding his “cave” hiding his true emotions and feelings in his unconsciousness. Externally he agreed with his parents but internally he reserved the right for his own inner world by hiding his true self in the unconsciousness. The way of life he led did not give him the opportunity to express himself. Being a son of the diplomat in the foreign country, he had to obey certain cultural norms and felt constantly repressed because he “did not fit” the environment he was to live by force of circumstances (Coelho, p.8). Painting was the only available delight for him. When he paint he felt free from repressions set by the environment. Painting was his way to avoid discomfort before he was given a difficult choice. After realizing that there was no another way to avoid discomfort, he withdrew inside. This is an example of how transference failed because Edward did not succeed to control the situation. The analysis of events was ineffectual and Edward found himself at a deadlock. Usually, transference helps construct a new reality and analyze disturbances one suffered (Schnell, 2010).
2. Main Concepts of Behaviorist Approach
Behaviorist psychological approach is based on observation and analysis of human behavior separately from mental processes and events. There are several main conceptual terms of behaviorist approach to analysis of human psyche are: discriminative stimulus, operant response, and reinforcement (positive and negative). Also, additional terms are used for the description of certain situations, among them operant conditioning, shaping, reinforce (primary, positive, negative, conditioned), punishment (positive, negative), punisher (positive, negative), schedules of reinforcement, and extinction. Behaviorist approach sometimes includes observing response, positive patterning, Skinner, box, discrete trial, relative validity, overshadowing, response-dependent and response-independent reinforcement, temporal contiguity, blocking, and yoked control as well (Schnell, 2010).
2.1 Analysis of Veronica’s Personality Using Behaviorist Approach
Veronica’s parents’ distress is a negative reinforcer because it predicted further Veronica’s upsetting behavior towards her parents. This behavior forced by her parents’ reaction made her “passive by nature” (Coelho, p.6). She transferred the responsibility for her own life to her parents that resulted in loosing sense of life.
The analysis of Veronica’s decision of committing a suicide can be carried out with the help of the same approach. The discriminative stimuli were her perceived satiety of life (she considered she had everything in her life and there is nothing to fight for) and “the wrong world” (injustice, wars, etc.) (Coelho, p. 6). Suffering from routine, Veronica was also concerned about her own insignificance as well as insignificance of her native country in the world. Thus, routine life and her insignificance were the discriminative stimuli. The reinforcement was to commit a suicide.
2.2 Analysis of Edward’s Personality Using Behaviorist Approach
In the case with Edward there was a discriminative stimulus in the form of his parents’ influence as well. Edward’s withdrawal inside was a result of his sensitivity and misunderstanding between him and his parents. He was sensitive idealist but boyish behavior did not allow any sensitiveness. This is the reason why he recreated his ideal world mentally. The misunderstanding arose from different perception of life style Edward should lead. A discriminative stimulus was parents’ way of life. His withdrawal inside was an operant response to their pressure on him. The reinforcement was parents’ strengthened desire to rule his life (Schlegel, Hicks, King and Arndt, 2011).
They experienced failure to understand each other because Edward wanted to paint, but his parents wanted him to become a diplomat. They presented an ultimatum asking him to give up painting and proceed with his studies. His organism responded with schizophrenia on his parents’ requirement. In accordance with behaviorist approach the reaction of Edward’s organism can be described as an operant response. Schizophrenia resulted from Edward’s withdrawal inside illustrating the reinforcement in this example. Edward’s parents’ shaping failed since they did not succeed to modify his behavior. Also, his parents used a negative punishment in case if he chooses to proceed with painting instead of fulfilling their wish to make a carrier of a diplomat.
Like in the case with Veronica, Edward’s parents’ behavior was a negative reinforcer. He was afraid of not fulfilling their expectations inhibiting his own will. The operant response can be modified by its consequences. Thus, knowing that he will not be appreciated by his parents, Edward experienced withdrawal inside. It is quite possible that Edward will experience recurrent schizophrenia every time he encounters his parents’ disapproval (free operant) (Schnell, 2010).
3. Main Concepts of Humanistic Approach
Humanistic theory is referred to the person-centered theory. It is also referred as positivist theory as many of the theorists who contributed to this theory believe in human positive potential. Unlike to behaviorists who studied human behavior together with animals’ behavior, humanists study human behavior separately. The study is concentrated on awareness, experience, and free will that are the main differences from the behaviorist approach.
Humanistic approach to psychology consists of the following core concepts: awareness (phenomenology, construals, introspection); experience (umwelt, mitwelt, eigenwelt); organismic valuing process; angst; authentic existence; flow; hedonia; eudemonia; actualization, need for positive regard; self-actualization, conditions of worth (Ewen, 1997).
3.1 Analysis of Veronica’s Personality Using Humanistic Approach
The most important concepts of humanist approach are phenomenology and construals. Proponents of phenomenology emphasized the importance of immediate thoughts and feelings. Also, they assume that humans may choose what they feel, do, and think. Thus, they assume that people can manage their awareness (Funder, 2010). As such, Veronica chose to feel unhappy and be influenced by the will of her parents. On the contrary, she could choose to feel free and happy if she wanted to. Humanists assume that a person perceives the world through a prism of his or her own construals. As Veronica experienced war and hatred in her past (had negative experience), she decided that the other world was full of hatred and misfortunes. Her past experience made an impact on her present forcing her to make a decision to commit a suicide.
Theorists of humanistic theory stated that everybody needs positive appraisal of our deeds, harmony in relationships, support and warmth especially concerning significant others or people who play an important role in humans’ lives. It was essential both for Veronica and Edward not to hurt their parents, who were significant others for them (Ewen, 1997).
Authentic existence approach of humanistic psychology suggests being honest, morally correct, and insightful for one who follows it. In accordance with Funder (2010), the core view of authentic existence is as follows: “Sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself is to do something for somebody else” (p. 481).
Veronica tried to bring Edward back to life by pleasing herself before him. She was honest when doing this because she wanted to make him feel emotionally alive and aware. She was insightful because intuitively she understood that he needed a kind of emotional stress to become aware. Veronica’s morality could be questioned but the judgment depends on the point of view of the person who is making a judgment. On the one hand, her behavior cannot be called moral. On the other hand, the end aim of her behavior was noble.
3.2 Analysis of Edward’s Personality Using Humanistic Approach
Among growth-oriented aspects of actualization there is creativity and the willingness to undergo painful experiences. The affect of all aspects can be traced in the Edward’s experience influencing the development of Edward’s personality. Edward expressed his individuality in painting aiming to become more independent and effective. Interestingly, his painful experience served for the same purpose: if he did not experience schizophrenia in the past he would possibly never be able to evaluate freedom of thoughts and deeds.
In accordance with Ewen (1997) the conflict between actualization and self-actualization is often developed because self-actualization requires positive regard from significant others. Positive regard can be conditional (more often) or unconditional. Edwards’ parents expressed conditional positive regard only when their son’s self-concept met their approval. This presented a painful choice for Edward: to accept his inner experience putting himself at risk of becoming unloved or distort his experience to please his parents.
Positive self-regard depends on organismic valuing process or inner guide of individual behavior. Conditions of worth (in this case unconditional positive regard) replace this inner guide letting the person to make an appropriate choice. Perhaps, if Edward’s parents did not force him to make a difficult choice, i.e. use unconditional positive regard, he would probably did not find himself in the hospital suffering from schizophrenia (Ewen, 1997).
Proponents of constructive relativism support the idea of interaction between constructs and reality. They assume that humans can construct the reality of their own life in their minds. Also, they emphasized the opportunity to reconstruct the reality. Thus, Edward perceived their parents will as something that he cannot influence and change. He was depended on people who were significant others to him (his parents) as well as Veronica and the majority of other people. Possibly, if he defended his life principles and freedoms he would succeed in constructing his own reality that was satisfactory for him. He chose to hide in his “cave” instead that resulted in schizophrenia (Funder, 2010).
Psychoanalytical and behaviorist approaches emerged earlier than humanistic approach. Psychoanalytical approach emphasized the research of the conscious and the unconscious. Behaviorist approach rejected conscious mental experience. Thus, humanistic approach is the most advanced way of today psychological research methods because it is centralized over the concept of awareness stating that humans can mentally construct the reality they want.
Examination of the implications of the theories showed that only humanistic approach gives the possibility to adequately analyze the situation and make appropriate conclusions. Psychoanalytical method explains the events but fails to predict the majority of them. Behaviorists’ methods are oversimplified because they attempted to explain complex events with the help of two simple principles (classical and operant).
The main idea of humanistic and positive approach in psychology is that humans may have their own construals and construct their reality in accordance with their wish. Also, people can build up their reality on the principles of positive psychology, namely: love, free will and wisdom. Accordingly to Funder (2010), “you have the ability, the right, and perhaps the duty to choose your own” (p. 493).
Coelho, P. (2006). Veronica decides to die. New York: Harper Perennial.
Ewen R.B. (1997). Personality: a topical approach. Theories, research, major controversies, and emerging findings Roger’s theory. Philadelphia, USA: Psychology Press.
Funder D.C. (2010). The personality puzzle. (5th ed.). New York: W. W. Norton & Company
Schlegel, R.J., Hicks, J.A., King, L.A. and Arndt, J. (2011). Feeling like you know who you are: perceived true self-knowledge and meaning in life. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 3(5). 218-151. doi: 10.1177/0146167211400424. 1-13.
Schnell, T. (2010). Existential indifference: another quality of meaning in life.
Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 50(3), 113-144. doi: 10.1177/0022167809360259 351–