Dr. Maslow defined the self-actualizing person as the one who are "fulfilling themselves and doing the best that they are capable of doing". Dr. Maslow's Qualities of "Self-Actualized Individuals"
1. They are realistically
2. They accept themselves, other people
3. They have a great deal of spontaneity
4. They are problem-centered rather than self-centered.
5. They have an air of detachment and a need for privacy.
6. They are autonomous and independent.
7. Their appreciation of people and things is fresh rather than stereo typed.
8. Most of them have had profound mystical or spiritual experiences although not necessarily religious in character.
9. They identify with mankind.
10. Their intimate relationship with a few specially loved people tends to be profound and deeply emotional rather than superficial.
11. Their values and attitudes are democratic.
12. They do not confuse means with ends.
13. Their sense of humor is philosophical rather than hostile.
14. They have a great fund of creativeness.
15. They resist conformity to the culture.
16. They transcend the environment rather than just coping with it.
The "Self-Actualized Individual"
Dr. Maslow listed several characteristics of self-actualized individuals that emerged from his studies. To simplify these characteristics they are grouped into four key qualities of personal character development:
Self-actualized individuals are characterized by having a clearer sense of perception and awareness. They are very aware of the inner truth and rightness found within everyone and follows its guidance. Their keen awareness surfaces as an efficient perception of what is and is not real. Self-actualized individuals are accurate in their perception of the world and work to remain comfortable in it. They can see through phoniness and assess the real motives and motivations of other people. They have a clearer perception of reality and realism in areas such as politics and religion, which permits them to cut through false fronts and extraneous issues and recognize the true issues. They have a higher acuity or sharpness of perception. Colors appear brighter and more vibrant to them than the average person. They have a more efficient sense of smell, their hearing is more precise, and their eyes do not miss much about what is going on around them.
Self-actualizers display a continued freshness of appreciation. Each sunrise and sunset refreshes them anew, and each new flower is an event that never loses its miraculous quality. Self-actualizers have no preconceptions of what things ought to be. They are open to experience and let each experience speak for itself.
The self-actualized person frequently experiences what Dr. Maslow called a peak experience. A peak experience is an intensification of any experience to the degree that there is a loss of or transcendence of self. These kinds of experiences are often termed mystical or religious, but Dr. Maslow emphasized that they do not necessarily entail traditional religious labels or interpretations. A peak experience may be provoked by a secular event as well. Events that may be mundane and ordinary to others, such as, viewing a work of art or reaching a sexual climax, may be the sparks that trigger a peak experience.
During a peak experience, the individual experiences not only an expansion of self but also a sense of unity and meaningfulness in life. For that moment, the world appears to be complete and the person is at one with it. After the experience is over, and the person has returned to the routine of everyday living, the experience lingers on. It has an illuminating quality that transforms one's understanding so that things do not seem to be quite the same afterwards. Research using a questionnaire about peak experiences has confirmed the characteristics Dr. Maslow described (Privette, 1986). Dr. Maslow believed that all human beings, not only self-actualizers, are potential peakers. People at any stage can have peak experiences, though they are what Dr. Maslow considered a moment of self-actualization. Dr. Maslow distinguished between "transcenders" and the "merely healthy": Transcenders are inclined to have peaks, the merely healthy tend not to. Some people have peak experiences but they suppress them and therefore do not recognize them when they occur. In other cases, one may inhibit a peak experience, thereby preventing its occurrence.
Stimulated by Dr. Maslow's concept, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (1975, 1990) talked with people from many different cultures, backgrounds, vocations, and avocations and discovered that they describe a comparable experience that he terms "flow" and "optimal experience" in which they become so totally involved in what they are doing that they forget all sense of time and awareness of self. In this condition, people are very focused and concentrated on what they are doing. Csikszentmihalyi believes that flow occurs when people are doing something that they are good at but are also being appropriately challenged. Their goals are clear and they are being given immediate feedback. Flow has also been characterized by play and the significance of other people (Privette & Bundrick, 1991).
Self-actualizers show a high degree of ethical awareness. They are clear about
the distinction between good and evil. Self-actualizers have definite ethical standards, although their standards are not necessarily the conventional ones; rather, they know what for them is right and do it.
Self-actualizers are able to distinguish between the goal that they are staving for and the means by which they are accomplishing it. For the most part, they are focused on ends rather than means. At the same time, they often consider as ends activities that are simply means for other people. They can enjoy and appreciate the journey as well as the destination.
Self-actualizers are characterized by honesty, which permits them to know their feelings and to trust them. They can trust the wide range of feelings - love, anger, and humor - present in interpersonal relations.
SeIf-actualizers have a philosophical sense of humor rather than an ordinary one.
Most common jokes and wisecracks express hostility, superiority, or rebellion against authority. The self-actualizer's humor is more closely allied to philosophy. It is essentially an ability to laugh at the ridiculousness of the human situation and to poke fun at our shared human pretensions. Such humor was characteristic of Abraham Lincoln, whose jokes were not at other peoples' expense. Such humor is spontaneous rather than planned. Often it cannot be repeated or retold. Dr. Maslow suggests that he once felt this humor in a room full of kinetic art, sculptures having mechanical parts that can be set into motion. It seemed to him to be a "humorous parody of human life, with the noise, movement, turmoil, hurry and bustle, all of it going no place" (1970).
Self-actualizers experience social interest or a deep feeling of kinship with humanity. Dr. Maslow borrowed Adler's term Gemeinschaftsgefuhl, which means "community feeling" to describe the identification with humanity that is experienced. Although on occasions they may experience feelings of anger, impatience, or disgust, self-actualizers have a general sense of identification, sympathy, and affection for the human race and all its members.
Self-actualizers form deep interpersonal relations. However, they are highly selective and therefore have a small but close circle of friends. They have no need for admirers or large groups of disciples although at times they may attract such followers, creating a situation that they try to handle with tact. Their love of others involves the being of the other person rather than having the love of a person who cares for them. This love stems from a fullness of being rather than a state of deprivation and need.
Their love is not indiscriminate. At times they are quick to anger; they can speak harshly to others and express righteous indignation where a situation calls for it; yet their attitude is one of pity rather than attack. They react to the behavior rather than to the person.
Self-actualizers display a democratic character structure. They are free of prejudice,
tolerant, and accepting of all people regardless of their background. They
listen and they learn from those who are able to teach them.
Self-actualizers experience a high degree of freedom, which permits them to withdraw from the chaos that surrounds others. They are free to be independent, creative, and spontaneous.
Self-actualizers show a high degree of detachment and a need for privacy. Many of us avoid being alone and compulsively seek company of other people. Self-actualizers relish and require times when they can be by themselves. They are not secretive but they often stand apart from other people. Dr. Maslow discovered that many of them did not particularly welcome his questions because they considered such activities a violation of their privacy.
This ability to a be detached extends to other areas as well. It permits the self-actualizer to concentrate to a greater degree than the average person. Whereas others may become excited and involved in the storm of things around them, self-actualizers remain above the battle, calm and unruffled.
Free to be themselves, self-actualizers are also free to let other people be. As parents, this means they have the ability to refrain from meddling with a child, because they like the way the child is growing. They can permit the child to experience the consequences of behavior without overprotecting.
Self-actualizers are autonomous and independent of their physical and social environment. Motivated by growth rather than by deficiency, they do not need to depend on the world or others for their real satisfaction. Their basic needs and gratification's have been met; therefore, they are free to depend on their own development.
Autonomy also entails the ability to choose freely and to govern oneself. Many people let other people such as advertisers make up their minds, but self-actualizers come to their own decisions and assume responsibility for them.
Dr. Maslow found that without exception all of his self-actualizers demonstrated creativity, originality, or inventiveness. This is not to say that they possess a special talent akin to that of a Mozart or a Picasso, but that they have a drive and a capacity to be creative. They do not necessarily write books, compose music, or produce art; instead, their creativeness is projected onto and touches whatever activity they undertake., The carpenter or clerk works creatively, adding a personalized touch to whatever she or he does. SeIf-actualizers even perceive the world creatively, as a child does, envisioning new and different possibilities.
Self-actualizers are spontaneous, simple, and natural. They are free to be what they are at any given moment. Although their behavior is often conventional, they do not allow conventionality to hamper or prevent them from doing the things that they deem important. They are acutely aware of their feelings, thoughts, and impulses and do not hide them unless their expression would hurt others. Their codes of ethics are autonomous and individual, based on fundamentally accepted principles rather than on social prescriptions.
· Freedom And Trust.
Self-actualizers demonstrate a high degree of trust. They trust themselves, their mission in life, others, and nature.
Self-actualizers are generally problem centered rather than focused on themselves. They have a high sense of mission in life. They are task oriented and commit themselves to important tasks that must be done. They live and work within a wide frame of reference that does not permit them to get bogged down in what is petty or trivial. Problems outside themselves enlist most of their attention.
Self-actualizers demonstrate acceptance of self, others, and nature. They accept themselves without disappointment or regret. This is not to say that they are smug or self-satisfied but rather that they accept their weaknesses and frailties as given. They are not embarrassed about the bodily processes that humans share with animals. The needs to eat, defecate, and express their sexuality do not distress them. They feel guilty about characteristics that they could and should improve on, but they are not overrun with neurotic guilt. As Dr. Maslow pointed out, they are not disturbed by the shortcomings of human nature but accept them in the way that one accepts other natural things, such as the fact that water is wet, rocks are hard, and grass is green. Healthy people do not feel bad about what is per se but about differences between what is and what might realistically be.
Self-actualizers are not well adjusted in the normal since of the term, which entails conformity with one's culture: they show resistance to enculturation. Essentially, they live in harmony with their culture, yet they remain somewhat detached from it. Often they are labeled "oddball," as they do not always react in the expected fashion. They generally conform in matters of dress, speech, and food, and other matters that are not of primary concern to them. But where an issue is important they are independent in their thought and behavior. This resistance to enculturation leads to their transcendence of any one particular culture. Thus their identification is with humanity as a whole rather than any one particular group.
Dr. Maslow acknowledged that the picture he drew of the self-actualized person is a composite. No one person that he studied possessed all of the above qualities. Each of them demonstrated the characteristics to varying degrees. Furthermore, Dr. Maslow emphasized that self-actualizers are not perfect. They show many lesser human failings. They frequently have silly, wasteful, or thoughtless habits. At times they are vain and take too much pride in their achievements. They may sometimes lose their tempers. Because of their concentration on their work, they may appear absent minded, humorless, or impolite. At times their kindness toward others leads them to permit others to take undue advantage of them. At other times they may appear to be ruthless and inconsiderate in their relations with other people. Sometimes they are boring, even irritating. In short, they are not perfect; yet, Dr. Maslow's definition of self-actualization did not imply perfection but a higher level of functioning.
The principles and values of self-actualizers differ from those of the average person. Perceiving the world in an essentially different manner, they are not threatened by it and do not need to adopt a morality of self-protection. Dr. Maslow suggests that a great deal of that which passes for moral and ethical standards may simply be "by-products of the pervasive pathology of the average" (1970). Maintenance at the level of self-actualization requires meeting the previous needs continuously, but self-actualizers are able to satisfy them routinely so that they can devote themselves to the values that concur with the B-needs. Thus, at one and the same time, their values are universal and reflect shared humanity but are also distinct, individual, and unique.
Dr. Maslow concluded that self-actualization entails the ability to transcend and resolve dichotomies. The usual oppositions between heart and head, reason and emotion, body and mind, work and play that fragment most of us do not exist as antagonists, because they are seen as functioning together simultaneously. For example, the distinction between being selfish and unselfish is no longer bothersome. Self-actualizers can recognize that every act is at one and the same time selfish and unselfish. That which is done for the benefit of others is frequently that which benefits the self. Dr. Maslow suggested that in the self-actualized individual the id, ego, and superego work cooperatively together.
Dr. Maslow suggested that the number of people who achieve self-actualization is relatively small, less than one percent of the entire population. Concepts such as "the self-actualized person" may apply to only a select few. Obviously, the possibility of self-actualization is limited or even closed to large numbers of the human population, whose environment and life-style have yet to meet the lesser needs depicted in Dr. Maslow's hierarchy, let alone the higher needs. This is not to say, however, that some groups of people are by nature unable to self- actualize. Dr. Maslow did point out that some people can be healthier than their environment. He concluded that they have some kind of inner freedom but did not specify how or why.
Contemporary research on competent children from high-risk environments is seeking to clarify why children are more or less vulnerable to the effects of their environment. Heylighen (1992) has constructed a cognitive systemic reconstruction of Dr. Maslow's theory redefining self-actualization as perceived competence that one is able to meet one's needs. Childhood poverty or ineptitude may cause feelings of incompetence that inhibit the development of self- actualization.
Some critics suggest that Dr. Maslow's view of the self-actualized individual is based on American values of individual achievement. Because of cultural training, many people in Western societies tend to believe that personality is best rooted on a high sense of positive self-esteem. Thus parents in middle-class America are encouraged to take steps to develop positive self-esteem in their children, especially their sons (Markus & Katayama, 1991; Josephs, Markus, & Tafarodi, 1992), and psychological disorders such as anxiety and depression are often seen as a failure to develop such autonomy, achievement, and feeling of self-worth. However, people in many non-Western cultures cultivate very dissimilar personalities. In Japan and China, an autonomous self is not stressed and children are taught to cooperate and not to demonstrate their superiority so as to avoid diminishing other people. The expression tiqau in Japanese denotes both "different" and "wrong" (Markus & Kitayama, 1991, and Kitayama & Marcus, 1992). Japanese children are encouraged to be extremely modest about any personal accomplishment so that they will adapt to the more important social and group environment. Thus activities that American children are more apt to engage in individually, such as painting, in Japan are more likely to be group projects (Kitayama & Marcus, 1992). As a result, people perceive themselves to be part of a whole and define themselves in terms of the group.
When Kitayama and his coworkers compared the responses of Japanese and American university students asked to indicate the frequency and origin of certain emotions, Japanese students associated positive feelings with good interpersonal relations rather than personal achievements, whereas the opposite was true of the Americans (Kitayama & Marcus, 1992).
Likewise, even within the same culture gender differences may apply. Thus in North America a woman's self-esteem tends to be based on interpersonal relations whereas a man's tends to be based on personal accomplishments Josephs et al., 1992). Lerman (1992) reminds us that Dr. Maslow did not demonstrate how the environment frequently fails to permit the gratification of basic needs of women and other subjugated groups. She believes, however, that there is a place in his and other humanist theories for contributions from a feminist examination of the environment and its potential impact on the well-being of humanity. Such an inquiry would require the elimination of sexism and careful examination of blind spots.
However, others (such as Chang & Page, 1991) believe that cross-cultural comparisons between Rogers, Malsow, Lao Tzu, and Zen Buddhism point more toward a universality of human experience in that they all share the assumption that people have an actualizing tendency that fosters positive growth. Miller (1991) suggests that placing self-actualization in the context of transpersonal psychology removes its elitism and fosters cross-cultural comparisons with Eastern concepts. Rather than emphasize one concept of an ideal, Coan (1991) suggests we look at the diverse ways in which people can realize their potential.
It is to Dr. Maslow's credit that he has turned the attention of psychologists to those qualities that constitute optimal human health and functioning rather than represent human life gone awry. The example of the self-actualized individual suggests and inspires us to improve our human condition.