The Thurstonian Theory of Life
Interest in the causes and effects of human behavior has existed since the beginning of time, e.g. “Why does Og sit by the fi re with Oolie rather than with me?” The intense need to understand others continues to this very day. Unscrupulous individuals continue to falsely claim having answers in response to that need, e.g. what should I do with an unfaithful husband? How shall I maximize the growth of my gifted child? This unusual book clearly challenges the usual religious, psychological, and psychiatric/medical formulations; they have too often proven to be simplistic, unrealistic, and unhelpful. Various religions lay claim to complete knowledge. People are provided with a pattern to live by. In the absence of empirical proof, it’s impossible to determine when a religion is really authentic and helpful and when it is not. Psychologists are not far behind in their proclamations that they have identifi ed touchstones that will provide an understanding of the human condition. However, their theories are routinely simplistic. Adler claims to understand people by noting their birth order. Ellis reduced problems and personal actualization to A, B, and C. Freud suggested that major problems of women were occasioned by their “pining for a penis.” The prevailing psychiatric “diagnostic” approach groups troubled individuals who share unacceptable behaviors in common, i.e. a label—the diagnosis. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) of the APA spells this out. The diagnosis dictates the treatment; usually drugs. Concern about individual uniqueness of patients is lost in this approach. The Thurstonian Theory emphasizes the incredible complexity of humankind. There are no simple answers, a truth that must be taken into consideration by anyone trying to understand another person. After service in the Navy in World War II, John R. Thurston attended Michigan State University, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and earned a Ph.D. in clinical psychology at the University of Iowa in 1953. He has engaged in private practice as a clinical psychologist (psychodiagnosis, psychotherapy), taught courses (personality, mental health, and abnormal psychology) as a Professor of Psychology at University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, and has been extensively engaged in research throughout his career.