Steve Jobs Psychology Analysis

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Updated: Mar 28, 2022
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Steve Jobs was an American inventor and entrepreneur who co-founded Apple, a company well-known for changing the history of technology through its revolutionary creation of computers, iPods, iPads, and iPhones. Apple has become a recognized brand around the world and its products have won countless awards for their high-tech capabilities, conveniency, and aesthetics, making Jobs one of the most successful businessmen of today. Despite being highly respected in the business world, Jobs had a negative reputation with the public as being mercurial, dictator-like, desperate to take all the credit, yet charismatic and able to seduce employees and customers in order to get what he wanted (Schlender, 2016).

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He persistently strove for perfection, and when his goals were not met, he was quick to abandon his team, showing no loyalty or attachment towards his partners. This pattern can be seen in his relationships as well, especially with his first love Chrisann Brennan, who blamed their on and off relationship on Jobs’s vortex of emotions and scars from his childhood (Isaacson, 2014). The explanation for Jobs’s narcissistic, insecure, power-thirsty personality is represented in psychologist John Bowlby’s Attachment Theory, a list of three types of relationships that an infant can form with his or her mother or caregiver, which creates the foundation to the infant’s mental health and sense of security, not only with themselves but in romantic relationships throughout their life.

Bowlby’s Attachment Theory emphasizes how important a secure and trusting relationship between an infant and its mother is to the infant’s development and psychological well-being. According to this theory, newborns immediately begin developing a distinctive relationship with their mothers and this neuropsychological process, or attachment system, continues to guide their future relationships as the infant matures based on the scale of security developed from this initial relationship (Mayer, 2018). This theory was tested and proven correct by Mary Ainsworth in her laboratory test, called the “strange situation,” where the mother and baby were placed in a playroom, the mother eventually left, and a stranger then entered the room (Mayer, 2018). During each trial, the observers recorded the interaction between the baby and its mother, specifically focusing on the baby’s reaction when the mother returned (Mayer, 2018). The three main patterns of attachment observed were secure, anxious-avoidant, and anxious-resistant. The most socially desirable outcome was secure attachment, where the mother attends and responds to her baby sympathetically and the baby handles the absence of its mother better because it feels confident that she will come back and care for its needs (Mayer, 2018). Anxious-avoidant attachment is the least desirable relationship, as the mother shows no interest in her newborn and often ignores him or her, causing the infant to have an uncertain, anxious reaction towards contact with others (Mayer, 2018). The final category, anxious-resistant, demonstrates a mixture of both the previously mentioned attachment patterns. In anxious-resistant attachments, the mother’s treatment shows no consistency, causing the infant to be unsure about how its mother will treat him or her and unable to tolerate being alone (Mayer, 2018). When interacting with its mother, the infant is very cautious and skeptical towards her due to the unpredictable nature of the care she gives. This inconsistency in the mother-infant relationship can be seen between Jobs and the mother figure in his life.

Jobs was born in 1955 to an unmarried couple who were unable to take care of him, so Paul and Clara Jobs adopted him at birth (Isaacson, 2014)). Soon after the adoption, Jobs’s biological mother had taken his adoptive parents to court because she originally had chosen a Catholic, well-educated, wealthy, “better” family but instead her child was placed with the lower-middle-class Jobs couple (Brennan, 2013). Throughout the court hearing, Clara Jobs neglected her newly adopted infant, explaining how for the first six months of his life, she was too frightened to love him because she was scared his biological parents were going to take him away from her (Brennan, 2013). Even after the Jobs family won the case, which was not settled until Jobs’s parents legally committed to sending him to college, Clara stated that he was so difficult of a child that she wanted to return him because she felt as if she and her husband had made a mistake (Brennan, 2013). As he grew up, Clara consistently told Jobs that his birth mother was one of the most beautiful women she had ever seen, and the idea of her beauty became an untouchable, personal triumph for him (Brennan, 2013). The way Jobs idealized his birth mother can be described almost as pitiful because this vision of her meant so much to him, yet it was perfected in her absence (Brennan, 2013). Jobs clung onto this fantasy so firmly because, in reality, he never had an authentic, true mother figure. His relationship with Clara was tentative; she strived to connect with him yet was cautious about loving him. Despite her desperate attempts to be a nurturing and attentive mother, Clara was inconsistent and emotionally unavailable at times, demonstrating an anxious-resistant connection with Jobs.

Children who have an anxious-resistant attachment often grow up to be self-critical and insecure (Catlett, 2019). From the moment they met junior year of highschool, Chrissan noticed a profound sadness in Jobs that would sometimes take over him, producing a buzz of “mean darkness” that demonstrated devastating loneliness and emotional starvation (Brennan, 2013). During these dark times, Jobs would hold his body in disturbing ways, standing frail and stooped, looking like a ‘mad cripple’ (Brennan, 2013). He also created a false identity, calling himself Oaf Toabar and using the name to conceal his shyness and low self-esteem in order to become a fearless, invulnerable man (Brennan, 2013). Chrissan described Jobs as acting like a blind man communicating between his false and real selves, distorting reality and creating his own world in his mind (Brennan, 2013). Jobs made many jokes about his life being a mistake due to a case of having the wrong identity (Brennan, 2013). He didn’t believe he was in the right life and constantly worried he was running out of time in life to fulfil his purpose. These beliefs, nicknames, instability of emotions, and insecurities followed Jobs into adulthood.

As adults, children who have grown up with anxious-resistant attachment continue to be extremely self-critical, often seeking reassurance from others in order to decrease their self doubt. Due to the irregular emotional availability of their parent, there is a constant fear of rejection in their relationships, driving them to act clingy, possessive, and rely on their partner for validation (Catlett, 2019). They become angry when the attention/reassurance they want isn’t given, usually expressing their anxiety and displeasure dramatically (Catlett, 2019). Attempting to suppress their anger, their behavior tends to fluctuate between angry outbursts and pleas for forgiveness (Catlett, 2019). The fluctuation of his emotions lines up with the status of his relationship with Chrissan; the more negative his mood became, the more he would act out and belittle Chrissan, creating tension and leading the couple to grow apart. After each breakup, Jobs would always come running back to Chrissan, a true sign of an attachment problem (Warren, 1997). Despite his burning need to connect with someone and have a stable relationship, Jobs’s internal mental conflict made him project his insecurities onto Chrissan by verbally abusing her (Brennan, 2013). Jobs fell prey to the vulnerabilities his adoption and parental relationship created and criticizing others was the only way to fill this hole in him. Bullying can be seen in Jobs’s relationships with coworkers as well – he often lashed out, yelling and blaming his team when something didn’t work out the way he wanted (Brennan, 2013). He wanted all eyes on him and would wipe anyone out in the process.

Jobs’ feelings of abandonment from his biological mother made him insecure and shy as an adolescent yet grew up to become overly controlling and manipulative. He used his weaknesses from childhood to influence people throughout his life. Because he missed out on love as a child, Jobs looked to others for appreciation and attention, but when given recognition, he would take advantage of it and use it to get what he wanted. As Jobs gained more power and fame from Apple, his sense of self-entitlement grew. His infamous power-thirsty personality that makes him so well known in the business world all stemmed from his mother. The anxious-resistant attachment pattern Clara displayed towards Jobs when he was an infant was crucial to the development of his personality. Clara’s distant, unpredictable love patterns were reflected in Jobs’s future relationships and the unconscious feeling of abandonment from his biological mother evolved to make Jobs not the confident, dominant man he believed he was, but an anxious, emotionally distant man hungry for appreciation.

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Steve Jobs Psychology Analysis. (2021, Apr 16). Retrieved from