Abraham Maslow was a psychologist during the 1900’s. He founded the branch of psychology known as Humanistic Psychology. Humanistic Psychology is based on the tenet that all people are basically good. It’s a pleasing thought and during my psychology degree at UVic the work of the humanists drew me in. Maslow believed that all people possessed the pathway to strong mental health. They just sometimes need to help to remove the obstacles in the way.
Maslow’s most famous work is his hierarchy of needs. It has moved from a academic psychology concept into the popular knowledge of our culture. Maslow believe that people strove towards a state of self-actualization, but having to ensure other more basic needs are met before achieving it. The first ever picture in this blog to help with your understanding (stolen from Wikipedia. Which I not really stealing because it is a community, a virtual commune right?):
I like the work of the humanists for just this type of thing. When you read this, it inherently makes sense to you. If your life is in immediate jeopardy, you are not worrying about the difficulties that you are having with marriage, or your concern about your workplace closing down. If your son is serving in Afghanistan, you are likely less concerned about what awards you could win at work. It just feels right – it makes sense.
I think that I am generally working in the esteem category. Yes, recent events has caused me to focus less on esteem to work on security of property or employment. And yes, sometimes I am working up in the self-actualization area – aiming to drive ahead into clear and content understanding of myself. But generally, I am at the esteem level, working on confidence, respect for myself and others, etc.
I am envious of those people who have found their way to the top of this pyramid. (and perhaps that I is why I am just at the esteem level. Hmmm). I am going to say something that sounds arrogant now: “I am generally good at most things”. Except chess, golf and keeping my opinions to myself. And I am sure you will add some others I lack in, perhaps humility. But the point is, I am good at lots of these things not exceptional. I have always wanted to be one of those people who are born to do one thing (and they know it), and are only true to real selves if they are doing it. And I continue searching for that thing, or that place, to know that I am exactly who and where I want to be. Perhaps all those tortured artists wish to be like me.
Emile and I seem to have a new tradition. Each time we drive to St. Catharines for the weekend, we stop at Well Fed in Gravenhurst. This is a Deli/Restaurant that my friend and former colleague Annette G. opened almost a year ago.
I worked with Annette for five years, 3 of which she reported to me. During that time, I think Annette was operating at the esteem level – perhaps occasionally bumping up to self-actualization. She achieved success, enjoyed her team’s respect, respected her co-workers, etc. It was always a pleasure to work with her. When Algonquin closed, she mourned with the rest of us. But life sometimes works as it is supposed to.
Annette worked through the transition, then purchased a building, and created her deli. I’ll admit I thought she was crazy. (don’t tell her I said that). Restaurants and delis are risky business – and to open one in a seasonal small town? And to start with having a mortgage to pay? Her husband also owning a small business? Brave. And I thought crazy.
We stopped in to grab some food on our way. I listened to Annette describe a new product she was thinking of carrying. I stopped listening to what she was saying. I starting watching her, and listening to the tone of her words. Her apron had a hole in it, her hair yanked back into a ponytail, tired and it had been a long week. But she was glowing, she was excited, her eyes were dancing about the possibilities, she was open to what may come her way. Although I hadn’t thought of Humanistic Psychology for a long time, it hit me – she was self-actualized.
This is the place she should be. She is Whole, Perfect, Self-sufficient and completely at Ease with herself and those around her.
March 16, 2012 Extra-Ordinary: Recognizing and Witnessing Self-Actualization. Soon I may see Pavlov’s dog.