Toward a Psychology of Being
a book by Abraham Maslow
(our site's book review)
Toward a Psychology of Being is a major psychological classic, defining the third force in psychology after the forces of psychoanalysis and behaviorism. Finally a humanistic BEING psychology not that interested in analyzing or manipulating people but rather in empowering them by showing them what is fundamental to human nature and psychological well-being, and what is needed to promote, maintain, and restore mental and emotional well-being and self-actualization.
Maslow studied mentally healthy individuals instead of people with serious psychological issues like Freud studied, and instead of being like the behaviorists who liked to recondition people to function better, like they did mice in laboratories. He focused on self-actualizing people. The world is a much better place than it would have been had he gone with one of the other two schools rather than pioneering a new school!
Sigmund Freud studied sick (psychologically dysfunctional) people, but Maslow studied the autonomous well people
Toward a Psychology of Being is not one of the best classics of human thought in all of history for no reason. It nailed down the real truths about being, choices, human development, and psychological health in a way no one ever had—or has since.
Toward a Psychology of Being says that being-cognition is when a person perceives from a context of being, not neediness, not clouded by deficiency-cognition. And deficiency-cognition is when a person perceives from a context of neediness, not being. Maslow says that if a kid gets really secure, he'll be ripe to take the risks of exploring and learning, and he'll want to "find out for himself" (i.e., adventuring). If a kid is insecure, he'll stay right there with his caregiver, shy and afraid, as the risk of exploration would be too scary. Maslovian deficiency-cognition has people seeing according to their needs until their needs are filled, at which point there can be seeing from their beings rather than their needs—at which point they can see what is: truth. Self-actualization depends upon growth and maturity, which in turn depends upon security, which in turn depends upon needs being met, which in turn depends upon a combination of parenting strategy viability, adequate human resources, adequate choices being given to our young, and the availability of good examples to emulate.
Children exploring their talents
Maslow says that "Man's instincts towards growth are weak rather than strong, and thus growth tendencies can be easily stifled by bad habits, a poor cultural environment, or inadequate—even erroneous—education. . . . There has been a strong tendency in Western cultures to fear instincts, to believe they are all animalistic and bad. Freud and many Christian theorists have stressed the negative aspects of human instincts, and, as a result, we have a culture emphasizing controls and negative motivation rather than positive motivation. . . . For the healthy children in the healthy environment, growth seems to be encouraged by giving the children freedom to explore and freedom to learn through trial and error. The same applies to the adult. Overprotection and coddling can easily become growth-inhibiting; people need to learn to make their own choices; when the choices are constantly being made by others, growth will certainly be inhibited. . . . If the entire human species has the same basic needs, then it follows that self-understanding leads to understanding of the entire human species."
Freud and many Christian theorists have stressed the negative aspects of human instincts—man is born evil; Maslow firmly disagrees!
Maslow says the autonomous do not often find other autonomous beings, even though they desire to and would strengthen their own autonomy by such a discovery. (David Riesman says the same in Individualism Reconsidered.) He also bewails the fact that some nearly autonomous people get “leveled” by the masses—the forces of indirect self-acceptance (as found in The Adjusted American: Normal Neurosis in the Individual and Society) and other-direction (as in other-directeds in The Lonely Crowd) pull them back into the realm of the conformists who no longer choose but go along to get along. Facebook is a classic force of other-direction for the vast majority of its users.
He characterizes the autonomous as brave, high-quality people who are very much needed to guide society’s path, since others will simply follow the dictates of the masses and the “authorities.” He goes on: “By showing how life can be lived with vitality and happiness even in a time of troubles, the autonomous people can become a social force, indeed a ‘saving remnant.’ By converting present helplessness into a condition of advance, they lay the groundwork for a new society . . .”
Only MCs (microcommunities) can get anywhere near a total solution to the optimal childcare that we need to strengthen beings, and promote self-actualization and autonomy. If Maslow were alive still, he'd be busy supporting MCs, without the slightest doubt. He was a man who walked the walk, not just talked the talk. See Why Register for an MC?. MCs' autonomous people will indeed become a social force that will "lay the groundwork for a new society," as Maslow dreamed about.
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