Real Human Nature
Self-actualisation, or higher human functioning, was first noticed in the 1950s, in rare and exceptional individuals. It blossomed during the 1960s, and flourished amongst many youths and young adults, leading to a new appreciation of life, a questioning of the status quo, and an urge towards better ways of living. The underlying energy driving the generation gap had actualised.
Maslow studied healthy people and discovered that healthy individuals are motivated toward what he termed self-actualisation, and noted that self-actualising people had striking similar characteristics. He described self-actualisation as when:
“…the powers of the person come together in a particularly 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 actualising his potentialities, closer to the core of his being, more fully human. 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.
“Self-actualising people, those who have come to a high level of maturation, health and self-fulfilment, have so much to teach us that sometimes they seem almost like a different breed of human beings.”
The following descriptions have been compiled from the writings of Maslow and others.
1. Clearer perception of reality
Self-actualising people perceive reality more effectively than others and are more comfortable with it. They have an accurate perception of what exists rather than a distortion of perception by one’s needs, and possess an ability to be objective about their own strengths, possibilities and limitations. They judge experiences, people and things correctly and efficiently, and have an unusual ability to detect the spurious, the fake and the dishonest. They are not afraid of the unknown and can tolerate the doubt, uncertainty, and tentativeness accompanying the perception of the new and unfamiliar.
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. They can accept their own human shortcomings, without condemnation. 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 self-satisfied but are concerned about discrepancies between what is and what might be or should be in themselves, others, and society.
Self-actualising people are relatively spontaneous in their behaviour, and far more spontaneous than that in their inner life, thoughts and impulses 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 might act conventionally, but they seldom allow convention to keep them from doing anything they consider important or basic. 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.
Self-actualising people have a problem-solving orientation towards life instead of an orientation centered on self. They are interested in solving problems; this often includes the problems of others. Solving these problems is often a key focus in their lives. They commonly have a mission in life, some problem outside themselves that enlists much of their energies. In general this mission is unselfish and is involved with the philosophical and the ethical.
5. Autonomy, independent of culture and environment.
Self-actualizing persons are not dependent for their main satisfactions on 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. The meaning of their life is self-decision, self-governing and being an active, responsible, self-disciplined deciding person rather than a pawn or a person helplessly ruled by others.
6. Detachment and the need for solitude
Self-actualising people enjoy solitude and privacy. It is often possible for them to remain above the battle, unruffled and undisturbed by that which upsets others. They may even appear to be asocial. It is perhaps, related to an abiding sense of security and self-sufficiency.
7. Continued freshness of appreciation.
Self-actualising people have a wonderful capacity to appreciate again and again the basic pleasures of life. They experience awe, pleasure, and wonder in their everyday world, such as nature, children, music and sexual experience. They approach these basic experiences with awe, pleasure, wonder and even ecstasy.
8. The mystic experience, the oceanic feeling.
Self-actualising people commonly have mystic or `peak’ experiences or times of intense emotions in which they transcend self. During a peak experience, they experience feelings of ecstasy, awe, and wonder with feelings of limitless horizons opening up, feelings of unlimited power and at the same time feelings of being more helpless than ever before. The experience ends with the conviction that something extremely important and valuable has happened so that the person is to some extent transformed and strengthened by the experience that has a carry-over into everyday life.
9. Oneness with humanity.
Self-actualising people have deep feelings of identification, sympathy and affection for other people, and a deep feeling of empathy and 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 may provoke occasional anger, impatience, and disgust.
10. Deep interpersonal relations.
Self-actualising people have deeper and more profound inter-personal relationships than most adults, but not necessarily deeper than children. They are capable of more closeness, greater love, more perfect identification, more erasing of ego boundaries than other people would consider possible. One consequence is that self-actualised people have especially deep ties with rather few individuals and their circle of friends is small. They tend to be kind or at least patient to almost everyone, yet they do speak realistically and harshly of those whom they feel deserve it, especially the hypocritical, pretentious, pompous or the self-inflated individual.
11. Democratic character structure.
Self-actualising people are democratic in the deepest possible sense. They are friendly towards everyone regardless of class, education political beliefs, race or colour. They believe it is possible to learn something from everyone. They are humble in the sense of being aware of how little they know in comparison with what could be known and what is known by others. 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. Ethical means towards moral ends.
Self-actualizing persons are highly ethical. They clearly distinguish between means and ends and subordinate means to ends. Their notions of right and wrong and of good and evil are often not conventional ones.
13. Philosophical, unhostile sense of humor.
Self-actualising people have a keen, unhostile sense of humour. They don’t laugh at jokes that hurt other people or are aimed at others inferiority. They can make fun of others in general, or of themselves, when they are foolish or try to be big when they are small. They are inclined towards thoughtful humour that elicits a smile, is intrinsic to the situation, and spontaneous.
Self-actualising are highly imaginative and creative. 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, rather similar to the naive and universal creativeness of unspoiled children.