The Mount Rushmore of Master Psychologists

If we have learned anything by watching how people behave in-person, online, or when they think nobody is watching them, it is that psychology, much like people, tends to be divergent and a phenomenon, that is only understandable after a careful assessment of all the facts.  These facts are also why trying to forcibly change people is impossible, but if we are able to guide them to their “Aha!” or “That’s right!” moment, then that change is going to be natural, self-realizing, and lasting.

Understanding psychology can allow us to understand people’s emotional-behavioral responses to a variety of situations and how we can work around those “obstacles” for the best possible outcomes like ensuring that conflicts do not become violent, not to mention that we can provide quality advice when others ask us for advice.

People may argue that there is no benefit to learning about history’s master psychologists and watching them in action a long time ago, but it has become one of my favourite pastimes and I would recommend the activity to others.  Here is who you should start with.

Sigmund Freud 1856-1939

Sigmund Freud might be the most interesting master psychologist, leaving a legacy of impact on human life that is only matchable by Charles Darwin, as his thinking served as a changing point in how we perceive life.  Freud is credited as the founder of psychoanalysis, redefining ideas in psychology and developing therapeutic techniques that today’s psychologists have worked on enhancing including speech therapy and “silhouette-styled” therapy sessions.

What makes Freud stand out from his peers, asides from the fact that he paved the way for today’s psychologists, is that he was somewhat of an intellectual eccentric who would experiment with substances and engage in various trysts even as a married man.  However, it might be his explanation as to one of the reasons that drove him to study psychology that is most unexpected, crediting Shakespeare’s writings.

Carl Jung 1875-1961

Carl Jung was a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst who is credited for founding analytical psychology and influenced the fields of psychology, psychiatry, philosophy, and religion.  During his early-career, Jung had the opportunity to work under another master psychologist, Sigmund Freud, and he credits that experience and the subsequent friendship they had for being able to continue championing their vision of human psychology.  Although Jung is renowned for his connection to the field of psychology, his other interests included arts and crafts, building, and writing, thus making him a true “Uomo Universale”, the Italian word for renaissance man.

Carl Rogers 1902-1987

Carl Rogers was one of the founders of the humanistic approach and is considered as one of the founding fathers of psychotherapy research.  Rogers was renowned for his approach that led his patients to making self-realizations: the person-centered approach, which considered personality and human relationships and he even promoted the idea of group-led support sessions.  Rogers believed that therapists existed to support the client instead of judging or challenging them, because the purpose of the therapist could only be achieved by enabling a deep and intimate exploration of a person’s self, and with the therapist creating for an empathetic environment of self-understanding rather than self-judgement.

Everett Shostrom 1921-1992

Everett Shostrom was a well renowned psychotherapist, but also a decorated World War II veteran and film producer.  Shostrom is best known for his Personal Orientation Inventory test that measures the attitudes and values of adults related to self-actualization, which can help provide a picture of an individual’s level of positive mental health and is applicable in research, employee development and consumer behavior situations.  Shostrom is also responsible for producing a first-of-its-kind film called, “The Three Approaches to Psychotherapy”, also known as the Gloria Tapes of 1965, which brought together three psychologists, including Carl Rogers, to work with an individual that agreed to have the sessions taped.  There would be two subsequent versions added to the series and Shostrom would be one of the featured psychologists in the 1977 version, known as the Kathy Tapes of 1977.

The Three Approaches to Psychotherapy – The Gloria Tapes 1965

The Gloria tapes may be the most important footage ever filmed in relation to psychology.  The film revolves around Gloria, a divorced mom with a young daughter and who is struggling with finding love while also managing the expectations her daughter has of mom.  Gloria is interviewed by three separate psychologists, Carl Rogers (Person-centered therapy), Frederick Pearls (Gestalt therapy), and Albert Ellis (Rational emotive behavior therapy), each with distinct approaches to providing therapy.

Each of the three psychologists had a unique session with Gloria, interactions that are worth watching, even though there are some psychologists that disregard the film.  One podcast that is dedicated to psychology, hosted by two Californian psychologists, took offence to the film, and they called the three psychologists “cliché” therapists, misogynistic, and practically purposeless.  To my surprise, the pair seemed to miss out on the fact that the film was just as much about therapy sessions as it was an experiment, akin to the Miligram Shock Experiment of 1963, to identify the complexities of an individual.

Although some have argued that this film was a very bad idea, there might be even more value in what was not said, observations of Gloria’s demeanour and her subsequent reactions, as there was with what was discussed.  To start, the audience gets to see the idea of the “persona”, proposed by Jung, by seeing how Gloria reacts differently in her interactions with each of the three psychologists.  This is important because it also provides us a glimpse into understanding a person’s true self, and the ways that a therapist may try to uncover it.  In some ways, the three psychologists are intentionally trying to get Gloria to act out of character, or to determine the degree of her true character and how it has manifested.  There are so many nuances to the Gloria tapes that viewers could rewatch them over and over and reasonably expect to come to more enhanced realizations.

Personally, I would not be surprised if the group of psychologists was in on the experiment, that the two subsequent therapists watched the session with Gloria in real-time, and that they were tasked with specific goals when it came to interacting with the patient.  What leads me to believe this is the quick words that Rogers says to Gloria at the start of their session, “Well now, we have half an hour together and I really don’t know what we’ll be able to make of it, but I hope we can make something out of it.” It was quite odd, and it seemed to indicate that Rogers had given up on the session before it even started.  Furthermore, it was how Rogers would go on to treat Gloria many years after the film that leads me to believe that perhaps Rogers had felt guilty about the experience, where the primary goal may have been to use Gloria as a “guinea pig” to help advance psychology research rather than provide her with a constructive therapy session.

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