The Myth of Self-Actualization and Maslow!!Article by Dr. Pratik P. SURANAPh.D. ACTP Chief Mentor and Founder
“”What a man can be, he must be. This need we may call self-actualization…It refers to the desire for self-fulfilment, namely, to the tendency for him to become actualized in what he is potentially. This tendency might be phrased as the desire to become more and more what one is, to become everything that one is capable of becoming.” –Abraham Maslow
Do we really need to meditate, perform heavy penance, and renounce the world to realize who we truly are? Why shall we forsake everything we have to find out our true identity and that bliss which already resides within us? There have been millions of people who have renounced everything to discover that ultimate truth. But is that really required? The answer to that one question “Who am I?” has been given by Sages many times in history. However, that experience remains concealed in the hearts of these mystics. Nonetheless, there have been very few individuals who have passed down this experience to others. The process of Self realization is indeed very easy and nothing but the proper guidance is required.
Self actualization is one of the highest levels of humans’ growth. It is not superior since everyone can get there, it is just a stage of being. Here are some of the characteristics of self actualized people:
- Real not ideal: Self actualized people have a healthy relationship with reality and are more comfortable with it and do not deny it. They accept the good and bad as parts of the same spectrum where one is in balance and the other out of balance.
- Accountability: Self actualized people do not get into the blame game but look for their role in a situation to make improvements.
- Open to making mistakes: Self actualized people give themselves and others the right to make a mistake and do not limit their life’s experience because of fear of mistakes. At the same time, they take reasonable cautionary steps not to repeat the same mistake over and over again.
- Acceptance: Self actualized people have acceptance of self, others and the world around them. They are objective in general but also aware of their subjectivity and how it may deceive them.
- Spontaneous: Self actualized people are grounded but at the same time learn to be open to new experiences, bring the inner child out and have fun with life. They don’t force themselves to be as others think they “should” be and go with what feels right to their core. At the same time, they do not try to intentionally hurt others and are sensitive to what is good.
- Problem focused: Self actualized people focus on the solution from a more multi-modal perspective and are open to new ideas and options. They also look at a problem from above their emotions as if they are standing outside the chaos to see what is happening to make an unbiased judgement about it.
- Desire for detachment and privacy: While interactive and well connected with their surroundings, self actualized people have also a need to have time to themselves for quiet time and reflection and do not always have to be with others to enjoy their time. While with other people whom they feel connected to, the presence is enough and there does not have to be any open communication all the time.
- Autonomy: Self actualized people are independent of their culture and their surrounding while are aware of them fully. They make decisions on their own without being conditioned toward any particular culture, religion and else. They are aware that conditioning can be limiting and illusive and need to be used with full awareness.
- Appreciations of simple things: Self actualized people learn to enjoy simple things in life and to connect with nature. They take time to find joy and content in daily things that come to all of us for free without any effort. A walk in the park, looking at the moon at night, listening to a bird singing are activities that are close to her heart.
- Honest: Self actualized people are honest but know the fine line between honesty and being blunt. Others always know where they are standing with self actualized people and relationships with them are usually drama free since they won’t say yes where they feel otherwise. In other words, they are assertive.
- Mystical and peak experiences: Self actualized people have regular mystical and peak experiences and have the ability to find and connect with their authentic self. During these experiences, they feel at one with the world around them.
- Oneness: Self actualized people become more of a global soul where their concern is more toward all mankind not just what they have been conditioned to feel more similar to.
- Healthy interpersonal relationships: Self actualized people have clear boundaries therefore, their relationship is free of drama and anxious attachments. They have more profound relationships with other adults on a deep level. They are capable of greater love and focus on the good few rather than a large number. Their relationships are very meaningful and positive.
- Equality: Self actualized people tend to believe in the equal nature of humans and believe that each person has certain strengths and weaknesses.
- Playfulness: Self actualizing people are playful in nature, love to laugh, and make jokes but not at the expense of others. They are open to new things in life.
- Creative: Self actualizing people are creative and express themselves in many positive forms like writing, speaking, playing, painting or else.
- Resistance to inculcation: Self actualized people resist transcendence to any particular culture and go above their culture and maintain a strong individuality while learning and at times, practising what seems positive in their as well as other cultures. This is done by choice not any force of attachment. They can evaluate the culture objectively to see what works for them and their loved ones. They can also assimilate naturally into a new culture if they live in it.
- Imperfections: Self actualizing people are aware of the fact that they, like others, are imperfect because they are humans. But this awareness brings them opportunities to constantly learn new ways to grow. While being content with themselves but they never stop striving.
Is there anything more interesting than people? Perhaps just one thing: yourself?
I think the penny dropped for me on this one when a particularly entertaining sociology lecturer at college first started to explain Abraham Maslow and his hierarchical ideas of self-actualization. Wow, at the age of 20 after reading so many different books and having spent so many hours studying an incredible array of subjects at school, I had never heard that the human animal and its behaviour patterns could be so neatly packaged in this at-a-glance digestible pyramid with brightly coloured bands of decreasing size, realistically equating to the idea that as you go up things get tougher or at least there is less to share around. Apart from the visual attractiveness I also liked the idea that Maslow’s analysis pretty much seemed to hold water. I was delighted to now have such a user-friendly frame of reference for doing my people watching. As an added bonus I found the whole explanation personally enlightening.
If you share the notion that what is good for one must be good for all I was convinced right then and there that such knowledge should be a ready part of standard education well before college age.
Now, a number of years passed by and the people watching habit never went away partly because of the constant but perhaps subconscious need of my own to try and understand my own behaviour and motivations apart from my unabated interest in everybody around me. However, along with that passage of time my personal antenna was increasingly alert to that bit on the top of Maslow’s pyramid and even what might be in the unmentionable blank territory outside Maslow’s pyramid.
I imagine that while I was trying to climb up to the top of that comprehension pyramid I probably clambered on up with the not-very-lateral-thinking notion that the next pyramid would be right there waiting for me in the process of time but wait on… That whole less-than-real way of thinking came to a juddering halt when I realized the absolute and incontrovertible fact that there is only ever NOW! That is reality. All other times are merely expedient ways in which we formulate our behaviour patterns from the very beginning of the physical needs on upwards. There is only, there was only and there will only ever be now! The splitting up of past present and future are merely useful creations of our minds.
That explodes the myth of a process, that explodes the myth of hierarchy, indeed that explodes the myth that perfection or paradise is somewhere else. No, it is right here and now. From procedural self actualization to instant self realization and of course I feel even more strongly that this too should be part of everybody’s standard education.