Maslow’s Self-Actualisation

Self actualisation is an old concept that many psychologists now don’t seem to bother with. Yet, it is a notion that ‘works’ for those of us looking to move from an ‘adequate’ life to an extraordinary one. Here are some thoughts…

Dr. Abraham Maslow coined the term “Self-Actualization” as the pinnacle in the hierarchy of human needs. Dr. Maslow summed up the concept as:
“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 …”

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.
(It is interesting to note that several of these “models” were also identified by Dr. R. M. Bucke, in his book: “Cosmic Consciousness,” as individuals that exhibited the behavior of people who had experienced cosmic consciousness.)
Characteristics of Self Actualizing People

  • Realistic
    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.
  • Self Acceptance
    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.
  • Peak experiences
    “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 val-
    uable had happened, so that the subject was to some extent transformed and
    strengthened even in his daily life by such experiences.” Abraham Maslow
  • Interpersonal relations
    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
  • Creativity
    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
  • 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.
  • Imperfections
    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.
  • Values
    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.

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