Tag Archives: self-actualization
Terms like self-actualization and validation are thrown around a lot today; as our culture steadily moves more and more toward the celebration of the individual, these phrases are often used as catchy descriptors for the realization and affirmation of the self… But where do they come from, and what processes truly underlie self-actualization?
The term self-actualization owes its origins to the Humanistic psychological theory, most notably the theories of Abraham Maslow. Maslow coined the term self-actualization to describe the growth of an individual toward fulfillment of their highest needs, those most advanced concepts and “big questions” humans struggle with, such as the pursuit of the meaning of life.
Maslow believed in, and created, a psychological hierarchy of needs (many of us are already familiar with Maslow’s pyramid of needs), the fulfillment of which culminates in the realization of a person’s “being values”, the very top of the pyramid which symbolizes meaning.
Maslow believed that individuals who managed to become self-actualized people were able to resolve common ideological conflicts, such as that between determinism and free will, due to their enhanced creativity and psychological robustness.
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs ascends in the following order:
- Physiological needs (physical, survival-based needs), such as the need for food, water, sleep and air. These are on the bottom of the pyramid and represent our most basic needs.
- The need for safety, security, and protection; the need for a stable and secure environment free from strife is next on the pyramid; human growth cannot progress beyond this stage without safety, as feeling safe allows people to cease thinking about their survival-based needs and move on to more intangible desires.
- The need for love and belonging comes next, love from family and partners, peer acceptance, etc. This love sets the stage for the next level of the pyramid:
- The need for self-esteem, self-respect, and respect from others; the fundaments of self-love, in essence.
- The “being” needs of creativity and the pursuit of meaning.
A recent study collected information from surveys conducted among the members of the Association for Psychological Science and the American Psychological Association. The study identified the top 100 eminent psychologists of the 20th century. Not surprisingly, Skinner, Piaget, and Freud are the top three. What may be of interest is that Carl Rogers is ranked number 6.
Among the reasons cited is Rogers’ groundbreaking work in the development of humanistic or client centered therapy. What made it groundbreaking was his insistence that the model be subject to scientific inquiry and clinical trial. One result of his work was a psychological theory. In that work Rogers advanced a complex set of 19 propositions describing his theory. In this article we will make an effort to provide a brief overview of it.
To provide theoretical legitimacy to his clinical work, Rogers wrote 16 books and even more articles explaining how these 19 propositions worked on understanding the human personality. Among the most significant key points of Rogers’ approach is its redefining of the therapeutic relationship. Traditionally that relationship was defined by the theories of Freud and others where the therapist role was that of a leader and the patient as the follower.
Rogers argued that for the therapist/patient relationship to be effective, it must include an intentional relationship built on mutual trust and respect. In the later years of his work Rogers expanded his model to apply to other applications including a theory of personality, interpersonal relations, education, nursing, cross-cultural relations and other “helping” professions and situations.
Words to consider as we prepare to take a closer look at Carl Jung’s unique view of the human condition as expressed in the Jung’s Individuation Process. There have been similar undertakings into the minds of Freud, Rogers, Adler and other forefathers of modern psychology. Each of these theories offer a unique perspective on the human personality.
What is presented is an overview of the thinking from what we call today the classic schools of psychology. These schools of thought or psychological theories were all developed in the first half of 20th century. Most of these theories had a shared paradigm, which is the multi-tier view of the human mind.
That paradigm includes the long-standing acceptance of a conscious/sub-conscious world at work within us. In addition to a shared paradigm, the methodology used by these psychologists includes to varying degree both scientific study and practical case experience. The results of combining their theories are additive rather than paradigm shifting.
With this as the backdrop we enter the world of the Swiss psychiatrist/psychotherapist Carl Jung. He is best known for his work in developing the field of analytical psychology. We will see that the concept of Individuation holds center stage in Jung’s analytical psychology. According to Jung, it is individuation that is the central process of human development
Individuation – A Definition
From a linguistic point of view definition of terms and meaning introduces the potential for understanding. While individuation has become the property of the world of psychology it is worth noting that Jung intended for it to be a much more than that. For him it encompasses the philosophical, mystical, and spiritual areas of the human being.
The word itself has roots going back to the 1600’s when it was used to identify a person as an individual or individuation. Here again, Jung applied another of the elements of the classic psychology paradigm; the freedom to rename and redefine within a limited scope those terms that apply to the work at hand.
In the broadest possible way, individuation can be defined as the achievement of self-actualization through a process of integrating the conscious and the unconscious. Once again, any accurate understanding of Jung should come from him.