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Theory of progressive stages

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G.S.Ramesh Kumar
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Consulting Psychologist



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Symbol of Psychology presented by G.S.Ramesh kumar at Indian Science Congress Association session in January, 1999 at Chennai, India.



Personality is not a psychological datum but a concept constructed in the minds of men for the purpose of explaining the behaviour – both subjective and objective of individuals. Some prefer to describe personality as a set of overt and manifest behaviours; others prefer to define it as a set of hypothetical constructs in terms of which actual behaviour is to be explained.

While behaviourists view personality as a symbolic construct without explanatory value, the fundamental law of Gestalt psychology is that the phenomenal whole or molar behaviour must be the unit of analysis (James P. Chaplin and T.S. Krawiec, 1960). Investigators in the tradition of British school show the continuing strong influence of Darwin and evolutionary theory in their predilection to stress and to study most intention the biological, hereditary and constitutional aspects or determinants of personality to the relative neglect of social and cultural factors; others in Britain outside this tradition such as Ward, Sully, Stout, Shand and McDougall had been to the conceptualization of the complexly motivated manifestations of personality (Julian B. Rotter, 1967).

Freud’s theory of personality is characterized by psychic determinism, unconscious psychological processes, and instinct.

While the conditioning concept may explain how a child learns a response, it is absolutely inadequate to explain the ‘occurrence of creativity’ or the mental processes behind creativity and similarly inadequate to explain difference in behaviour in response to same stimulus background. While skinner has contended that the question of whether the whole is different from the sum of its parts is a pseudo problem.

As a whole, American theories view personality in terms of outer behaviour, surface attributes, molar components, interpersonal relations, and modifiability; Europeans, by contrast, adhere to concepts of deep disposition, constitutional determinism, structural firmness, relative independence of society, and therefore relative lack of modifiability (Gordon W. Allport, 1957).

The view that a person’s behaviour is a function of the situation and not of the person is, of course, directly contradictory to the assertion of humanistic psychology that people are responsible and that people tend to behave in ways that lead toward self–development (Clifford H. Swenson 1977).

But it is the logic and therefore my strongest conviction too that, whatever additions go on in the emotional process or cognitive process or personality (irrespective of whether it is an outer set of behaviours or an inner rigid structure) formation and development that nothing can take place either discretely or over night, but that it must follow a logical stage wise development and the ‘inner essences’ of each experience is inevitably influential upon one’s psychosocial development and functioning.

A true wholistic approach should consider not only the phenomenal whole or molar behaviour as even viewed by Gestalt but should essentially consider progressive series of stages. Therefore, I strongly argue in terms of inevitable reality the wholistic perspective. This ‘wholistic perspective’ is again inevitable developmental and over stages.

These progressive stages are different from the subsidiary wholes of Wertheimer which narrates that within the figure there may be then further subdivision resulting in subsidiary wholes. In progressive stages there is no concept of ‘subdivision’ rather a progress of stages which are imperceptibly overlapping, coalesce, and perspective giving.


In the nursing class room of 2nd year students were grouped into two.

This procedure was repeated for second group also. After arranging names into alphabetical order, the groups had been formed and twenty students in each.

They have a paper on psychology and were aware of Sigmund Freud.

The task was to accept and say ‘yes’ or to disagree and say ‘no’ to the challenge. The instruction was:
‘please think well and respond to my question. I have a task for you. This is a book on psychoanalysis by Sigmund Freud. Now, how many of you think it is possible to go through this book in one hour and explain what have you studied’.

For this no one came forward to say ‘yes’.

Hence second announcement for the same group was ‘o.k., how many of you think it is possible to go through half of this book in one hour and explain what have you studied’.

To this seven students raised hands and said, ‘yes, I can’

Then there was third announcement ’now think well and respond to my question. How many of you think it is possible to go through quarter of this book in one hour and explain what have you studied’.

To this 19 students responded ‘yes, I can’.

Now to the same group same task was with reinforcement was announced. To the same instructions added was ‘. . . if I add marks to your internal assessment depending on how well you do’. No of students responded affirmatively for each announcement was noted down.



1.As the perceived difficulty of the task is reduced, the students responded more in number affirmatively.

2.This is true irrespective of reinforcement announced.

3.When the perceived difficulty is more, reinforcement and motivating efforts are not much effective.


It is clearly indicated that reinforcement is not potential by itself. Power of the reinforcement is not absolute but relative and depending on other personal constructs/conditions. It is clear from this that ‘perception (perspective) of progress’ is major determinant, which is internal. Thus there is nothing called ‘external motive’, rather external situation sets stage for ‘perspective of progress’.

Perspective of progress overrules any effect of reinforcement. Perspective of progress is established to be most fundamental behaviour of human behaviour.

The results also differentiate between reinforcement and perspective of progress.

In operant conditioning a reinforcement is a stimulus which, if occurs contingent upon the emissions of an operant response, will tend to maintain or increase the probability of that response in future. Reinforcement is a term that refers to the operations involved in using reinforcers to maintain or increase the likelihood of a particular response(Paul Korly, 1975).

Outline of the Theory of progressive stages Edit

Perspective of progress is 'cognitive state which convinces the individual that his efforts are in the right path to move to his next level on some continuum'. This is neither mere expectancy nor confidence /hope, rather a perspective of all the efforts as organized in the path as to move or lead to next level on some continuum, which is internal and subjective. This is a wholistic perspective. In this state a perspective of all related factors of the situation are organized as supporting data to surety of reaching next level on the continuum.

In developing this perspective, intellectual and emotional process occur.that is like a person arranging all things in his drawing room in a fashion according to his aesthetic sense and develops an emotional attachment to the concept with that saying 'this is really what I like, no more changes enquired how much ever better it may be'. The person puts everything in his understanding in a mental map of what are forming the path and where they will lead him - thereby developing an emotional attachment, the very attachment forms the foundation for later resistance to change.
This convinces that basic nature of human is tendency to proliferate or progress on the current continuum.all human actions which are innate or acquired, are by nature set towards progress.

But,the progress by nature is stage-wise, might be consisting of primary stages in which stages of progress are rigid and at no one stage superseding is possible. For instance, without passing through each year in M.B.,B.S course one can not reach the stage of internship; or, it might be consisting of secondary stages where the stages are not supposed to be very rigid and superseding in the hierarchy of progressive stages is possible, for instance to become a graduate in India one need not pass through formal school courses, rather can reach graduate stage by open university scheme.

In human endeavours all are set on stages-either primary stages, function of human mind involves. This process is not only motivated by progresssing tendency but it is influenced by conscious and unconscious minds;the two levels of mind are interchangeable-conscious can become unconscious and unconscious can become conscious.

The relationship between conscious and unconscious minds is mediated by essence precipitation which can be explained by 'filter-tea' model-

while preparing tea, decoction is obtained in the vessel, which is just the essence of the tea leaves and water. Tea leaves are filtered in the filter itself, similarly, the exposure and experiences of various occasions are filtered in the conscious mind and their essence reach unconscious. Thus it is possible to 'trace the decoction with the help of tea leaves found in the filter'.

For example, a symptom should have associated (conscious) events and (unconscious) essences , the symptom should have evolved over stages. To observe no symptom occur singularly; not only stages but association is also another important aspect of any event.
Association means, 'consolidating the characteristic of another item and thus 'perceiving' the two items as related as to maintain or confirm consolidation'. Notably, this phenomenon is purposive, rational and situational to make up a deficiency. Thus association is related to progress.
Association is necessitated due to the 'psychological theory of relativity'-that no single entity is absolute by itself to yield a result or serve a purpose and can not be independently supportive;rather, relatively absolute'.
Association is possible between any items which could be brought on a continua. This is the perceptual response of the individual in whose mind the continuum is established. Therefore, essence, master-knowledge, realization-integration, progress, hierarchy, continuum, and association are well integrated.a continuum will be made up of essence common to the items to be associated on that continuum.

Based on this, the principles of association themselves be deducted and integrated.

In any association, “associative strength' (or how strongly the two items are getting associated) is 'inversely proportional to the distance between the items on the continuum'. For example, assume the continuum of fruits-you are to plot orange, apple, and grapes. If the continuum is on size, orange and apple are close to each other than with grapes. These two share shorter distance and stronger association than with grapes.

This can be expressed as
S ~ D
whereas S = associative Strength
D = distance between the items on their continuum

Putting this understanding on the setting up of progressive stages for getting 'progressive perspective' it should be noted that items of selected continuum should be plotted closely to every preceding and succeeding stages if stronger motivation is operational terms we can hypothesize that 'motivational strength (strength of perspective of progress) is directly proportional to associative strength of the items on the continuum towards selected goal.

In all these dealings essence precipitation is natural. The essence precipitation is a process linking both conscious and unconscious minds and is more complicated than what Wertheimer (1938) implicated in saying that apparatus of reception must be of such a nature as to be able to grasp the inner necessity of articulated whole.

To contrast with, another reference could also be cited about convergent theory proposed by William Stern and accepted by Koffka, in which every capacity is the result of a collaboration of inner and outer conditions of development, so that both share in any psychological process (Robert I. Watson 1971). Personality itself is defined as the 'inner' conditions of overt behaviour and character viewed as the 'structural aspects of personality' (H.Thomae,1957).

Essence, means the core, covert, implicit and imperceptible contained within the vent.Therefore, it is possible only to reach at it through logical deduction.Freud’s reductionism implies tendency to analyze, to dissect, to dichotomize9Julie B.rotter,p.642). probably, others also tend to analyze from top to bottom . . . . within he figure there may be then further subdivision resulting in subsidiary wholes. The procedure here is in the direction ‘from above downward (Wertheimer, 1938)’.

In current theory advocated method for reaching the essences is the method of ‘essential analysis’. This is fairly understandable, in any selected event top to bottom approach is adopted. In this purposive inner aspect is analyzed step by step till ‘unbreakable level’ is reached. This whole structure will reveal how an essence has developed gradually through a period as precipitated and assimilated by later essences.

A major difference between the method of Freud and current method of essential analysis is that, in Freud’s method as he summarized “the rule of timing (the depth) of interpretation as ‘we put off telling him of a construction or explanation till he himself has reached the step is infact the decisive synthesis”(1940,p.178). whereas in essential analysis rather than ‘time’ the ‘essence’ is the rule and forming part of fundamental mechanism. To make the understanding better the inner purposes are focused on, as it is the basic philosophy of this theory that any endeavour is purposeful and ‘progress’ –the basic motivational tendency will be knitted around this, thereby essences become ‘dynamic’ if at all exist. Further, all seemingly related purposes and corresponding endeavours are consciously contrasted to make the subject understand essences within his mind better. This eventually lead to historical construction of essences and their stage-wise development along with directing the subject to recollect the corresponding situations in the past. Thus, the subject is gaining a master-knowledge through the stage-wise progressive realization-integration process. The current theory advocates that it is the master knowledge which could provide the ‘ultimate cure’.

Another major difference is that in most psycho-analytical (term used in broad sense) techniques interpretation is an important technique.whereas in essence analysis the role of therapist is to draw attention of subject to the essences in the unconscious level which have lead to the conscious manifestation as the underpinning. The therapist therefore is often playing the role of ‘working through’- who demonstrates as to make the subject find, realize and integrate towards master knowledge of stage-wise essence based development of his own symptoms.

Implications for psychopathologyEdit

Due to improper socialization, improper child-rearing or the individual’s intensified wish to accomplish everything at the earliest, he becomes unaware of or byepasses the adaptive strategies of stage-wise progress. By-passing the stages also result in lack of master knowledge leading to inferiority or anxiety to pursue goals. Every sufferer’s manifestations should be treated by essential analysis to understand the development of pathology with a ‘historical perspective’ and stages through which the sufferer has to realize and integrate to gain master knowledge.

Comparison of Current Theory with Other Existing TheoriesEdit

Concepts in "Theory of Essential Psychology (Current Author)▼

Psycho Analysis


Cognitive Theory

Client Centered

Gestalt (Perls)

Reality theory

Rational Emotive Theory

Progressive Holistic Perception

Perceiving discrete, unconscious elements and their relations Perceiving "as such" discrete outer behaviour Perceiving feeling and attitudes as such Perceiving as such the concept towards self and towards others Holistic perception, also not progressive Focus on values Focus on rational Vs. irrational


Not Concerned about "core" but otherwise implications are studied. Conscious surface behaviours Conscious surface materials Conscious concepts Surface Responses Surface Responses Surface Responses

Realization for Integration and master knowledge

Advocated but not Holistic Perspective and master knowledge Learning Adaptive behaviors than realization or integration Advocated but not Master knowledge Advocated but not Master knowledge Advocated but not Master knowledge Advocated to decide on realistic solution Persuading to take a more "rational" view

Logical Deduction Method

(Essence Analysis)

Free Association Discovering Essences is not advocated. Different Methods Discovery of unconsciousness is not advocated Discovery of Sub-conscious by client himself Top to bottom of elements of the whole advocated but not of unconscious Essences Discovery of unconscious is not advocated Discovery of unconscious is not advocated


Used Used Used Used Used Used Used

Structure of mind

Expression/Emotion/Perception (Top Level)

Personality/Intelligence/Memory (Middle level)

Attitudes/Principle (Values)/Aptitude (Lowest Level)

Conscious, Subconscious, Unconscious No concern about mind at all No hierarchy No hierarchy No hierarchy No hierarchy No hierarchy

"Perception of Progress" is determining motivation

Unconscious pleasure drive Reward and Avoidance of punishment Belief Tendency towards growth and Self Actualization Self Actualization Motivation by therapist is stressed Motivation by therapist is stressed
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