by another psychologist, Kurt Goldstein, it was Maslow who made the term 'self-actualized' well-known. It described the seemingly
rare individuals who had achieved 'full humanness' - a blend of psychological health and devotion to their work that made
them highly effective. If there were a lot more such people, he reasoned, our world would be transformed. Instead of putting
all our energies into dreaming up faster and better things, we should be trying to create societies which produced more self-actualized
Before Maslow, psychology was divided into two camps: the 'scientific' behaviorists
and positivists, who felt no idea in psychology was valid unless proven; and the Freudian psychoanalysts. Maslow originated
a 'third force', humanistic psychology, which refused to see human beings as machines operating 'in response to environment',
or as the pawn of subconscious forces.
Human beings became people again, creative, free-willed
and wanting to fulfill their potential. In addition, Maslow's studies of 'peak experiences', those transcendent moments in
which everything makes sense and we sense a unity in ourselves and with the world.
Maslow's study of self-actualizing people began with his admiration
for his teachers, anthropologist Ruth Benedict and psychologist Max Wertheimer. Though not perfect, they struck him as fully
evolved in every aspect, and he recalls his excitement that it was possible to generalize about such people.
What marked out these individuals from the rest? Firstly, a devotion to something greater than themselves: a vocation.
They devote their lives to what he called 'being' values, such as truth, beauty, goodness,
simplicity. Yet these 'B-Values' are not simply nice attributes that the self-actualizer wishes for - they are needs that
must be fulfilled. "In certain definable and empirical ways," Maslow observed, "it is necessary for man to
live in beauty rather than ugliness, as it is necessary for him to have food for his aching belly or rest for his weary body".
We all know we must eat, drink and sleep, but Maslow argued that once these basic needs
were met, we developed 'metaneeds' regarding the higher B values which also had to be fulfilled. This was his famous 'hierarchy
of needs', which began with oxygen and water and finished with the need for spiritual and psychological fulfillment.
Nearly all psychological problems, he believed, stemmed from 'sicknesses of the soul' which involved
lack of meaning or anxiety in these needs not being met. Most people cannot articulate that they even have these needs, yet
their pursuit was vital to being fully human.
/ Achieving full humanness
To make it a less esoteric concept, Maslow was keen to show what self-actualization meant on a daily
basis, from moment to moment. For him it was not a case of 'one great moment' like a religious experience. Rather, it involved:
Experiencing with full absorption.
Engagement with something that makes us forget our defenses and poses and shyness.
We regain "the guilelessness of childhood" in these moments.
Awareness of life as a series of choices; one way advances us towards personal growth,
the other involves a regression.
Being aware that you have a self and
listening to its voice, rather than the voice of a parent or society.
to be honest, and as a result taking responsibility for what you think and feel.
The willingness to say, "No, I don't like such and such", even if it makes you unpopular.
Willingness to work and apply yourself in order make the most of your abilities.
In whatever field you are in, to be among the best.
Real desire to
uncover your psychological defenses and give them up.
to see other people in their best light, "under the aspect of eternity".
Separateness and Awareness*
Our perspective is that there are solid and separate things each with an independent existence.
We experience ourselves as existing as an independent and completely separate being.
Whilst this is true in terms of how we interact with each other and true in how we each take in
energy separately as food and process it separately within our bodies - we are not ultimately separate at all.
Consider a flower. Now, flowers do not exist floating in nothingness. They
exist only where there is soil of a certain type, where there is water in a certain amount, and with sunlight of a certain
duration and intensity.
These things all go
with each other. They are a system, a unified field, what you could call a flower/soil/water/sun, an organism/environment.
But notice that we could also add a bee to our system, since bees do not exist where there are no flowers, and flowers do
not exist where there are no bees. They are really one thing, and they cannot exist in isolation.
And we could keep adding things, until we had added everything.We could also
add that the field and the sky are really part of the same system, and the sky and outer space are connected and part of the
same system, and so on and so on. Any division you make, any distinction you make, is arbitrary.
That isn`t to say to make divisions and distinctions is not necessary and
useful. Apart from anything else we need to do that to have a system of communication between us. But what is important is
that we are aware that whenever we talk about anything we are talking about only a part of the complete picture. Just like
if we talk about a bee, it is useful to be able to do so, but in so doing we cut out a mass of the detail concerning a greater
and broader reality.
Each individual cell in
your body can go around saying it`s independant from every other cell --- it takes in food, it converts it and nourishes itself
and reproduces. Sound familiar?