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From: "C.H. Patterson" <sage1@MINDSPRING.COM>
Subject:      Maslow on Self-Actualization
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 Maslow on Self-Actualizing Persons
 

Maslow, on the basis of a study of persons (living and dead) selected as being self-actualizing persons on the basis of a general definition, described the self-actualizing person as follows, as compared to ordinary or average people (Maslow, 1956):

1. More efficient perception of reality and more comfortable relations with it. This characteristic includes the detection of the phoney and dishonest person and the accurate perception of what exists rather than a distortion of perception by one's needs. Self-actualizing people are more aware of their environment, both human and nonhuman. They are not afraid of the unknown and can tolerate the doubt, uncertainty, and tentativeness accompanying the perception of the new and unfamiliar. This is clearly the characteristic described by Combs and Snygg and Rogers as awareness of perceptions or openness to experience.

2. Acceptance of self, others, and nature. Self-actualizing persons are not ashamed or guilty about their human nature, with its shortcoming, imperfections, frailties, and weaknesses. Nor are they critical of these aspects of other people. They respect and esteem themselves and others. Moreover, they are honest, open, genuine, without pose or facade. They are not, however, self-satisfied but are concerned about discrepancies between what is and what might be or should be in themselves, others, and society. Again, these characteristics are those which Kelly, Rogers, and Combs and Snygg include in their descriptions.

3. Spontaneity. Self-actualizing persons are not hampered by convention, but they do not flout it. They are not conformists, but neither are they anti-conformist for the sake of being so. They are not externally motivated or even goal-directed- rather their motivation is the internal one of growth and development, the actualization of themselves and their potentialities. Rogers and Kelly both speak of growth, development and maturation, change and fluidity.
 

4. Problem-centering. Self-actualizing persons are not ego-centered but focus on problems outside themselves. They are mission-oriented, often on the basis of a sense of responsibility, duty, or obligation rather than personal choice. This characteristic would appear to be related to the security and lack of defensiveness leading to compassionateness emphasized by Combs and Snygg.

5. The quality of detachment; the need for privacy. The self-actualizing person enjoys solitude and privacy. It is possible for him to remain unruffled and undisturbed by what upsets others. He may even appear to be asocial. This is a characteristic that does not appear in other descriptions. It is perhaps related to a sense of security and self-sufficiency.

6. Autonomy, independence of culture and environment. Self-actualizing persons, though dependent on others for the satisfaction of the basic needs of love, safety, respect and belongingness, "are not dependent for their main satisfactions on the real world, or other people or culture or means-to-ends, or in general, on extrinsic satisfactions. Rather they are dependent for their own development and continued growth upon their own potentialities and latent resources." Combs and Snygg and Rogers include independence in their descriptions, and Rogers also speaks of an internal locus of control.

7. Continued freshness of appreciation. Self-actualizing persons repeatedly, though not continuously, experience awe, pleasure, and wonder in their everyday world.

8. The mystic experience, the oceanic feeling. In varying degrees and with varying frequencies, self-actualizing persons have experiences of ecstasy, awe, and wonder with feelings of limitless horizons opening up, followed by the conviction that the experience was important and had a carry-over into everyday life. This and the preceding characteristic appear to be related and to add something not in other descriptions, except perhaps as it may be included in the existential living of Rogers.

9. Gemeinschaftsgefuhl. Self-actualizing persons have a deep feeling of empathy, sympathy, or compassion for human beings in general. This feeling is, in a sense, unconditional in that it exists along with the recognition of the existence in others of negative qualities that provoke occasional anger, impatience, and disgust. Although empathy is not specifically listed by others (Combs and Snygg include compassion), it would seem to be implicit in other descriptions including acceptance and respect.

10. Interpersonal relations. Self-actualizing people deep interpersonal relations with others. They are selective, however, and their circle of friends may be small, usually consisting of other self-actualizing persons, but the capacity is there. They attract others to them as admirers or disciples. This characteristic, again, is at least implicit in the formulations of others.

11. The democratic character structure. The self-actualizing person does not discriminate on the basis of class, education, race, or color. He is humble in his recognition of what he knows in comparison with what could be known, and he is ready and willing to learn from anyone. He respects everyone as potential contributors to his knowledge, merely because they are human beings.

12. Means and ends. Self-actualizing persons are highly ethical. They clearly distinguish between means and ends and subordinate means to ends.

13. Philosophical, unhostile sense of humor. Although the self-actualizing persons studied by Maslow had a sense of humor, it was not of the ordinary type. Their sense of humor was the spontaneous, thoughtful type, intrinsic to the situation. Their humor did not involve hostility, superiority, or sarcasm. Many have noted that a sense of humor characterizes people who could be described as self-actualizing persons, though it is not mentioned by those cited here.

14. Creativeness. All of Maslow's subjects were judged to be creative, each in his own way. The creativity involved here is not special-talent creativeness. It is a creativeness potentially inherent in everyone but usually suffocated by acculturation. It is a fresh, naive, direct way of looking at things. Creativeness is a characteristic most would agree to as characterizing self-actualizing persons.

(From Patterson, C. H. The Therapeutic Relationship. Monterey, CA. 1985
Dr. C. H. Patterson
 

Dr.C. H. Patterson
http://sage1.home.mindspring.com
 

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