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Study of humans is incomplete without understanding personality. Derived from the Latin word persona, personality translates to mask. (Aiken, 1968) defined personality as consisting of “the distinctive patterns of behaviour (including thoughts and emotions) that characterize each individual’s adaptation to the situations of his or her life”. So, personality indicates the patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving of a human being.

             The history of personality psychology dates to Ancient Greece. Renowned philosophers like Hippocrates, Plato, Aristotle had tried to explain personality since the 4th Century BCE. However, in the first phase of psychology, psychologists gave little attention to studying personality. Wilhelm Wundt was the pioneer in founding the very first laboratory at Leipzig University, Germany to make psychology a scientific field. Wundt and other psychologists used experimental methods to study the mental functions of humans that could be manipulated and controlled. These were followed by behaviourists like Watson and Skinner who studied only the overt behaviour of humans. Therefore, personality was reduced to just observable behaviours (Kalbi & Basharat, 2020).

           Sigmund Freud, a physician in Vienna, Austria, formulated his theories of personality in the 1890s, collecting the personal experiences of his patients who were suffering from emotional disturbances. (Schultz and Schultz, 2009).  In his psychoanalytic approach, Freud included the conscious, the preconscious and the unconscious levels into the personality theory. Afterwards, Freud edited his theory and introduced three significant elements of personality anatomy: the id (pleasure principle), the ego (reality principle) and the superhero (moral principle). Anxiety arises when an imbalance happens among the needs of the three elements of personality. Hence, people use defence mechanisms to reduce conflict. He also described the psychosexual stages that determine the personality of an individual.  Consequently, Freud emphasized more on the unconscious processes as the determinants of our personality (Boag,2011).

Later, (Park, 1939) stated that personality assessment could be possible through scientific methods. Afterwards, academicians started researching the nature of human personality-whether someone’s personality is the product of predetermined factors(determinism) or people form their personality by choosing how to act in a certain situation (free will) (Peck & Whitlow, 2019).

Apart from psychoanalysis and behaviourism, there are other approaches to personality. The humanistic approach sees personality as a factor of human strengths, virtues, aspirations and fulfilling potentials (Peck & Whitlow, 2019). Carl Rogers, an eminent humanistic psychologist, included the organism, the self, and the ideal self as the basic mechanism of his personality theory. He also discussed the concept of a fully functioning person, the highest ideal one can achieve. Later, the theory of Eysenck helped to develop biological models of personality.

Another influential theorist in psychology, Eysenck (1971) developed a trait-based approach to personality. He believed that our biological inheritance largely influences our temperament that determines personality factors.  After rigorous factor analysis, Eysenck was able to identify a series of specific attributes of the participants and stated a highly influential biopsychosocial theory of personality. He said that humans have three basic personality structures: extraversion, neuroticism and psychoticism that interact with the environment and make every individual unique (Feldman, 2017).

This article will describe to what extent personality is a factor of free will with the help of the personality theories of Sigmund Freud and Carl Rogers.


The main premise with which “free will and determinism” concerns itself is whether and to what extent human beings as agents exercise control over their actions and decisions. Thus, the question needs to be addressed in understanding the relationship between freedom and cause and to what extent personality is causally determined.  Free will, views human personality in terms of the choices made and not predetermined. It nourishes the idea that behaviour is self-determined by choices. In almost all philosophies, it emphasizes that belief in the agent’s ability to refrain himself/herself from performing the act is the necessary condition for saying that the agent is responsible for the act (Balaguer,2019).

The mechanistic view of people, as highlighted by determinism, reduces humans to something less human, implied in the usage of terms like “subject”. (Balaguer,2019). Determinism is the doctrine of universal causation, which says everything that has a cause can be anything – mental, physical, God, or whether we get to know the cause or not- it exists.

Freud’s theories of personality seem to support the idea that human behaviour is caused, and that personality is the result of a constellation of causal factors.  People’s behaviour and choices are controlled by unconscious desire. Although there is no single cause to one single behaviour; in fact, most behaviour has multiple causes both conscious and unconscious (Thahir & Hidayat, 2020). According to Freud, adult personality is the result of the interaction of what has happened in early life. Like other theories which support determinism and view human personality in terms of predetermined stages which are universal.

Carl Rogers’ idea of a fully functioning human shows his position in support of free will. It celebrates the idea of people ‘s choice in creating their own life. Rogers believed that people are fuelled by their propensity to actualize and maintain an inclination towards self-enhancement.

The actualizing tendency begins in the womb and is driven by physiological forces; however, it is an effort on the part of a person through struggle and pain that determines the extent of being a fully functioning human. Living constructively and adaptively with the changing environmental conditions are hallmarks of a fully functioning person. Being creative and feeling a sense of autonomy to make choices without inhibitions are common traits found in fully functioning individuals. The use of word actualizing underpins the idea of the dynamic nature of human personality and the scope of uniqueness among individuals. Through the organismic valuing process, people determine the value of their experiences in terms of how much they boost or curtail their growth (actualization). Rogers wrote that being fully functioning is “a direction, not a destination” (Kaufman,2018). Individuals are empowered, and they can use this power for personal and social transformation.

The core assumption of personality according to Carl Rogers, a humanistic approach is that people have free will, people are motivated to self-actualize & importance of conscious subjective experience, phenomenology. On the other hand, the core assumption that underlies Freud’s psychoanalytic views is the primacy of the unconscious and the importance of early experience. Moreover, Freud’s theory is essentially pessimistic whereas Carl Rogers’ theory is optimistic and views humans as changing agents of their life circumstances.

One of the similarities about both theories is that keeping the individual as the focal point acknowledges the role the environment plays which enhances or hinders one’s progression through stages of development.

The Freudian theory was based on psychosexual stages and believes every individual goes in the same direction concerning development in the same chronological order. Since no two persons’ life situations are the same and parent-child interaction differs, this, in turn, creates unique personality development trends. In psychosexual stages, the psychic energy is vested body parts, which need to be stimulated adequately. Over or under-stimulation has its consequences, which are reflected in one’s personality. The stages of psychosexual development suggested by Freud are, in order, Oral (where the libidinal energy is concentrated in the mouth region), Anal (where the libidinal energy is concentrated in the anal region), Phallic (where the libidinal energy is concentrated in the phallic region- penis in males or clitoris in females), Latency (sublimation of libidinal energy into social, work or academic areas), and Genital (concentration of libidinal energy in the genital region- penis in males and vagina in females). Within the therapeutic realm, the therapists focus on the client’s will to change through the strengthening of the ego. Change is facilitated by working through the old patterns of behaviour so that the client becomes freer to act in new ways (Boag,2011).

Rogers stressed the concept of ‘self’ in personality development. Mostly, the interpretations of childhood events shape the perceptions about oneself. But, as infants grow, continued interaction with the environment alters the self-image from time to time. So, despite being influenced by predetermined events and experiences, people can still choose to grow and improve their self-image if necessary (Quinn,2011).

       Rogers coined another term: positive self-regard. During infancy, love, acceptance, and approval, especially from mothers, develop the need for positive self-regard in children. When children do not get acceptance, they withdraw from the situation. This hampers self-worth and ceases the development process. Mothers sometimes provide unconditional love even if the child fails to perform the desired action. This is called unconditional positive regard. But most children grow in an environment of conditional positive regard where they get approval only when they do desirable behaviours. This leads to the distorted self of an individual. Conditional self-regard develops conditions of worth that resemble the superego of Freudian theory.

      The experiential world revolves around an individual. When there is a gap between the self-concept and perceived experience of reality, individuals feel incongruent. But congruence is required for healthy personality development. Individuals can feel congruent only when their perceived self-image and ideal self-match (Moynihan et al., 2017).

  Thus, Rogers argued that a person requires an environment that provides kindness, acceptance and empathy to grow (List, 2013). But Rogers defined free will as the capacity of perceiving reality in a way that fosters congruence and overall well-being. He also stated the individual differences and uniqueness in forming the subjective meaning of reality. Therefore, outside of the environmental complexities, a person’s personality depended on the perception of self (Kaufman,2018). He stated that only those who are fully functioning can be completely free of any kind of predetermined factors of personality. They possess choices to develop themselves. Although biology determines the actualization needs of an individual to some extent, the environment plays a great role in shaping the personality. He proposed that childhood events and biological instincts have some influence on influence, but an individual makes choices seeking challenge and growth progressively. Roger credited people as responsible, motivated, and optimistic towards the goal to become fully functioning people. He encouraged his clients to cure themselves using their inner resources. Therefore, Rogers focused more on individual differences and free will rather than predetermined factors of personality.

Freud’s psychoanalytic theory sees people as being controlled by internal (unconscious), over which people have little control. Hence the theory is deterministic, depicting humans as having a machine-like mechanism, which is predictable and follows mechanistic laws. In such circumstances, the existence of free will is pivotal to psychology. The third force, humanistic psychology believes in human agency and views people as responsible for their actions, rather than being passive actors.  Human beings are unique which mirror their personality, to study human personality in terms of predictable patterns, reducing it to elements. It’s quite essential to study humans as studying humans through the glasses of elements distorts its view. Moreover, living an authentic life as highlighted in the Rogerian humanistic view of human personality, in contrast to, living an inauthentic life possesses a quality of free will (Costello et al., 2020).

Rogers believes in healthy fully functioning individual experiences as well as utilizes the most absolute freedom freely, voluntarily, and spontaneously. According to him, therapy, and life free humans by creating awareness of “what we are “and “what we can be”.

Conclusion: –

Personality is a product of what is given and universal, as well as what a person does to affect those given.  This amalgamation of our predetermined course and our potential to change could be understood within the paradigm of compatibilism. It is the middle path between hard determinism and libertarianism, which focuses on the notion that everything has a cause, and the will is a special type of cause. There are important factors that are predictable in determining the human personality. However, both theories acknowledge the idea of change in their terms. In Freudian psychoanalysis, the paths that lead to the strengthening of ego and having control over instinctual urges are indicators of a healthy personality. Likewise, in Rogerian psychotherapy, human growth potential lends support to the free will hypothesis.


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