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A Healthy Personality Freud trained as a physician with a strong background in biomedical research.

A Healthy Personality

Freud trained as a physician with a strong background in biomedical research. He naturally brought his keen sense of observation, a characteristic of any good scientist, into his psychiatric practice. As he worked with his patients, he developed a distinctly medical model: identify a problem, identify the cause of the problem, and treat the patient accordingly. This approach can work quite well, and it has worked wonderfully for medical science, but it has two main weaknesses when applied to the study of personality. First, it fails to address the complexity and uniqueness of individuals, and second, it does not readily lend itself to describing how one chooses to develop a healthy personality.

 

Class, what is your definition of a healthy personality?

 

Nomothetic or Idiographic

There are several challenges that we face in our approach to defining and understanding personality.  Traditionally, there have been two basic approaches to the study of personality: the nomothetic perspective and the idiographic perspective. The nomothetic perspective seeks to identify general rules that pertain to personality as a construct (a working hypothesis or concept used to identify something we can describe but not see, such as IQ or the self). Thus, it can be rather abstract, and often fails to appreciate the uniqueness of individuals. In contrast, the idiographic perspective focuses specifically on the individuality and uniqueness of each person. Although the idiographic approach often seems more appealing to students, especially since it enhances their self-esteem by considering them as individually important, it is difficult for any theory of personality to encompass research that treats only one person at a time. Such a theory would naturally suffer from problems of generalizability, and may be useful for therapists working with one patient or client at a time, but it will not be particularly useful for enhancing our overall understanding of personality in general.

 

Class, what is your approach to defining personality?

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