Major Highlights of Maslow’s Theory
Maslow’s great strength lies in his concern for the areas of human functioning that most other theorists have almost completely ignored. He is one of the few psychologists who have seriously investigated the positive dimensions of human experience.
His major contributions might be summarized in the following three central ideas:
- Human beings have an innate tendency to move toward higher levels of health, creativity, insight, and self-fulfillment.
- Neurosis is basically a blockage of the innate tendency toward self-actualization.
- Business efficiency and personal growth are not incompatible. In fact, the process of self-actualization brings each individual to greater efficiency, creativity, and productivity.
The experimental work that Maslow did was mostly inconclusive; exploratory might be a better term to describe it, and he was the first to acknowledge this:
“It’s just that I haven’t got the time to do careful experiments myself. They take too long, in view of the years that I have left and the extent of what I want to do. So I myself do only “quick- and- dirty” little pilot explorations, mostly with a few subjects only, inadequate to publish but enough to convince myself that they are probably true and will be confirmed one day. Quick little commando raids, guerrilla attacks.”
Maslow’s greatest value is as a psychological theorist who has stressed the positive dimensions of human experience-particularly the tremendous potential that all men and women possess. Maslow has been an inspiration for virtually all humanistic and transpersonal psychologists. In his book on Maslow and modern psychology, Colin Wilson writes:
Maslow was the first person to create a truly comprehensive psychology stretching, so to speak, from the basement to the attic. He accepted Freud’s clinical method without accepting his philosophy… The “transcendent” urges-aesthetic, creative, religious-are as basic and permanent a part of human nature as dominance or sexuality. If they are less obviously “universal,” this is only because fewer human beings reach the point at which they take over. Maslow’s achievement is enormous. Like all original thinkers, he has opened up a new way of seeing the universe.
Maslow has been called “the greatest American psychologist since William James” Although many might consider this praise somewhat exaggerated, no one can deny Maslow’s central importance as an original thinker and a pioneer in human potential psychology.
- For a theory of personality to be considered viable and accurate, the heights as well as the depths that an individual might reach ought to be included. One should investigate the most creative, mature, and well-integrated people to study the upper reaches of psychological health and maturity.
- In the hierarchy of needs, physiological urges (hunger, sleep, sex, etc.) must be met before psychological needs. Basic psychological needs are safety (stability, order), love (belonging), esteem (self-respect, recognition), and self-actualization (development of capacities). Needs emerge from and build on the needs before.
- The hierarchy of needs model suggests that behaviorism, psychoanalysis, humanistic psychology, and transpersonal psychology each have their place and their relevance; no one approach is better than another.
- Deprivation of basic needs (including the need for self- actualization as well as physiological needs) can cause neurosis and maladjustment. The satisfaction of those needs is the only treatment.
- People still feel frustrated, even if all their other needs are met, unless they utilize their talents and capacities and experience self- actualization.
- Self- actualizing people are dedicated to a cause or a vocation, without exception. Commitment to something greater than oneself and to doing well one’s chosen tasks, are two requirements for growth. Major characteristics of self- actualizing people are hard work, courage, creativity, and spontaneity.
- Maslow identified eight behaviors that lead to self-actualization: concentration, growth choices, self-awareness, honesty, judgment, self-development peak experiences, and lack of ego defenses.
- Being psychology tends to be most applicable to self- actualizers, and peak experiences are generally related to this realm as well. In deficiency cognition, objects are seen only as need fulfillers in being cognition, perceptions are less likely to be distorted by wants or needs.
- Until the individual is free of the domination of the lower needs, such as for security and esteem, the pursuit of self-actualization cannot begin. The pursuit of higher needs is itself one index of psychological health.
- Growth motivation is less basic than physiological drives or psychological needs for security, esteem, and so forth. Self-actualization may be hindered by negative influences from past experience and resulting poor habits, social pressure and group influence, and inner defenses that keep the individual out of touch with his or her inner self.
- Ego defenses are internal obstacles to growth. To become aware of them and to see clearly how they operate is the first step in dealing with them. It is important, as well, to minimize the distortions they create. Maslow has added desacralization and the Jonah complex to the traditional psychoanalytic listing of defenses.
According to Maslow, there are possibilities beyond self-actualization. When peak experiences are especially powerful, the sense of self dissolves into an awareness of a greater unity.
For me life has been a series of valuable self discoveries… I did however experience a number of traumatic experiences at a young age, but through the gift of grace, I somehow found myself in positions where I could express my efficiency, creativity, and productivity. I now know unquestionably that my spirit grew from this, which provided me the doorway into a world of hope that could have other wise been burdened with emotional suffering.
I guess that’s why I am such a TribeTalker when it comes to Maslow, because I know his theory is a living truth and proof, because I knew instinctively that creativity and effectiveness were my ticket to self-actulization long before I knew who Maslow was, which is precisely what he is suggesting. So I am extremely grateful that Maslow did this work and that we can all benefit from his keen observations.
I have always wanted to know myself, discover my purpose and live a larger story… And that’s why I created the Living Attributes typology and Real Deal seminars, so I can continue being my creative self, share my experience of life and add value to people lives who also want to be self-actualised human being.
Elizabeth Ellames – Founder and Creative Director of
Living Attributes and Real Deal seminars