Primary Sources – Psychology


Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl – (Buy on Amazon)

Man’s Search for Meaning is a 1946 book by Viktor Frankl chronicling his experiences as a prisoner in Nazi concentration camps during World War II, and describing his psychotherapeutic method, which involved identifying a purpose in life to feel positively about, and then immersively imagining that outcome. According to Frankl, the way a prisoner imagined the future affected his longevity. The book intends to answer the question “How was everyday life in a concentration camp reflected in the mind of the average prisoner?” Part One constitutes Frankl’s analysis of his experiences in the concentration camps, while Part Two introduces his ideas of meaning and his theory called logotherapy.

Logotherapy was developed by neurologist and psychiatrist Viktor Frankl. It is considered the “Third Viennese School of Psychotherapy” along with Freud’s psychoanalysis and Adler’s individual psychology. Logotherapy is based on an existential analysis focusing on Kierkegaard’s will to meaning as opposed to Adler’s Nietzschean doctrine of will to power or Freud’s will to pleasure. Rather than power or pleasure, logotherapy is founded upon the belief that striving to find meaning in life is the primary, most powerful motivating and driving force in humans.


The Complete Works of Sigmund Freud – (Buy on Amazon)

Sigmund Freud (1856 – 1939) was an Austrian neurologist and the founder of psychoanalysis, a clinical method for treating psychopathology through dialogue between a patient and a psychoanalyst. In creating psychoanalysis, Freud developed therapeutic techniques such as the use of free association and discovered transference, establishing its central role in the analytic process. Freud’s redefinition of sexuality to include its infantile forms led him to formulate the Oedipus complex as the central tenet of psychoanalytical theory. His analysis of dreams as wish-fulfillments provided him with models for the clinical analysis of symptom formation and the underlying mechanisms of repression. On this basis, Freud elaborated his theory of the unconscious and went on to develop a model of psychic structure comprising id, ego and super-ego. Freud postulated the existence of libido, a sexualised energy with which mental processes and structures are invested and which generates erotic attachments, and a death drive, the source of compulsive repetition, hate, aggression and neurotic guilt. In his later works, Freud developed a wide-ranging interpretation and critique of religion and culture.


The Principles of Psychology: Volume I by William James – (Buy on Amazon)

The Principles of Psychology: Volume II by William James – (Buy on Amazon)

The Principles of Psychology is an 1890 book about psychology by William James, an American philosopher and psychologist who trained to be a physician before going into psychology. There are four methods from James’ book: stream of consciousness (James’ most famous psychological metaphor); emotion (later known as the James–Lange theory); habit (human habits are constantly formed to achieve certain results); and will (through James’ personal experiences in life).


Man and his Symbols by Carl Jung – (Buy on Amazon)

Carl Gustav Jung (1875 – 1961) was a Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst who founded analytical psychology. Jung’s work was influential in the fields of psychiatry, anthropology, archaeology, literature, philosophy, and religious studies. Jung worked as a research scientist at the famous Burghölzli hospital, under Eugen Bleuler. During this time, he came to the attention of Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis. The two men conducted a lengthy correspondence and collaborated, for a while, on a joint vision of human psychology.

Man and His Symbols is the last work undertaken by Carl Jung before his death in 1961. First published in 1964, it is divided into five parts, four of which were written by associates of Jung: Marie-Louise von Franz, Joseph L. Henderson, Aniela Jaffé, and Jolande Jacobi. The book, which contains numerous illustrations, seeks to provide a clear explanation of Jung’s complex theories for a wide non-specialist readership.


Memories, Dreams, Reflection by Carl Jung – (Buy on Amazon)

Memories, Dreams, Reflections is a partially autobiographical book by Swiss psychologist Carl Jung and an associate, Aniela Jaffé. First published in German in 1962, an English translation appeared in 1963. Memories, Dreams, Reflections details Jung’s childhood, his personal life, and his exploration of the psyche.


Écrits by Jacques Lacan – (Buy on Amazon)

Jacques Marie Émile Lacan (1901 – 1981) was a French psychoanalyst and psychiatrist who has been called “the most controversial psycho-analyst since Freud”. Giving yearly seminars in Paris from 1953 to 1981, Lacan influenced many leading French intellectuals in the 1960s and the 1970s, especially those associated with post-structuralism. His ideas had a significant impact on post-structuralism, critical theory, linguistics, 20th-century French philosophy, film theory, and clinical psychoanalysis. Brilliant and innovative, Jacques Lacan’s work lies at the epicenter of modern thought about otherness, subjectivity, sexual difference, the drives, the law, and enjoyment.


Religions, Values, and Peak Experiences by Abraham Maslow – (Buy on Amazon)

Religions, Values, and Peak Experiences is a 1964 book about psychology by Abraham Maslow. Maslow addressed the motivational significance of peak experiences in a series of lectures in the early 1960s and later published these ideas in book form.

In contrast with the preoccupation of Freudian psychopathology, Maslow insisted on a “psychology of the higher life” which was to attend to the question “of what the human being should grow toward.” In his work, Maslow described the experience of one’s life as meaningful as being based on a feeling of fulfillment and significance.

Maslow’s theory of “peak-experiences” has been compared to William James’ “healthy-minded” religion. Maslow hypothesized a negative relationship between adherence to conventional religious beliefs and the ability to experience peak moments.

In Religions, Values, and Peak Experiences, Maslow stated that the peak experience is “felt as a self-validating, self-justifying moment which carries its own intrinsic value with it.” Furthermore, the person is the “creative center of his (or her) own activities.”


Freedom and Destiny by Rollo May – (Buy on Amazon)

The Origins & Significance of the Existential Movement in Psychology by Rollo May

Rollo Reese May (1909 – 1994) was an American existential psychologist and author of the influential book Love and Will (1969). He is often associated with humanistic psychology, existentialist philosophy and, alongside Viktor Frankl, was a major proponent of existential psychotherapy. The philosopher and theologian Paul Tillich was a close friend who had a significant influence on his work. As well as Love and Will, May’s works also include The Meaning of Anxiety (1950) and, titled in honor of Tillich’s The Courage to Be, The Courage to Create (1975).

Rollo May is an existential analyst who deservedly enjoys a reputation among both general and critical readers as an accessible and insightful social and psychological theorist. Freedom’s characteristics, fruits, and problems; destiny’s reality; death; and therapy’s place in the confrontation between freedom and destiny are examined. Poets, social critics, artists, and other thinkers are invoked appropriately to support May’s theory of freedom and destiny’s interdependence.


Cognitive Psychology by Ulric Neisser – (Buy on Amazon)

Ulric Gustav Neisser (1928 – 2012) was a German-born American psychologist and member of the US National Academy of Sciences. He has been referred to as the “father of cognitive psychology.” Neisser researched and wrote about perception and memory. He posited that a person’s mental processes could be measured and subsequently analyzed. In 1967, Neisser published Cognitive Psychology, which he later said was considered an attack on behaviorist psychological paradigms. Cognitive Psychology brought Neisser instant fame and recognition in the field of psychology.

While Cognitive Psychology was considered unconventional, it was Neisser’s Cognition and Reality that contained some of his most controversial ideas. A main theme in Cognition and Reality is Neisser’s advocacy for experiments on perception occurring in natural (“ecologically valid”) settings. Neisser postulated that memory is, largely, reconstructed and not a snapshot of the moment. Neisser illustrated this during one of his highly publicized studies on people’s memories of the Challenger explosion. In his later career, he summed up current research on human intelligence and edited the first major scholarly monograph on the Flynn effect. A Review of General Psychology survey, published in 2002, ranked Neisser as the 32nd most cited psychologist of the 20th century.


Verbal Behavior by B.F. Skinner – (Buy on Amazon)

Verbal Behavior is a 1957 book by psychologist B. F. Skinner, in which he inspects human behavior, describing what is traditionally called linguistics. Verbal Behavior is almost entirely theoretical, involving little experimental research in the work itself. It was an outgrowth of a series of lectures first presented at the University of Minnesota in the early 1940s and developed further in his summer lectures at Columbia and William James lectures at Harvard in the decade before the book’s publication. A growing body of research and applications based on Verbal Behavior has occurred since its original publication, particularly in the past decade.


Existential Psychotherapy by Irvin D. Yalom – (Buy on Amazon)

Existential Psychotherapy is a nonfiction book by the American existential psychiatrist and author Irvin D. Yalom. In this book, the author offers a brief and pragmatic introduction, addressed to clinical practitioners, to European existential philosophy, as well as to existential approaches to psychotherapy. He presents his four ultimate concerns of life—death, freedom, isolation, and meaninglessness—and discusses developmental changes, psychopathology and psychotherapeutic strategies with regard to these four concerns.

This work is considered, aside from his groundbreaking textbook on group therapy The Theory and Practice of Group Psychotherapy (1970), to be among one of Yalom’s most influential books.


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