Abraham Maslow singled out some persons he knew and much later wrote, "I had to conclude that self-actualization of the sort I had found in my older subjects perhaps was not possible in our society for young, developing people." He therefore decided, with E. Raskin and D. Freedman, to search for quite healthy college students and arbitrarily decided to choose the healthiest 1 percent of them. This went on for more than two years. Figures created by novelists or dramatists were not found usable.
The chosen students were lacking in neurosis, psychopathic personality, psychosis, or strong tendencies in these directions. And "Possibly psychosomatic illness called forth closer scrutiny and screening."
This means they set up themselves as judges or fault-finders of others, without having any widely agreed-on criteria. But there is a wider picture, one that Kahlil Gibran is hinting at:
When the black thread breaks, the weaver shall look into the whole cloth, and he shall examine the loom also. [The Prophet, "On Crime and Punishment"]
Neurotic symptoms could in part be a being's responses to a society ruled by scoundrels. In simple words, there is a range (continuum) from "You're crazy; but it's not your fault; it's society's fault" on the one hand, and to "You're crazy, none others are to blame."
Dr Philip Zimbardo, now professor emeritus in psychology at Stanford University, has studied student behaviour in America and noted that the large society is not fit for all human beings. He finds the following valid for cult groups:
What is common are the recruiting promises, influence agendas and group's coercive influence power that compromise the personal exercise of free will and critical thinking. . . .
A good society handles youngsters essentially better than hard cults, and considers that nourishing unwise shyness shows non-proficient dealings, or doing much too much wrong. At present there are about 5,000 cults in the United States, according to Margaret Singer, in Cults in Our Midst (2003, xvii).
The positive student criteria Maslow and Co. were after under the shelter of the umbrella label "self-actualization (SA)," has its basic weaknesses. A need to get shelter and one's own house and family depends on much other factors than openness. Openness has its place in life, and so has mistrust - for example mistrust in gunmen, looters, and bad people. Young, open and frivolous ones may need extra shelter. Families, walls and neighbourhoods are for that. In the USA, there are developments along this line, but in Maslow's lifetime there was much less security-seeking.
Another point: Maslowian self-actualisation is a concept that is not marked by much accuracy and adequacy. It looks more like a hope. So beware: Maslow and others settled on some criteria and looked for them in people and ignored other criteria from ancient times. [Jivamuktas]. Also, Tao Te Ching tells that the best ones are too deep to understand, and therefore described arbitrarily (Lao-Tzu 1989, Chap. 15, 17, etc.)
Maslow's understanding in this is exposing one's talents, capacities, potentialities much is good. To the degree that people expose themselves in various ways - being tested - is used to rank them. It is not good, for true worth goes a long way further. Maslow and others ignore the proverbial wisdom that "It is a fool who cannot hide his wisdom." It is not the title, age, rank and measured IQ of a person that determines how good a person is at thinking, but many fall under such sways, think Fred Kerlinger and Howard Lee (2000). [Compare]
What may be most lacking in Maslow's approach is sense - sense that balances between in and outis normally worth going for, for without it, thriving is hardly had. In other words, the more branches and leaves and fruit a tree has, the better its rooting and soil and other conditions have to be. If not, exploitation may follow, overwork and failing health too. Those are world-wide problems.
Another problem is regrettably seen in the need to protect oneself from bad neighbours and others. Only fools think all others are friends, asserts the Norse teaching-poem Havamal. A balance between open friendliness and self-protection may be hard to find, but is needed among attacks or wars in whatever forms they get.
A sebayt , precept, from ancient Egypt:
That which is said in your heart, let it be realised by springing up spontaneously - Ptah-Hotep
Maslow's ideas of what are good people: first he defines some he hopes are the good choices, and next his definition or understanding is "confirmed" by people who match such criteria, but not by all who urinate like cows and the like in an academic setting or a lane [Jivamuktas]. Maslow approached what is called the "self-fulfilling prophesy". A self-fulfilling prophecy is a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it is already true.
Not to say anything bad about Maslow's actualisers. Some may have been on the Way . . . There is a need for upright people in the world. Those that Maslow classified, where not jivamuktas or mysterious, very poorly described folks of ancient China.
But this stands out: The persons that Maslow looked at, seemed to him to be fulfilling themselves and to be doing the best that they wee capable of doing, they had developed or were developing to the full stature (!) of which they are capable. Correction: "Developing to what Maslow thought was their full stature." As if he knew. (Cf. Lao-Tzu 1989, chaps. 15 and 17).
Now, Maslow's chosen ones were of the kinds that felt "safe and unanxious, accepted, loved and loving, respect-worthy and respected", but those features - self-esteem and security - might be just prerequisites of wise Self-actualization in the way of Sanatan Dharma and its freed ones.
Abraham Lincoln in his last years was one of the "fairy sure historical figures" chosen by Maslow. We know what happened to him, despite an out-of-place feeling of being "safe and unanxious" in the theatre and so on. A good bodyguard could have saved his life. Thomas Jefferson, slave-owner, was another historical figure Maslow found to be of quality. Most slaves might disagree, in principle.
A background check of some of Maslow's admired persons is not out of place. Among those Maslow admired and so on, were also "seven fairly sure and two highly probable contemporaries" of Maslow. They had been interviewed.
It shows up that Maslow looked up to and included Albert Einstein, Eleanor Roosevelt, Jane Addams, William James, Albert Schweitzer, Aldous Huxley, and Benedict de Spinoza.
As for Albert Einstein in Pablo Picasso's view: "The genius of Einstein leads to Hiroshima." Afterwards, generations have lived in fear. The atomic bomb was not only Einstein's destructive work, though. Many, like Robert Oppenheimer, cooperated in making it and making the planet a worse place to live in. They wanted to get rid of something bad by something worse. Question the approach before the planet becomes a wasteland.
It is a sad thing, people that are admired and looked up to, like presidents, may not be of the best sort anyway. Mind not to subtract from their good sides; but do not forget to question Maslow's criteria and "role models".
Characteristics of self-actualizing people "for further clinical and experimental study", as Maslow writes, are included under these loose and wide headings - in his own words:
There are fallacies involved..
1. Perception of Reality
Maslow was of the opinion that the best he found, had "An unusual ability to detect the spurious, the fake, and the dishonest in personality, and in general to judge people correctly and efficiently." For example, the more secure (the more healthy) students judge their professors more accurately than the less secure students.
Selfactualizing people distinguish far more easily than most the fresh, concrete, and idiographic from the generic, abstract, and categorised. Thereby they live more in the real world of nature than in the human-made mass of concepts, abstractions, expectations, beliefs, and stereotypes that most people confuse with the world.
"Our healthy subjects are generally unthreatened and unfrightened by the unknown, being therein quite different from average people. . .
These people, it is true, are the intellectuals . . . without defects, and discovering . . . they do not organize, dichotomize, or categorise prematurely. . . . When the situation calls for it, they can be comfortably disorderly, sloppy, anarchic, chaotic, vague, doubtful, uncertain, indefinite, approximate, inexact, or inaccurate, at certain moments in science, art, or life in general, quite desirable).
Note. At this point Maslow agrees much with the comments on his thinking above. He might have pinpointed that a disorderly, sloppy, uncertain and inaccurate fellow may be among the best, the cream of the cream, and that it matters above much else to be like that in "the right place, at the right time" and in fit situations and not be degraded or demoted.
Maslow writes: "Doubt, tentativeness, uncertainty, with the consequent necessity for abeyance of decision, which is for most a torture, can be for some a pleasantly stimulating challenge, a high spot in life rather than a low."
Allied with this, the proverb is "A ragged colt may make a good horse." Hence, there may be hope for many who get an education and a good job for being sloppy, who do not care too much for money and getting groomed every day, but like a whaler, grow a beard to be comfortable and maybe seem doubtful, or inaccurate for some time at least.
Another tip: Are you full of doubts - go for a research position, for good research is rooted in skilled doubting, as a matter of fact. And so on.
A vague or approximate type may find politics good, and not a torture. The idea is to be comfortably indefinite and so on.
Whereas the average individuals "often have not the slightest idea of what they are, of what they want, of what their own opinions are," self-actualizing individuals have "superior awareness of their own impulses, desires, opinions, and subjective reactions in general." - Abraham Maslow
"Self-actualizing people are those who have come to a high level of maturation, health and self-fulfillment . . . the values that self-actualizers appreciate include truth, creativity, beauty, goodness, wholeness, aliveness, uniqueness, justice, simplicity, and self-sufficiency." - Abraham Maslow
Gibran, Kahlil. 1991. The Prophet. Waterville ME: Walker Large Print.
Lao-Tzu. Te-Tao Ching: A New Translation Based on the Recently Discovered Ma-wang-tui Texts. Tr. Robert G. Henricks. New York: Ballantine Books, 1989.
Kerlinger, Fred Nichols, and Howard Lee. 2000. Foundations of Behavioral Research. 4th rev. ed. Andover, Hampshire: Cengage Learning.
Maslow, Abraham. 1987. Motivation and Personality. 3rd ed. Revised by Robert Frager, James Fadiman, Cynthia McReynolds and Ruth Cox. New York, HarperCollins.
Singer, Margaret Thaler. 2003. Cults in Our Midst. Rev ed. San Franscisco: Jossey-Bass, 2003.
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