Transpersonal  Theories  of  Personality  Development   Week    5:  “Skinner,  Horney,  Erickson,  Maslow,  Hayes  and  Me:     A  Panel  of

 People  Discuss  Suffering  ”   Gail  Tucker  Whipple   Institute  for  Transpersonal  Psychology   April  29,  2010     Author’s  Note:   This  is  my  imagined  dialog  between  several  philosophers  and   psychologists  whose  work  I  admire.  The  words  in  this  paper  are   completely  my  understanding  and  projection  of  their  position  on   the  question  of  human  suffering.

The  question  is:    Why  is  there  so  much  suffering  in  the  world   and  why  do  people  hurt  each  other?    


B.F.  SKINNER:  This  is  something  I  have  thought  long  and  hard  about.  I  wrote  and  delivered  a  paper  at  Keio   University  in  Japan,  in  1979,  called  “The  Non-­‐Punitive  Society”  which  I  think  shows  the  way  out  of  the  second   part  of  the  question.  As  to  the  first  part  of  the  question,  I  think  it  would  be  helpful  to  acknowledge  great   strides  in  dealing  with  world  suffering.  As  I  said  in  my  paper;  “Three  great  historical  examples  to  which  the   species  has  been  exposed  are  starvation,  illness  and  exhausting  labor  and  we’ve  made  great  progress  in  dealing   with  them...  The  only  sufferings  to  which  many  members  of  the  human  species  are  still  exposed  are  those  we   inflict  upon  each  other”.   Positive  reinforcement  is  not  only  the  way  to  help  people  stop  hurting  one  another,  it  is  imperative  that  we   undertake  to  eliminate  violence  or  violence  will  eliminate  us.   KAREN  HORNEY:  If  we  focus  solely  on  why  people  hurt  each  other,  we  should  start  with  the  individuals  who   come  from  an  unstable,  unloving,  unvalued  or  unsafe  childhood  experience  in  which  the  child  must  defend  in   order  to  survive.  People  will  move  to  relieve  their  anxiety,  and  they’ll  move  toward,  against  or  away  from  that   which  makes  them  anxious.  Neurotic  behaviors  then  grow  out  of  this  bad  environment,  and  these  behaviors   can  even  be  in  conflict  with  one  another.  This  leads  to  vicious  circles  in  which  their  strategies  for  mitigating   their  anxiety  will,  in  fact,  increase  it.  This  is  not  a  recipe  for  peace.   This  impacts  our  larger  culture,  too.  People  who  move  against  others  are  doing  so  as  a  defense  against  the   perceived  hostility  in  others.  As  long  as  these  people  have  their  insatiable,  neurotic  need  to  be  in  control,  (it  is   unbearable,  emotionally,  not  to  be)  there  will  be  violence  as  collectives  move  to  control  the  environment  of   others.  They  will  find  victims  in  those  who  move  toward  these  controlling  elements  as  a  way  to  handle  their   neurosis  –  they  will  allow  themselves  to  be  overpowered.  Those  moving  away  from  the  controlling  ones   create  a  vacuum,  allowing  those  who  move  against  others  to  take  more  ground.  It’s  a  perfect  storm  of  people   moving  to  waylay  their  anxiety  at  all  costs.     ERIK  ERIKSEN:  I  agree  with  Horney  that  a  sub-­‐standard  environment  can  leave  many  children  at-­‐risk  of  not   developing  naturally  and  fully.  This  can  lead  to  people  who  grow  up  hurting  one  another.  And  another   important  consideration  is  that  people  within  each  culture  have  vastly  different  values,  which  they  learn  from   birth.  The  nurturing  they  receive  from  their  culture  will  powerfully  shape  how  they  will  navigate   developmental  challenges,  and  shape  the  people  they  become  –  and  inevitably  how  they  and  their  fellows  will   interact  with  other  cultures.  If  conflicts  cannot  be  resolved  successfully,  they  will  lead  to  turmoil.  I  think  the   answer  lies  in  the  balance  of  dynamics  between  cultures  and  the  healthy  progression  of  individuals  through   the  developmental  stages  inherent  within  those  cultures.   ABRAHAM  MASLOW:  I  agree  with  my  colleagues  that  environment  is  very  important.  If  the  environment  is   right,  people  can  grow  straight  and  true,  but  too  often  the  environment  is  not  right.  However,  I  think  rather   than  concentrate  on  why  people  hurt  one  another  we  are  better  off  concentrating  on  how  healthy,  self-­‐ actualized  people  work.  “The  study  of  crippled,  stunted,  immature  and  unhealthy  specimens  can  yield  only  a   cripple  psychology  and  a  cripple  philosophy1”  –  not  too  much  offense  intended  to  my  colleague,  Dr.  Freud.  

1  Motivation  and  Personality  



STEPHEN  K.  HAYES,  Black  Belt  &  Buddhist  Priest,  and  First  Westerner  to  bring  Ninjitsu  from  Japan  to  a   broad  Western  audience:  In  a  way,  I  find  myself  in  Dr.  Maslow’s  camp,  for  I  believe  we  cannot  focus  on   suffering  as  a  way  out  of  suffering.  I  also  sense  like-­‐mindedness  with  Dr.  Skinner:  What  we  reinforce  is  vitally   important  in  creating  a  safer  planet.  As  a  Buddhist  Priest,  I  subscribe  to  The  Four  Noble  Truths:   1. 2. 3. 4. Life  means  suffering.   The  origin  of  suffering  is  attachment.   The  cessation  of  suffering  is  attainable.   The  path  to  the  cessation  of  suffering.  

It’s  just  the  way  it  is.  The  world  we  live  in  will  never  be  perfect.  With  the  limited  amount  of  time  we  have  on   earth,  we  should  develop  our  positive  potential  and  become  strong  enough  to  be  of  service.  By  practicing   detachment,  we  are  able  to  remove  the  cause  of  suffering  –  for  ourselves  and  for  others.  By  focusing  on  the   positive,  we  can  enjoy  our  lives.  In  the  end,  it  won’t  matter,  as  regardless  of  our  experience,  it  will  all  fade   away.     GAIL  WHIPPLE:  As  I  think  about  the  root  cause  of  people  hurting  one  another  I  acknowledge  the  great   impact  of  one’s  early,  personal  environment.  However,  I  also  acknowledge  the  importance  of  genetics  –  and  a   host  of  other  influences,  some  which  we  barely  recognize  and  others  we  yet  know  nothing  about.    For   instance,  the  collective  unconscious  and  the  collective  conscious  affect  each  one  of  us.  When  it’s  the  collective   unconscious,  I  think  there’s  a  double  whammy,  because  each  individual  winds  up  accessing  random  points  of   the  unconscious,  many  of  which  are  harmful.  Genetic  factors  wind  up  inflicting  a  great  deal  of  hurt:  Relatives   of  schizophrenics  suffer  greatly,  as  do  those  with  schizophrenia  themselves,  and  hurt  is  perceived  on  all  sides   even  when  none  is  intended.  This  could  be  chalked  up  to  the  first  of  the  Four  Noble  Truths,  I  suppose.     The  better  part  of  valor  might  be  realizing  that  humanity  is  a  byproduct  of  the  conditions  of  this  world  and  to   want  a  life  of  not-­‐suffering  is  an  erroneous  desire.  However,  I  do  believe  that  as  long  as  there  has  been  earth   and  entities  on  it  there  has  been  a  striving  toward  a  wholeness  or  balance  that  may  mean  we  could   systemically  transcend  the  level  of  violence  we  currently  inflict  on  one  another.  I  see  hope  in  what  is   expressed  in  part  by  each  of  my  panelists:   As  Skinner  believes,  I  believe  we  must  become  skilled  masters  at  positive  reinforcement,  especially  for  our   young  people.  They  are  the  best  people  to  invest  in,  as  they  will  come  into  power  within  30  years  of  their   birth.   As  Horney  believes,  I  believe  we  must  provide  positive  environments  for  people,  acknowledging  that  people   have  the  potential  for  continued  positive  development,  regardless  of  what  is  reinforced  in  their  early  years.   As  Erikson  believes,  I  believe  it  is  important  to  find  the  healthy  balance  between  one’s  personal  and  cultural   preferences  and  being  open  and  considerate  to  the  personal  and  cultural  preferences  or  understandings  of   others.   As  Maslow  believes,  I  believe  we  learn  more  in  the  long  run  from  the  study  and  use  of  positivity.     As  Hayes  believes,  I  believe  we  must  each  individually  develop  our  positive  potential  regardless  of  the   obstacles  that  confront  us,  regardless  of  the  environment  we  find  our  selves  in.  We  are  the  change  we  wish  to   see.   However,  it  is  foolhardy  to  ignore  the  negative  or  the  base,  for  it  is  and  always  has  been  so  far  an  integral  part   of  the  whole.  There  must  be  something  true  about  the  creative  tension  between  the  yin  and  the  yang.  The   concept  has  rung  through  the  ages,  and  in  this  historical  time,  through  physics,  we  have  come  to  believe  in  a  

quantum  way  that  everything  leads  towards  balance.  I  have  to  agree  with  Siddhartha  and  great  minds  like   Erikson  and  believe  that  balance,  the  middle  way,  is  a  desirable  thing.  If  we  can  get  to  the  point  where  we   have  balanced  individuals,  and  can  maintain  a  balance  between  cultures  that  is  advantageous  to  us  all,  I   believe  that  balance  would  help  us  avoid  suffering.    


However,  there  is  an  important  point  that  goes  beyond  the  concept  of  balance  –  that  of  transcendence.  A   going  beyond.  We  are  all  familiar  with  the  examples  of  people  who  transcend  suffering  over  which  they  have   no  control,  such  as  the  suffering  inherent  in  a  fatal  disease.  We  also  know  of  those  who  transcend  suffering  at   the  hands  of  others,  which  is  what  the  heroic  journey  of  rebirth  inherent  in  the  Jesus  story  and  other  such   stories  exemplifies.   To  close,  in  the  closing  words  of  the  Heart  of  Wisdom  Sutra,  I  offer:   Gyate,  gyate,  hara-­‐gyate,  hara-­‐sogyate,  boji  sowaka.  Hannya-­‐shin-­‐gyô.  (Gone,  gone,  gone  over,  gone  fully  over.   Awakened!  So  be  it!)