Toward Understanding Human Personalities

Toward Understanding Human Personalities

Toward Understanding Human Personalities

Toward Understanding Human Personalities

Excerpt

In our work on this book, what we have sought to do is to serve two purposes that may not seem to belong within the same volume. On the one hand, we have tried to write a book that would be understandable and valuable to persons who are not professional psychologists and who may have had little or even no previous technical background in psychology. On the other hand, we have sought also to offer a serious discussion of the basic concepts of personality and even to make, if possible, some significant contributions to them.

There are good reasons for trying to write so simply and clearly that the ordinary intelligent adult, even with no previous formal training in psychology, can understand the book if he is willing to invest some real effort. Day in and day out, the ordinary person--whether as a student or in the years beyond the period of college or university work--has to deal with significant problems of personality. He has to deal with them in very responsible ways. Such problems cannot be solved for him by experts. In the guidance of his own life, in dealings with friends, in his work, in relationships with his wife and children, and in his attempts to understand the broader social problems of his day, the average person has to try to understand and deal with many problems that are essentially matters of personality. A book such as this does not deal with questions that are interesting merely as challenging theoretical questions. It deals with problems and processes that are the heart of actual human life and that primarily decide whether that life goes well or ill. So it seems to us highly appropriate that this book should seek to throw as much light as possible on the significant practical problems of everyday human life.

This first objective may seem inconsistent with our hope that the book may make some significant theoretical contributions. But we think not. Human life is exceedingly complex and is manifested in an infinite series of concrete forms. It hardly seems, therefore, that there would be any great use in a book on personality phrased in terms of a multitude of little rules-of-thumb about how to handle human problems. Or perhaps we should say that although there probably are some values served by that other sort of book, it is not the sort of book we intended to write. Our conviction is that for a great many practical purposes, the concepts that a student or other person needs to master and carry with him are highly generalized or basic concepts--ones that have exceedingly wide . . .

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