Maslow studied healthy people, most psychologists study sick people.
The characteristics listed here are the results of 20 years of study of people who had the "full use and exploitation of talents, capacities, potentialities, etc.."
Self-actualization implies the attainment of the basic needs of physiological, safety/security, love/belongingness, and self-esteem.
Maslow's Basic Principles:
"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 ecstacy and wonder and awe, the loss of placement in time and space with, finally, the conviction that something extremely important and valuable had happened, so that the subject was to some extent transformed and strengthened even in his daily life by such experiences." Abraham MaslowMaslow asked his subjects to think of the most wonderful experience or experiences of their lives--the happiest moments, extatic moments, moments of rapture, perhaps from being in live, or from listening to music or suddenly "being hit" by a book or a painting or from some great creative moment. He found that people undergoing peak experiences felt more integrated, more at one with the world, more in command of their own lives, more spontaneous, less aware of space and time, more perceptive, more self determined, more playful.
Effects of peak experiences:
Identification, sympathy, and affection for mankind, kinship with the good, the bad and the ugly, older-brother attitude. Truth is clear to him, can see things others cannot see.
Profound, intimate relationships with few. Capable of greater love than others consider possible. Benevolence, affection and friendliness shown to everyone.
Maslow says there are two processes necessary for self-actualization: self exploration and action. The deeper the self exploration, the closer one comes to self-actualization.
EIGHT WAYS TO SELF ACTUALIZE
Maslow (1954), believed that man has a natural drive to healthiness, or self actualization. He believed that man has basic, (biological and psychological) needs that have to be fulfilled in order to be free enough to feel the desire for the higher levels of realization. He also believed that the organism has the natural, unconscious and innate capacity to seek its needs. (Maslow 1968)
In other words, man has an internal, natural, drive to become the best possible person he can be.
"...he has within him a pressure toward unity of personality, toward spontaneous expressiveness, toward full individuality and identity, toward seeing the truth rather than being blind, toward being creative, toward being good, and a lot else. That is, the human being is so constructed that he presses toward what most people would call good values, toward serenity, kindness, courage, honesty, love, unselfishness, and goodness." (Maslow, 1968, p. 155.)Maslow believed that not only does the organism know what it needs to eat to maintain itself healthy, but also man knows intuitively what he needs to become the best possible, mentally healthy and happy "being". I use the word "being" because Maslow goes far beyond what the average person considers good physical and mental health. He talked about higher consciousness, esthetic and peak experiences, and Being. He stressed the importance of moral and ethical behavior that will lead man naturally to discovering, becoming himself.
"The state of being without a system of values is psychopathogenic, we are learning. The human being needs a framework of values, a philosophy of life, a religion or religion-surrogate to live by and understand by, in about the same sense he needs sunlight, calcium or love. This I have called the "cognitive need to understand." The value- illnesses which result from valuelessness are called variously anhedonia, anomie, apathy, amorality, hopelessness, cynicism, etc., and can become somatic illness as well. Historically, we are in a value interregnum in which all externally given value systems have proven failures (political, economic, religious, etc.) e.g., nothing is worth dying for. What man needs but doesn't have, he seeks for unceasingly, and he becomes dangerously ready to jump at any hope, good or bad. The cure for this disease is obvious. We need a validated, usable system of human values that we can believe in and devote ourselves to (be willing to die for), because they are true rather than because we are exhorted to "believe and have faith." Such an empirically based Weltanschauung seems now to be a real possibility, at least in theoretical outline." (Maslow, 1968, p. 206.)Morality then is natural. If we use our capacity to think, are honest, sincere and open, we arrive at moral and ethical behavior naturally. The problem is to not destroy our ability to become ourselves.
"Pure spontaneity consists of free, uninhibited uncontrolled, trusting, unpremeditated expression of the self, i.e., of the psychic forces, with minimal interference by consciousness. Control, will, caution, self-criticism, measure, deliberateness are the brakes upon this expression made intrinsically necessary by the laws of the social and natural world, and secondarily, made necessary by the fear of the psyche itself." (1968, p. 197.)To me, this means listening to the inner self, the unconscious, the spirit.
"This ability of healthier people to dip into the unconscious and preconscious, to use and value their primary processes instead of fearing them, to accept their impulses instead of always controlling them, to be able to regress voluntarily without fear, turns out to be one of the main conditions of creativity."Meditation, self-hypnosis, imagery and the like are sources of discovering our inner being. To become self-actualized, Maslow said we need two things, inner exploration and action.
"This development toward the concept of a healthy unconscious and of a healthy irrationality, sharpens our awareness of the limitations of purely abstract thinking, of verbal thinking and of analytic thinking. If our hope is to describe the world fully, a place is necessary for preverbal, ineffable, metaphorical, primary process, concrete-experience, intuitive and esthetic types of cognition, for there are certain aspects of reality which can be cognized in no other way." (p. 208)
"An important existential problem is posed by the fact that self-actualizing persons (and all people in their peak- experiences) occasionally live out-of-time and out-of-the- world (atemporal and aspatial) even though mostly they must live in the outer world. Living in the inner psychic world (which is ruled by psychic laws and not by the laws of outer-reality), i.e., the world of experience, of emotion, of wishes and fears and hopes, of love of poetry, art and fantasy, is different from living in and adapting to the non-psychic reality which runs by laws he never made and which are not essential to his nature even though he has to live by them. (He could, after all, live in other kinds of worlds, as any science fiction fan knows.) The person who is not afraid of this inner, psychic world, can enjoy it to such an extent that it may be called Heaven by contrast with the more effortful, fatiguing, externally responsible world of "reality," of striving and coping, of right and wrong, of truth and falsehood. This is true even though the healthier person can also adapt more easily and enjoyably to the "real" world, and has better "reality testing," i.e., doesn't confuse it with his inner psychic world." (p. 213)Maslow has made a case for natural, human goodness. Man is basically good, not evil, he has the capacity to be an efficient, healthy and happy person. But he must nurture the capacity with awareness, honesty, introspection and maintain his freedom: to freely respond to internal and external events (values), to be himself at all costs.
The knowledge that man has this capacity motivates him to realize it.
It also obliges him to actively work toward self realization. We cannot
not respond to the call that a value makes on us. This whole discussion
shows the importance of studying Values and Ethics. We are obliged to discover
the range of our possible moral behavior. If we are capable of being healthy
and happy, then we are obliged to work toward that goal.