Humanist Psychology and Self-Actualized People

QUESTION: Humanist Psychology – Self-Actualized People

ANSWER:

Abraham Maslow refers to those in touch with their inherent goodness as self-actualized. He categorizes this drive to get in touch with our inherent goodness as a need that can be attended to only after we have satisfied our lower needs—namely, physiological, safety, social, and ego needs. We must satisfy these needs as well as our need for self-actualization before we can truly be declared mentally healthy.

Humanist Psychology – Self-Actualization of Innate Goodness
According to Maslow, few people in modern society are self-actualized. Thus, when attempting to study self-actualized individuals, he relies to some extent on historical figures as models. Maslow feels “fairly sure” that Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln “in his last days” were both self-actualized. He also singles out Albert Einstein, Eleanor Roosevelt, Jane Addams, William James, Albert Schweitzer, Aldous Huxley, and Benedict de Spinoza as “highly probable” examples of self-actualization.1

What character traits mark these historical figures as being in tune with their real, creative selves? What are the characteristics of the self-actualized individual? Maslow says that self-actualization “stresses ‘full-humanness,’ the development of the biologically based nature of man.”2 In Secular Humanist psychology, the emphasis on the individual relies on our innate, evolved goodness.

Notes:

Rendered with permission from the book, Understanding the Times: The Collision of Today’s Competing Worldviews (Rev. 2nd ed), David Noebel, Summit Press, 2006. Compliments of John Stonestreet, David Noebel, and the Christian Worldview Ministry at Summit Ministries. All rights reserved in the original.

1 Abraham Maslow, Motivation and Personality (New York, NY: Harper and Row, 1987, 127–8.

2 Abraham Maslow, Toward a Psychology of Being (New York, NY: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1968), vi.

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