Analyzing Rank’s Personality Theory Essay

Analyzing Rank’s Personality Theory


            People, whether young or old alike, would often day dream.  Children would day dream about them becoming rich or becoming superheroes.  Teenagers would day dream about living happily ever after with their movie star crushes.  Adults would day dream for the promotion that they are looking forward to.  This paper would present the purpose of daydreaming in relation to Otto Rank’s theory of personality, the elements of the personality that individuals possess, the role of society to the development of the individual’s theory of personality of Rank and what makes differences in the personalities of individuals occur.

Goal of the Development of Personality

            In everyday life, an individual faces both positive and negative feelings in order to balance each other.  The positive feelings goal is to counteract any negative feelings felt resulting from failures.   This quest of an individual to balance positive and negative feelings was termed by Otto Rank as the Family Romance Theory (Firman & Gila 1997).

Rank stated that this theory begins in childhood when the child enshrines qualities of an emphatic relationship.  Through preserving these feelings as they mature, these provide individuals with the redemption and justice concealed in a traumatic environment leading to them able to find hope in what could be a hopeless situation where they are left feeling despised, ignored and abandoned.  It culminates when the individual feels special, seen and adored rather than the reality of the traumatic feelings of being despised, ignored and abandoned (Firman & Gila 1997).

Elements of the Theory

            According to Rank, a child who begins to feel neglect and hostility from his or her parents, the child eventually believes that he or she is not really a part of the family.  Rather, he or she is just merely adopted by this family and whose real parents are actually of noble birth.  This leads the child developing his or her own private idealized story where the child preserves the belief of the goodness of their parents despite their negative experiences (Firman & Gila 1997).

Over time, this idealization occurs unconsciously.  Rank stated that it is the psychic energy of the individual that becomes a strong force in addictions and compulsions as it is projected outward and sought in people, places and things until the this becomes a vehicle of the idealization for the individual where ultimately a positive personality (Firman & Gila 1997).

Role of Society to the Theory

            Based on the theory presented by Rank, it is evident that society is a crucial factor in the development of this theory in that it is from the environment that the negative and traumatic events come from which affects the individual leading to them developing the family romance feeling that they eventually obtained.

This theory, according to Rank, forms an ideal realm shielding and separating the individual from the society that leaves traumatizing memories.  As a result, it allows the individual to preserve any remaining hope of salvation the individual may have as far as the society is concerned (Firman & Gila 1997).

            This holds particularly true to societies that are considered to have double standards.  Examples of these are regarding the historical dualistic perception on the concept of marriage as well as the feelings of aggression between teenagers and parents.  In both cases, they blame each other for the bitterness that they face in life and accuse them of throwing them into an evil and abusive society (Firman & Gila 1997).

Individual Differences between Personalities

            Ideally, the aim of the family romance theory according to Rank is that the individual is able to cope with the frustrations of the world by looking into the brighter side of things.  However, there are some instances when this becomes inflamed that it becomes distorted by the individual through shutting out other experiences that are brought about by society.  This eventually leads to the individual feeling narcissistic which could eventually lead to individuals suffering from bipolar behavioral disorders (Firman & Gila 1997).


            When an individual goes through a traumatic event in their life such as an abuse or any act of injustice, the individual becomes withdrawn and people tend to say that they have become “trapped in their own worlds.”  Rank’s theory of family romance gave an insight and an explanation as to why victims of abuse and injustice behave the way that they eventually do.  This is greatly evident among women in abusive relationships and why it is difficult for them to leave their partners despite the abuse.  Because women look back into the good times and become hopeful that someday their partner would change their behavior towards them, it becomes impossible to just leave an abusive relationship.


Firman, J. & Gila, A. (1997). The primal wound: a transpersonal view of trauma, addiction,

            and growth. Albany, NY: University of New York Press.