Monday, July 05, 2010

Gems from Maslow

These are all from the 2nd edition of Toward a Psychology of Being in hard cover.

The primal choice, the fork in the road, then, is between others' and one's own self. If the only way to maintain the self is to lose others, then the ordinary child will give up the self. This is true for the reason already mentioned, that safety is a most basic and prepotent need for children, more primarily necessary by far than independence and self-actualization. If adults force the choice upon him, of choosing between the loss of one (lower and stronger) vital necessity or another (higher and weaker) vital necessity, the child must choose safety at the cost of giving up self and growth.
p. 52

5. The person in peak-experiences feels himself, more than at other times, to be the responsible, active, creating center of his activities and his perceptions. He feels more like a prime mover, more self-determined (rather than caused, determined, helpless, dependent, passive, weak, bossed). He feels himself to be his own boss, fully responsible, fully volitional, with more "free will" than at other times, mast of his fate, an agent.

He also looks that way to an observer, for instance, becoming more decisive, looking more strong, more single-minded, more apt to scorn or overcome opposition, more grimly sure of himself, more apt to give the impression that it would be useless to try to stop him. It is as if now he had no doubts about his worth or about his ability to do whatever he decided to do. To the observer he looks more trustworthy, more reliable, more dependable, a better bet. It is often possible to spot this great moment - of becoming responsible - in therapy, in growing up, in education, in marriage, etc.
pp. 106-107

They also show a surprising amount of detachment from people in general and a strong liking for privacy, even a need for it (97).

"For these and other reasons they may be called autonomous, i.e., ruled by laws of their own character rather than by the rules of society (insofar as these are different). Is is in this sense that they are not only or merely Americans but also members at large of the human species. I then hypothesized that they should be more like each other across cultural lines than they are like the less-developed members of their own culture."*

* Examples of this kind of transcendence are Walt Whitman or William James who were profoundly American, most purely American, and yet were also very purely supra-cultural, internationalist members of the whole human species. They were universal men not in spite of their being Americans, but just because they were such Americans. So too, Martin Buber, a Jewish philosopher, was also more than Jewish. Hokusai, profoundly Japanese, was a universal artist. Probably any universal art cannot be rootless. Merely regional art is different from the regionally rooted art that becomes broadly general - human. We may remind ourselves here also of Piaget's children who could not conceive of being simultaneously Genevan and Swiss until they matured to the point of being able to include one within the other and both simultaneously in a hierarchically-integrated way. This and other examples are given by Allport (3).
pp. 181-182

In other words: (a) self-actualization is repressed by concerns for safety, which take precedence, (b) all of us have peak-experiences in which we are most completely human and true to our natures, and (c) the drive of the self-actualizers is essentially inward but it is also universal.

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