Humanistic psychology concentrates on the ways that studying humans differs from studying objects or
animals, including such issues as experience, awareness, and free will.
Phenomenology: Awareness is Everything
The phenomenological perspective implies that the present moment of experience is all that matters,
which means that individuals have free will and that the only way to understand another person is to
understand that person’s construal, or experience of the world.
Existentialism focuses on conscious experience (phenomenology), free will, the meaning of life, and
other basic questions for existence. Being alive has three components:
1) Umwelt (biological experience): All the sensations one feels by virtue of being a biological
organism. Eg. Pleasure, pain, heat, cold
2) Mitwelt (social experience): What one feels and thinks as a social being. Eg. admiration,
emotions, thoughts, love
3) Eigenwelt (psychological experience): How one feels and thinks while trying to understand
oneself, one’s one mind, and one’s own existence. Eg. introspection
Life experience is also based on one’s thrownness: the era, the location, and situation into which one
happens to be born.
Existential anxiety, or angst, is caused by contemplating concerns about the meaning of life and whether
one is spending it the right way. It is analysed into three separate sensations:
1) Anguish (because although choices are inevitable, they are never perfect)
2) Forlorn (because we are alone in deciding what to do with our lives)
3) Despair (at our inability to change crucial aspects of the world)
Existential philosophers such as Sartre concluded that we should face our morality and the meaning of
life, and seek a purpose for our own existence despite all the anxiety. This requires optimistic toughness.
A failure to face life’s lack of inherent meaning constitutes living in bad faith:
1) Wasting life. As long as you are aliveandaware mud, and not just regular mud, you must
experience as much of the world as possible, as vividly as possible.
2) Avoiding existential issues by surrounding yourself with material comforts will not make you
happy; living a meaningful life is far more valuable.
3) There is no exit from the existential dilemma, even if you can fool yourself into thinking that
Authentic existence requires courageously coming to terms with existence; ie, becoming superman. It
will not make us happy; every person is alone and doomed (the human is the only animal that understands
that it must die). However, it is the only way to gain human dignity. Perhaps, instead of asking “What do I
want from life” we should ask “What does life want from me”, and do something for other people. The Eastern alternative (Buddhist view) implies that instead of being forever alone and powerless, you
are an integral and interconnected part of the universe and it is part of you, just as the present moment is
made of equal parts past and future. Moreover, you are immortal in the sense that you are part of
something larger than yourself that will last forever.
• Anatta, or the “nonself”: Idea that the independent, singular self you sense inside your head is
merely an illusion
• Anicca: Nothing lasts forever and it is best to accept this fact instead of fighting it
• Nirvana: A serene, selfless state that is achieved when one is enlightened by caring for others
the same as for yourself.
Optimistic Humanism: Rogers and Maslow
Modern humanist psychologists added to this existential analysis the assumption that people are basically
good and inherently motivated to selfactualize.
Rogers and Maslow asserted that someone who perceives the world accurately and without neurotic
distortion is a fully functioning person, who is free from existential anxiety and lives a life rich in
emotion and selfdiscovery, is happy, reflective, spontaneous, ethical, adaptable, confident, trusting, etc.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (left): As an individual’s needs lower in