Dr. Abraham Maslow
“A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write,
if he is to be at peace with himself. What a man can be, he must be.
This is the need we may call self-actualization … It refers to man’s
desire for fulfillment, namely to the tendency for him to become
actually in what he is potentially: to become everything that one
is capable of becoming …” -Maslow
As potential models of a self-actualized person, Dr. Maslow identified the following historical figures: Abraham Lincoln (in his last years), Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Albert Einstein, Aldous Huxley, William James, Spinoza, Goethe, Pablo Casals, Pierre Renoir, Robert Browning, Walt Whitman, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Eleanor Roosevelt, Jan Addams, Albert Schweitzer, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Joseph Haydn among others.
Characteristics of Self Actualizing People
Realistically oriented, a Self-Actualizing (SA) person has a more efficient perception of reality, and has comfortable relations with it. This is extended to all areas of life. A Self-Actualizing person is unthreatened and unfrightened by the unknown. He has a superior ability to reason, to see the truth, and is logical and efficient.
Accepts himself, others and the natural world the way they are. Sees human nature as is, has a lack of crippling guilt or shame, enjoys himself without regret or apology, and has no unnecessary inhibitions.
Spontaneity, Simplicity, Naturalness
Spontaneous in his inner life. Thoughts and impulses are unhampered by convention. His ethics are autonomous, and Self-actualizing individuals are motivated to continual growth.
Focus of Problem Centering
A Self-actualizing person focuses on problems and people outside of himself. He has a mission in life requiring much energy, as it is his sole reason for existence. He is serene, characterized by a lack of worry, and is devoted to duty.
Detachment: The Need for Privacy
The Self-actualized person can be alone and not be lonely, is unflappable, and retains dignity amid confusion and personal misfortunes, all the while remaining objective. He is a self starter, is responsible for himself, and owns his behavior.
Autonomy: Independent of Culture and Environment
The SA person has a fresh rather than stereotyped appreciation of people and the basic good in life. Moment to moment living for him is thrilling, trans-cending, and spiritual as he lives the present moment to the fullest.
“Feelings of limitless horizons opening up to the vision, the feeling of being simultaneously more powerful and also more helpless than one ever was before, the feeling of ecstasy and wonder and awe, the loss of placement in time and space with, finally, the conviction that something extremely important and valuable had happened, so that the subject was to some extent transformed and strengthened even in his daily life by such experiences.” Abraham Maslow
Identification, sympathy, affection for mankind, kinship with the good, bad, and ugly are all traits of the SA person. Truth is clear to him as he can see things others cannot. He has profound, intimate relationships with few and is capable of greater love than others consider possible as he shares his bene-volence, affection, and friendliness with everyone.
Democratic values and attitudes
The SA person is able to learn from anyone, is humble and friendly with anyone regardless of class, education, political belief, race or color.
Discrimination: means and ends, Good and Evil
The SA does not confuse between means and ends and does no wrong. He enjoys the here and now, getting to goal–not just the result. He makes the most tedious task an enjoyable game and has his own inner moral standards (appearing amoral to others).
Philosophical, unhostile sense of humor
Jokes to the SA person are teaching metaphors, intrinsic to the situation and are spontaneous. He can laugh at himself, but he never makes jokes that hurt others.
The SA person enjoys an inborn uniqueness that carries over into everything he does, is original, inventive, uninhibited, and he sees the real and true more easily.
Resistance to enculturation: Transcendence of any particular culture
SA people have an inner detachment from culture. Although folkways may be observed, SA people are not controlled by them. Working for long term culture improvement, indignation with injustice, inner autonomy, outer acceptance, and the ability to transcend the environment rather than just cope are intrinsic to SA people.
SA people are painfully aware of their own imperfections and joyfully aware of their own growth process. They are impatient with themselves when stuck and feel real life pain as a result.
The SA person is realistically human due to a philosophical acceptance of self, human nature, social life, physical reality, and nature.
Resolution of dichotomies
Polar opposites merge into a third, higher phenomenon as though the two have united; therefore, opposite forces are no longer felt as conflict. To the SA person work becomes play and desires are in excellent accord with reason. The SA person retains his childlike qualities yet is very wise.
Maslow says there are two processes necessary for self-actualization: self exploration and action. The deeper the self exploration, the closer one comes to self-actualization.
Self-actualization sounds like a nice thing, indeed… a worthy venture. I have a good number of guest posts around it – you might think I embrace it whole-heartedly. However, I encourage you to read the related post, Maslow was Wrong (and so was I), as it really made me think. I actually agree, at the core, we are spiritual beings. That’s the very reason my focus is on transpersonal coaching and why no other specialty seemed right for me. I can’t, in good conscience, focus on one aspect of myself or my clients. We are whole beings – body, mind and spirit – and it is second nature for me to identify spiritual lessons and essences to any and all challenges we face as humans. My spirituality is not something I do – it’s who I am. For some, Maslow’s Theory may work as it stands, and I can see the logic. Just consider what this world would be like if we all turned the pyramid upside down.