Each living human being has a personal experience which, together with actions, beliefs, and desires, is passed on to the next generations. Many psychologists in different times tried to describe the formation and development of an individual personality in the most detailed way, but each of them looked at it from a certain angle. Studying and comparing different concepts, a modern psychologist constructs the most complete picture. This case study explores the story of the woman named Mary, who was unhappy with the choices she had made on her own. It would be a mistake to claim that the woman’s actions and decisions are not dictated by the mental images that have been embedded in her picture of the world since childhood. This essay is aimed at discussing two psychological theories, by Jung and Maslow, through the prism of Mary’s case.
At first glance, it may seem that the woman’s life is quite comfortable. She has a husband with whom she has been living for fourteen years, three children and a stable job. That is to say, Mary has the classic life of an average person. Having devoted all the time to family and work, Mary gave up her friends because she probably could not dedicate herself to them. Her acquaintances and colleagues may think that the woman has no problems at all because she lives in a world of her own. However, it takes compassion to understand how unhappy her life is. She worries about the missed opportunities of the past and does not know how to fulfil her potential. In other words, her behavior resembles an unrealized personality syndrome.
When children grow up, they tend to be full of optimism. There is a hope in their minds that life will be happy, rich and diverse. Not the least role in the creation of such pictures play films and books that tell fascinating and saturated stories. Nevertheless, time passes and children change: while some continue to follow their path, becoming stronger and more confident, others encounter difficulties and barriers that have a devastating effect. Through trial and error, people follow their life paths to achieve their goals. If the aims are not achieved, most people will be disappointed and will not try again. Unrealized individuals regret the missed opportunities, remember the turning points in life, constantly repeating their losing monologues in the head. Such continuous thoughts eventually lead to depression, alcohol or drugs.
It is worth pointing out that this is a quite common problem for adults experiencing a midlife crisis. At this point, a person is feeling a psychological decline, at which it is impossible to further function of the personality within the framework of the previous behavior model. Interestingly, this concept was developed back in the 20th century by the Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung (Kelland, 2017). His theory of personality formation is based on principles acquired from birth. The analytical perception of Jung demonstrates that an individual’s personality is built under the influence of ideas and archetypes passed down through generations. In the psychologist’s opinion, the meaning of life is to supplement innate concepts with personal and developed archetypes. Moreover, the stages of human life are saturated with tasks, which should be solved in order for a human being to develop successfully.
This idea applies to Mary: most likely, being a little girl she was taught that the work of an artist is not justified and will not bring income. She might have been told that a serious and successful person would never work as a painter. While the archetype of Persona turns out to be dominant for the woman’s personality, the essential core, the Shadow, is barely manifested (Kelland, 2017). To a certain extent, it can be said that for Mary’s personality, the defining factor was the collective unconscious, which inspired her character to be a “model housewife”: cooking dinner, seeing her children off to school, and paying no attention to herself.
Other researchers also looked at the concept of personality formation. In the mid-1960s of the 20th century, a group of scientists led by American psychologist Abraham Maslow decided to build their theory of personal development (McLeod, 2020). The fundamental thesis underlying the humanist theory is that it is necessary to study each person as a single, unique, organized whole, rather than individual manifestations of behavior. Moreover, the psychologist assumed that the human being is perfect in nature, but each individual has to move in the direction of growth, and motivation is the stimulus for development. From this point of view, the ascent of the individual, according to Maslow, manifests itself in a gradual transition from primitive physiological needs to high spiritual ones.
Definitely, Mary has the means to meet her basic needs. She has a family and a job where she earns the money. Nevertheless, the level of the woman’s social needs is incomplete. Mary has no friends; hence, she may catastrophically lack communication. Hostage to early marriage stereotypes, she has been married since her youth and probably unhappily. In other words, all the ensuing problems with lack of self-fulfillment and the impossibility of meeting her repressed desires are linked to the fact that Mary cannot satisfy the need for social ties. As soon as she can complete this level, the woman’s personality will be mostly renewed.
In summary, it must be clarified that Mary is unhappy because she has not been able to fulfill herself. Perhaps as a child, she had high hopes that made her think the world would be loyal to her, but the first barriers showed the opposite. According to Jung, little Mary could absorb archetypes and the psychological images of the hostess, probably passed on to her from mother. An adult Mary had a clear view of the world: a woman should be married, allowing a man to control herself and her desires. In addition, she must have children, otherwise it will not be “normal”. For this reason, her life was not in her hands, but under the power of archetypes. According to Maslow, the woman could not meet the third level of her own needs (McLeod, 2020). Perhaps her husband forbade her to have close contact with friends, or it was her own decision. Either way, until she can realize the need for social ties, Mary will not achieve self-actualization.
The woman’s desire to run away and try to do something risky reflects the severity of the psychological state in which she finds herself. Nevertheless, it is worth understanding that even if she starts a new life, Mary will hardly be able to overcome her nature. To begin with, she must reconsider her life and finally take responsibility. Actions and decisions are not dictated by her parents or the experience of generations but are implemented by the desire of the woman. She should also make social contacts that will bring other views and experiences. Conclusively, she should decide what she wants: if Mary has dreamt of becoming an artist since she was a child, it is time to take a brush and start creating.
Kelland, M. (2017). Personality theory. OER Commons. Web.
McLeod, S. (2020). Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. SimplyPsychology. Web.