He believed that anxiety and other psychiatric symptoms arise in fundamental conflicts between the individual and his human environment and that personality development also takes place by a series of interactions with other people. The organization of personality consists of interpersonal rather than intraphysic events. People do not need to be present. They may be illusionary or non-existent figures.
He rejected individual psychology the psychology of individual differences partly because he thought that individuality cannot be scientifically understood, since no individual can be understood apart from his relationships with others.
Sullivan did not profess to know the extent to which human behavior embodies principles or laws which transcend any given sociocultural setting.
If there are such principles of human behavior, they appear to be as yet little understood, if at all. Such anthropologists as Edward Sapir and Ruth Benedict also exerted some influence on his thinking, though it seems to have been exaggerated.
He asserted that there are four generic factors which enter into, and have a causative influence on, any act: However, it should be added that no one yet-knows how much weight should be given to biological determinants.
Continuous effects of experience. The quality and kind of interpersonal relations that one experiences in the home, school, playground, summer camp, and neighborhood are crucially important.
Sullivan called his approach an interpersonal theory of psychiatry because he believed psychiatry is the study of what goes on between people. This is in contrast to Freud’s paradigm that focuses on what goes on inside people. Harry Stack Sullivan () was the founder of the interpersonal theory of psychiatry, which focuses on interpersonal relationships and the effects of the individual's social and cultural environment on inner life, rather than on innate drives.5/5(3). Harry Stack Sullivan's personality theory Interpersonal theory of personality development stresses observable interactions among people. Views individuals as progressing through seven stages of persoanlity development extending throughout the lifetime as they strive for psychological health.
But in human life there is nothing static. Some things change quickly; others, slowly and imperceptibly, although the latter too can have a cumulative effect. The self begins to develop in late infancy and grows through several stages—namely, infancy, childhood, the juvenile era, preadolescence, early adolescence, and late adolescence, normally culminating in maturity.
But, these stages of development are not instinctually determined. The first two stages are normally lived through in the home under the supervision of authoritative adults, on whom the powerless offspring depends not only for his physical survival but also for the necessities of psychological development.
Thus, the needs of the infant, whose satisfaction requires the cooperation of the mothering one, take on the character of a general need for tenderness. Sullivan claimed that the need for tender behavior is an interpersonal need because its fulfillment requires the cooperation of another person who has a complementary need to manifest appropriate activity, a need to behave tenderly.
In earlier lectureshe maintained that empathy, an as yet not understood mode of emotional contagion or communion between infant and mothering one, is the vehicle by which approving and disapproving attitudes are somehow conveyed, from ages 6 to 27 months.
In later lectures The Interpersonal Theory of Psychiatry Sullivan maintained that it is by means of empathy that anxiety is induced in the infant when the mothering one is anxious or otherwise upset or disapproving. The self or self-dynamism develops in order to avoid or minimize anxiety and gain approval from the significant adults, who embody various cultural attitudes and values.
Since language is a very powerful too for communication, it contributes greatly to the development of the self. Thus, certain behaviors of the child that were previously tolerated are now so strongly disapproved of that they become inhibited, sublimated, or, in some instances, dissociated i.
The juvenile era appears upon the maturation of the need for compeers.
Schooling is a wholly necessary experience for anyone growing up in a complex industrial society. The school not only imparts skills and subject matters but also, as a rule, provides the youngster with a broader outlook on life.
During the juvenile era, one begins to acquire supervisory patterns of the self, which pertain not only to moral conduct but to behavior generally.
These supervisory patterns, developed in connection with authoritative figures in the home, school, and church, tend to make the juvenile more self-critical. Normally, there is a considerable elaboration of the self. The youngster learns patterns of cooperation, competition, and compromise.
During this era, the capacity to love matures: The intimacy which flowers between the two chums has essentially nothing to do with sex. Preadolescence is not a homosexual stage. For the first time, one can communicate freely with another human being.
In the process of communication, personal inadequacies carried over from previous stages may be alleviated or overcome. In Western society, adolescence is a notoriously difficult period for many people. New adjustments have to be accomplished; new relationships, for which there is no precedent in personal experience, have to be established; and one is expected to put away childish things once and for all.
So, adolescence is a time of trial and of opportunity. Many people who have developed various inadequacies during the previous eras founder in adolescence because they cannot handle the new demands and opportunities that life presents at this time.
Contribution to Psychology. Much of Sullivan's work centered on understanding interpersonal relationships, and his research became the basis for a field of psychology known as interpersonal.
Harry Stack Sullivan () was the founder of the interpersonal theory of psychiatry, which focuses on interpersonal relationships and the effects of the individual's social and cultural environment on inner life, rather than on innate drives.2/5(1).
Harry Stack Sullivan's personality theory Interpersonal theory of personality development stresses observable interactions among people.
Views individuals as progressing through seven stages of persoanlity development extending throughout the lifetime as they strive for psychological health.
Sullivan called his approach an interpersonal theory of psychiatry because he believed psychiatry is the study of what goes on between people. This is in contrast to Freud’s paradigm that focuses on what goes on inside people.
The Harry Stack Sullivan interpersonal theory suggests that a person’s personality is the foundation of their energy system.
Sullivan describes this energy as either providing a positive or a negative outcome.