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Maslow's Episodic Redefinition of Self Actualization

In Toward a Psychology of Being (1968), Maslow redefined self-actualization as episodic.

REDEFINITION OF SELF-ACTUALIZATION

In other words, any person in any of the peak experiences takes on temporarily many of the characteristics which I found in self-actualizing individuals. That is, for the time they become self-actualizers. We may think of it as a passing characterological change if we wish, and not just as an emotional-cognitive-expressive state. Not only are these his happiest and most thrilling moments, but they are also moments of greatest maturity, individuation, fulfilment - in a word, his healthiest moments.
This makes it possible for us to redefine self-actualization in such a way as to purge it of its static and typological shortcomings, and to make it less a kind of all-or-none pantheon into which some rare people enter at the age of 60. We may define it as an episode, or a spurt in which the powers of the person come together in a particularly efficient and intensely enjoyable way, and in which he is more integrated and less split, more open for experience, more idiosyncratic, more perfectly expressive or spontaneous, or fully functioning, more creative, more humorous, more ego-transcending, more independent of his lower needs, etc. He becomes in these episodes more truly himself, more perfectly actualizing his potentialities, closer to the core of his Being, more fully human.
Such states or episodes can, in theory, come at any time in life to any person. What seems to distinguish those individuals I have called self-actualizing people, is that in them these episodes seem to come far more frequently, and intensely and perfectly than in average people. This makes self-actualization a matter of degree and of frequency rather than an all-or-none affair, and thereby makes it more amenable to available research procedures. We need no longer be limited to searching for those rare subjects who may be said to be fulfilling themselves most of the time. In theory at least we may also search any life history for episodes of self-actualization, especially those of artists, intellectuals and other especially creative people, of profoundly religious people, and of people experiencing great insights in psychotherapy, or in other important growth experiences. (TPB 97,98)

Note that when Maslow refers to "especially creative people", that he has a broad definition of creativity where creativity is a quality that can be applied to any task in life. Maslow maintained that a first rate soup is better than a second rate painting. While he seems here to be favouring artists, scholars and saints, I don't think it's his intention to exclude homemakers, carpenters, athletes, etc.


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