Abraham Maslow On Integrity, Spiritual Growth and Self-Actualization
Characteristics of the Self-Actualized Person: Clear perception of reality. Heightened ability to detect falseness and be a good judge of character.
Most of us see life as a striving to get this or that, whether it be material things or having a family or doing well career-wise. Psychologists call this ‘deficiency motivation’. Self-actualiZers, in contrast, do not strive as much as develop. They are only ambitious to the extent of being able to express themselves more fully and perfectly, delighting in what they are able to do.
Another general point is their profound freedom of mind. Despite the circumstances they may have been in, and in contrast to the conforming pressures all around them, self-actualiZers are walking examples of free will, the quintessential human quality. They fully grasp what Stephen Covey calls the gap between stimulus and response, that no response should be automatic. In contrast, the merely ‘well-adjusted’ (that is, free of neurosis) person may not really know who they are or have a defined purpose in life.
As Theodore Rozsak saw it in Person/Planet (1977: 45):
“Maslow asked the key question in posing self-actualization as the proper objective of therapy: Why do we set our standard of sanity so cautiously low? Can we imagine no better model than the dutiful consumer, the well-adjusted breadwinner? Why not the saint, the sage, the artist? Why not all that is highest and finest in our species.”
Maslow made the intriguing observation that, although his self-actualizers shared the above traits and therefore could be grouped as a type, they were more completely individualized than any control group ever described. This is the paradox of the self-actualized: the more of these traits a person has, the more likely they are to be truly unique.