As an Existential-Humanistic therapist, I want to help my clients peel back defenses which keep them from knowing the core of who they are.
Humanistic psychology postulates that human beings, at their core, are worthy people with altruistic values who want to contribute to the world. Abraham Maslow, a pioneer, theoretician, and developer of humanistic psychology believes that as human beings self-actualize, they live more of their being values (beauty, justice, truth, etc.). These being values are the values which meet the growth needs of the human being when their other basic needs (physical, security, love, belongingness, and self-esteem) are for the most part met. Maslow asserts that the being values are biologically based and part of the human essence, regardless of one’s culture. As we become more of who we are at a deeper level of authenticity, we find we are not dominated by aggressive and competitive instincts. As human beings, we naturally move towards health and wholeness.
Karen Horney, a Neo-Freudian ego-psychologist, postulates that in our culture we have an idealized self and despised self. The expression of the idealized self is the desire to be perfect, to be a super man or a super woman, and to meet every goal one has in life . . . and to continue doing that in order to feel okay about one’s self. The experience of inadequacy is the result of this. The expression of the despised self is the blaming and loathing of oneself for never being able to realize the idealized self. The experience of shame is the result of this. Too often we go on a roller coaster between the idealized self and the despised self, which are distortions of the authentic self. The authentic self is the discovery of who I am and who I want to be in the present moment. It is letting my identity form and be modified from what I’ve discovered. The authentic self does not live up to the idealized self or live down to the despised self. By connecting with my authentic self, I discover the truth of who I am. From the Humanistic perspective, the discovery of the truth of who I am leads to more fully living one’s being values. This increases love, courage, and creativity and reduces fear, hostility, and guilt.
When I support my clients to peel back their defenses, they access their authentic selves. Their spontaneous, creative, intuitive self emerges. From this place, their life becomes very rewarding, as they are no longer trying to be someone who they are not. Who they authentically are is more than enough.