Fundamentals of the concept of humanistic psychology by Abraham Maslow

Self-actualization is the absolute disclosure by an individual of personal potential, inclinations and inclinations. It is expressed in a personal desire for the most complete identification of personal capabilities and their further education. True self-actualization depends on the presence of favorable social and historical conditions, but it cannot be set by society or culture from the outside.

Self-actualization does not contain an external goal. It comes from within the individual, expressing his positive nature. Self-actualization is considered a key concept in the humanistic concept in psychology. Its main values ​​are: personal freedom, commitment to development, realization of the potential and desires of the subject.

Self-actualization of personality

The problem of personality self-actualization was most clearly presented by two leading psychologists, the founders of the humanistic approach to psychological science - C. Rogers and A. Maslow. Therefore, the theory of self-actualization is rooted in the humanistic direction of psychology. It was first developed in the mid-20th century in the USA and became a core component of humanistic psychology, which declared itself the third branch of psychology along with behaviorism and psychoanalysis. Humanistic psychology received its name due to the recognition of the dominant aspect of the personality as a single unique system, which is not something provided in advance, but an open opportunity for self-actualization. It is based on the belief in the likelihood of each individual flourishing if he is given the opportunity to independently choose his own destiny and give it the desired direction.

The emergence of the concept of personality self-actualization and the identification of its main positions is associated with the name of A. Maslow. Its key point is the concept of personality formation, the doctrine of the need for extreme creative self-realization, which leads to true mental health.

According to a study conducted by A. Maslow, self-actualization is defined differently, but all scientists agree on the main thing:

– the need to reconcile the individual with the inner “I” as the “core” of the personality and its expression, in other words, “ideal functioning”, the development by the subject of all personal and species characteristics;

– in minimizing diseases, neuroses, psychoses that reduce the fundamental personal and species-wide inclinations of the individual.

Some researchers believe that it is self-actualization and self-realization of the subject that is the most powerful of the individual’s needs, which can overshadow even the need for food or sleep.

In accordance with the concept of K. Rogers, two directions in the individual’s psyche, given from birth, can be distinguished. The first is the self-actualizing direction, which includes inclinations and future qualities of the individual. And the second direction is a mechanism of control over the formation of personality or an organismic tracking process. It is on these two trends that the formation of a unique personality is based, including the real and ideal “I”, between which a completely different relationship can be observed - from disharmony to maximum harmony.

In this concept, self-actualization and self-realization of the subject have a close connection. Self-actualization of a person is presented as a process of discovering individual potential, allowing one to become a person who uses absolutely all possibilities. In the course of achieving goals, an individual lives a fantastically rich, exciting life, filled with work on himself and amazing results. Such a person lives, enjoying every moment of existence “here and now.”

We can identify typical features of personality self-actualization. An individual who is engaged in self-actualization and has achieved great success in it can be characterized as follows:

  • does what he loves;
  • does not submit to other people's influence;
  • strives for development;
  • loves to read;
  • he can be called a creative person;
  • applies a positive way of thinking;
  • self-assured;
  • emotionally open;
  • forgives himself for the periodic incontinence and irritability inherent in everyone.

Such individuals are in complete harmony with themselves, as a result of which we can confidently say that personal growth contributes to a happier life.

Unfortunately, today the problem of self-actualization is considered one of the most undeveloped aspects in psychology.

Self-actualization Maslow

Maslow is considered the founder of the humanistic approach to psychology. The American psychologist, unlike his fellow scientists, studied mentally healthy individuals, creatively developed individuals, in other words, subjects who achieved self-actualization. And directly by the term self-actualization he meant the full use by individuals of abilities, potential, and inclinations.

Maslow's theory of self-actualization is an experience that is complete, selfless, alive, with complete concentration, absorption and absorption, in other words, an experience without the shyness characteristic of adolescence. He also developed the characteristics of self-actualizing individuals:

– more effective perception of reality and more favorable relationships with it;

– acceptance of oneself, others, nature;

– spontaneity, simplicity, spontaneity;

– goal centeredness;

– non-hostile sense of humor;

– need for isolation and privacy;

– independence from the cultural and environmental environment, autonomy;

– constant novelty of the assessment;

– experience of higher states;

– deeper and more perfect interpersonal relationships;

– separation of means and tasks, the concept of good from evil;

– a sense of belonging, union with others;

– self-actualizing creativity.

Maslow's theory of self-actualization is that in order to achieve the goal of avoiding disappointments in human nature, individuals must first give up illusions about it. Maslow proposed eight principles of self-actualization.

The first principle is based on total selfless living experience with absolute concentration and absorption. Often individuals are not aware of what is happening in themselves and around them.

The second principle lies in choosing a solution towards growth in any situation. Choosing growth means opening yourself to new, unforeseen experiences, with the risk of remaining in the unknown.

The third principle teaches individuals to actually exist, not potentially. This principle means that you need to decide on the things that give you pleasure and those that don’t, regardless of the opinions and positions of others.

Principle four covers taking responsibility and honesty, which are moments of self-actualization.

The fifth principle is trusting your own instincts, views and following them, and not trusting what is accepted in society. Only in this case will an individual be able to make the right choice of profession, diet, life partner, creativity, etc.

The sixth principle advocates the regular development of their inclinations, talents, inclinations, their use in order to do excellently what they want to do.

Principle seven covers the transitional stage in self-actualization, which Maslow called “peak experience.” At peak moments, people think, act and feel as clearly and clearly as possible. They love and accept others more, are freer from personal conflict and anxiety, and can use their energy more constructively.

Principle eight symbolizes the next step of self-actualization, aimed at discovering the “defense” and destroying it. Maslow’s concept of “defense” implies projection, rationalization, repression, identification, etc., in other words, everything that is used in psychoanalytic practices.

Maslow identified several levels of fundamental needs, presented below. At the lowest level he placed physiological needs, such as the need for food or intimate relationships. Next comes the need for security. It is in order to satisfy this need that the subject will purchase an apartment, clothes, observe a certain regime, etc. At the third level there lives the need for belonging and love, i.e. the individual starts a family and friends. The next level covers the need for respect, i.e. the subject moves up the career ladder, gets involved in politics, etc. The fifth level contains the need for self-actualization. It is the highest level in the presented hierarchy of needs model.

Maslow identified common characteristics for higher needs. He argued that higher needs emerge later. The specificity of higher needs lies in their uselessness for survival, i.e. The higher the level of the hierarchy the need is, the less necessary it will be for survival, the longer its satisfaction will be delayed.

Higher biological efficiency depends on the level of needs met, i.e. the higher the level, the greater the efficiency, life expectancy, fewer diseases, etc. All higher needs are perceived by individuals as less relevant. After all, a person has no time for reading books when there is nothing to eat or nowhere to live. Satisfying higher needs often leads to personal development, a happier life and an enriched inner world.

Only after satisfying the need for self-actualization does the subject become actually full-fledged.

Maslow Abraham Harold (1908 - 1970). short biography

Abraham Maslow was born in the USA in 1908 into a family of poor Jewish immigrants. Abraham's childhood was not easy due to difficult relationships with his parents and peers. According to his own words later, such a personal story was bound to end with mental problems or even more serious consequences. The boy grew up unhappy, abandoned and lonely, and communication with peers and understanding of his parents were replaced by library corridors and books.

Initially, his father planned his education, so young Maslow goes to college to study law, but quickly realizes that being a lawyer is not his calling. Soon the young man enters the University of Wisconsin, where he receives a bachelor's degree in psychology, and a few years later a doctorate. During his training, Maslow meets Harry Harlow, a famous American psychologist, in whose laboratory he studies dominant behavior in monkeys.

After receiving his doctorate, Maslow returned to New York and remained there for a long time, working at Brooklyn College. During the Second World War, a large number of the European scientific elite fled to the United States from Germany and Europe from the Nazis, including the most famous psychologists of the time, such as Erich Fromm, Alfred Adler, Ruth Benedict and others, and New York at that time became a psychological mecca all over the world, in such conditions the scientific views of a scientist are formed.

Since 1951, Maslow has headed the psychology department at Brandeis University and lectured. The most fruitful stage of his activity dates back to this period; it was at this time that the emergence of a new direction in humanistic psychology took place, with his significant contribution.

In 1969, Maslow unexpectedly left the university and devoted all his time to studying philosophy and economics, and in 1970 he suddenly died of a heart attack.

Need for self-actualization

One of the internal manifestations of the desire for personal development is the need for self-actualization.

According to the concept of K. Rogers, human nature contains a quality or phenomenon that encourages him to move in the direction of progress, towards maturity, i.e. to greater adequacy of one’s own self, potential and inclinations, to the integrity of the individual. Rogers was convinced that personal growth is inherent in every individual. He argued that even if the desire for self-actualization is tightly locked under layers of rusty psychological defenses, hidden behind sophisticated aspects that deny the very fact of its reality, it still exists in every individual and is only waiting for the moment when favorable conditions arise in order to manifest itself.

Rogers' theory of self-actualization is based on his belief that there is an inherent desire at birth to become a complete person, capable and competent as much as one's potential allows.

According to Maslow, the need for self-actualization represents the need for self-development, the need for self-expression, the need for self-fulfillment, and the desire for identity. He was convinced that the process of self-actualization is a full-fledged development of personality, which corresponds to the biological predetermination of the individual.

K. Goldstein argued that it is the individual’s abilities that determine his needs. Developing the doctrine of self-actualization, Maslow argued that the individual’s abilities stubbornly demand their use and stop making their demands only on the condition that they are fully used.

In accordance with Maslow's theory, the main motivating force that predetermines the behavior of an individual is the strength of what the person feels in his personal experience. The process of self-actualization is also reflected in hedonism - the enjoyment of the highest goods inherent in human nature. It is embodied in a feeling of deep satisfaction with life, expressed in a feeling of wholeness and enlightenment. Maslow called these sensations peak experiences.

The value significance and intensity of experiences that are associated with satisfying lower needs, for example, food or sleep, tend to decrease with each subsequent action to satisfy this need. Along with this, the peak experiences experienced by a person during self-actualization are the most intense in strength, stable and have greater value for the subject, in comparison with the experiences that arise from satisfying lower needs. This is what Maslow’s entire concept of the hierarchy of needs is based on. The main postulate of his concept can be considered the statement that the desire for self-actualization will always prevail in the ranking of motives.

Goldstein also argued that a healthy subject can temporarily postpone the satisfaction of needs such as food, sex, in order to satisfy curiosity or other motives.

Maslow believed that in order to satisfy higher needs, a subject can endure hardships, hardships, and will make sacrifices. Often, for the sake of views and principles, an individual agrees to lead an ascetic lifestyle. At the same time, Maslow emphasized the fundamental difference between deficit and existential motivation. A subject who has not satisfied his basic needs, who feels a deficit, for example, in security or food, will perceive the world as a hostile reality, which requires him to mobilize all efforts for survival. In such a world, he gets used to being defeated, as a result of which his entire moral and value system is subordinated only to lower needs. At the same time, the self-actualizing individual is no longer concerned about the problems of survival, he is striving for development and is controlled by internal potentials that were originally inherent in him by nature and require their implementation and development.

According to Maslow, human self-actualization means moving upward from the need to eliminate the deficit. He emphasized that human self-actualization cannot be considered as a state of nirvana, in which there are no problems at all. On the contrary, in the process of self-actualization, a person faces real problems of existence, which can bring disappointment and pain. Going beyond the boundaries of his own capabilities in the process of creative existence, a self-actualizing individual has to enter into a struggle with himself in order to force himself to make efforts for the next step in his own existence.

Along with this, Maslow was convinced that self-actualization cannot be the ultimate end in itself. He said that the process of self-actualization is intense and painstaking work leading to a gradual increase in achievements. Maslow also pointed out the possibility of “pseudo-development” due to avoidance of an unmet need. This happens when a person convinces himself that the unsatisfied higher need for self-actualization is actually satisfied or does not exist at all. However, this need is necessarily present as an unconscious force, calling on the individual to develop his own potential, to fulfill his life destiny, becoming himself.

Self-actualization as a personal goal will at the same time be an intermediate and final goal. Maslow was confident that self-actualization is not just a final state, it is directly the process of translating the individual’s inherent potential into reality.

Two lifestyles - deficit and meta-image

Based on the presence of two different types of motivation, it was logical to assume that the behavior of people oriented towards each of these types will differ, and throughout their lives they will try to implement different behavioral strategies.

These two different paths are embodied in the concept of two fundamentally different ways of being, by analogy with defining motivations, these are deficit and existential ways of life.

A deficit lifestyle means that the main motivation of such a person is aimed at reducing psychological stress and satisfying impulsive needs.

As Maslow argued, such a person is a normal responder who, more or less automatically, responds to stimuli - positive and negative reinforcements. Such an individual, as a rule, bows to circumstances - the requirements of the social environment and lives an everyday routine life, considering this to be the perfect norm (everyone lives like this). Typical behavior of the d-respondent is the lack of a serious attitude towards anything, the desire for pleasant things and events, the rejection of the unpleasant, the formal performance of one’s work, the lack of real inspiration in any type of activity, a consumerist attitude towards people around him, etc. Well-being here consists of feeling secure and satisfied with your life. Such people always prefer the bird in their hands and are sincerely perplexed when they encounter other types of behavior.

Unlike D-life, B-life can be defined as a conscious effort to realize the maximum of one’s abilities and talents; the characteristic features of such a life are personal creativity, constant search, willingness to take risks and discomfort in order to achieve a goal. The reward for such a lifestyle is new and deeper experiences of happiness, a deep meaning of existence, and unity with the world.

A very important part of Maslow's life is his concept of the SUMMARY EXPERIENCE.

This is a special type of emotional experience experienced by the individual as delight, ecstasy and awe. Such experiences often cause profound changes in a person's personality and can lead to radical changes in life and attitude.

One of the results of such an experience can be a state of completion, when a person feels complete completion in everything and no longer wants to go towards any goals or personal achievements, finding happiness and peace in simple human activities.

Undoubtedly, in this idea one can discern obvious similarities with religious (mystical) experience and its results.

According to Maslow, such experiences and the path to them are characteristic features of authentic being, to which any person should strive, and only this can give the individual a true reward in the form of experiencing the unity of all things and realizing oneself in this unity.

Similar ideas and concepts, in more or less explicit form, are inherent in all areas of humanistic psychology, but, more importantly, in addition to only theoretical implementation, these ideas largely formed the basis of the concepts of the humanistic approach to working with clients.

For example, a system such as Carl Rogers' client-centered therapy.


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