Blog Post: Critical Thinking and Self-Actualization

Linda Elder
Apr 27, 2021 • 15d ago
Critical Thinking and Self-Actualization

{"ops":[{"insert":"The concept of self-actualization is rarely used today, but it is a concept worth considering if you are to take command of your mind and achieve the highest level of self-fulfillment. In the 1940s, Abraham Maslow conducted his own private study of individuals (personal acquaintances and friends, public and historical figures) as well one college student who fit his criteria. In 1956 (Moustakas Ed.),"},{"attributes":{"link":"#_edn1"},"insert":"[i]"},{"insert":" in a chapter entitled "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"Self-Actualizing People: A Study of Psychological Health"},{"insert":", Maslow, who is at that time attempting to develop a rich conception of people who are self-actualized, says “for the purposes of this discussion, it [self-actualization] may be loosely described as the full use and the exploitation of talents, capacities, potentialities, etc. Such people seem to be fulfilling themselves and to be doing the best that they are capable of doing… all subjects felt safe and unanxious, accepted, loved and loving, respectworthy and respected… (pp. 161-162).” From his studies, Maslow suggests that self-actualizing people embody the following characteristics:\n\n·     “an unusual ability to detect the spurious, the fake, and the dishonest in personality and, in general, to judge people correctly and efficiently (p. 165).”\n·     “In art and music, in things of the intellect, in scientific matters, in politics and public affairs, they seemed as a group to be able to see concealed or confused realities more swiftly and more correctly then others (p. 165).”\n·     “A superior ability to reason, to perceive the truth, to come to logical conclusions and to be cognitively efficient, in general (p. 166).”\n·     “distinguish far more easily than most the fresh, concrete, and idiosyncratic from the generic, abstract, and ‘rubricized.’ The consequence is that they live more in the real world of nature than in the man–made set of concepts, expectations, beliefs, and stereotypes which most people confuse with the real world. They are therefore more apt to perceive what is ‘there’ rather than their own wishes, hopes, fears, anxieties, their own theories and beliefs, or those of their culture or group (p. 166).”\n·     “are uniformly unthreatened and unfrightened by the unknown, being therein quite different from average men. They accept it, are comfortable with it, and, often are even more attracted by it than by the known… they can tolerate the ambiguous (p. 167).”\n·     “Since for healthy people the unknown is not frightening, they do not have to spend any time laying the ghost, whistling past the cemetery, or otherwise protecting themselves against imagined dangers (p. 167).”\n·     “They do not neglect the unknown, or deny it, or run away from it, or try to make believe it is really known… they do not cling to the familiar, nor is their quest for truth a catastrophic need for certainty, safety, definiteness, and order… they can be, when the objective total situation calls for it, comfortably disorderly, anarchic, chaotic, vague, doubtful, uncertain, ambiguous, indefinite, proximate, inexact, or inaccurate (all, at certain moments in science, art, or life in general, quite desirable) (p. 167).”\n·     “…find it possible to accept themselves and their own nature (p. 168).”\n·     “tend to be good and lusty animals, hearty in their appetites and enjoying themselves mightily without regret or shame or apology (p. 169).”\n·     “Closely related to self-acceptance and to acceptance of others is (a) their lack of defensiveness, protective coloration, or pose (b) and their distaste for such artificiality in others. Cant, guile, hypocrisy, ‘front,’ ‘face,’ playing a game, trying to impress in conventional ways: these are all absent in themselves to an unusual degree (p. 169).”\n·     “what healthy people do feel guilty about (or ashamed, anxious, sad, or defensive) are (a) improvable shortcomings, e.g., laziness, thoughtlessness, loss of temper, hurting others; (b) stubborn remnants of psychological ill health, e.g., prejudice, jealousy, envy; (c) habit, which though relatively independent of character structure, made yet be very strong, or (d) shortcomings of the species or of the culture or of the group with which they have identified. The general formula seems to be that healthy people will feel bad about discrepancies between what is and what might very well be or ought to be (p. 170).”\n·     “his unconventionality is not superficial but essential or internal. It is his impulses, thought, consciousness that are so unusually unconventional, spontaneous, and natural. Apparently recognizing that the world of people in which he lives could not understand or accept this, and since he has no wish to hurt them or to fight with them over every triviality, he will go through the ceremonies and rituals of convention with a good-humored shrug and with the best possible grace (p. 170).”\n·     “The self-actualizing person practically never allows convention to hamper him or inhibit  him from doing anything that he considers very important or basic (p. 171).”\n·     “these people have codes of ethics which are relatively autonomous and individual rather than conventional. The unthinking observer might sometimes believe them to be ‘unethical’ since they can break not only conventions but laws when the situation seems to demand it. But the very opposite is the case. They are the most ethical of people even though their ethics are not necessarily the same as those of the people around them (p. 171).”\n·     “Their ease of penetration to reality, their closer approach to an animallike or childlike acceptance and spontaneity imply a superior awareness of their own impulses, desires, opinions, and subjective reactions in general. Clinical study of this capacity confirms beyond a doubt the opinion, e.g., of Fromm, that the average ‘normal,’ ‘well-adjusted,” person often hasn’t even the slightest idea what he is, what he wants, what is own opinions are (p. 172).”\n·     “are in general strongly focused on problems outside themselves. In current terminology they are problem-centered rather than ego-centered. They generally are not problems for themselves and are not generally much concerned about themselves; i.e. as contrasted with the ordinary introspectiveness that one finds in insecure people. These individuals customarily have some vision in life, some task to fulfill, some problem outside of themselves which enlists much of their energies… these tasks are nonpersonal or ‘unselfish,’ concerned rather with the good of mankind in general, or of a nation in general, or of a few individuals in the subject’s family (pp. 173-174).”\n·     “Our subjects are ordinarily concerned with basic issues and eternal questions of the type that we have learned to call by the names philosophical or ethical. Such people live customarily in the widest possible frame of reference. They work within a framework of values which are broad and not petty, universal and not local, and in terms of the century rather than the moment…[They are] above small things, [They have] a larger horizon, a wider breadth of vision (p. 174).”\n·     “They seem to be able to retain their dignity even in undignified surroundings and situations. Perhaps this comes in part from their tendency to stick by their own interpretation of the situation rather than to rely upon what other people feel or think about the matter (p. 175).”\n·     “Self-actualizing people have deeper and more profound interpersonal relations than any other adults… Their circle of friends is rather small… Partly this is for the reason that being very close to someone in the self-actualizing style seems to require a good deal of time (p. 180).”\n·     “[Their] ‘love’ does not imply lack of discrimination. The fact is that they can speak realistically and harshly of those who deserve it, and especially of the hypocritical, pretentious, the pompous, or the self-inflated. But the face-to-face relationship even with these people does not show signs of realistically low evaluations (p. 181).”\n·     “…they find it possible to learn from anybody who has something to teach them– No matter what other characteristics he may have (p. 182).”\n·     “these individuals are strongly ethical, they have definite moral standards, they do right and they do not do wrong. Needless to say, their notions of right and wrong are often not the conventional ones (p. 183).”\n\nIn interpreting the overall data from his study, Maslow says, “The neurotic is not only emotionally sick, he is cognitively wrong (p. 166).” What is clear from this list of characteristics of the self-actualized person is its relationship with characteristics of the fairminded critical thinker. This relationship will be explored in my upcoming webinar entitled Critical Thinking therapy for Mental Health and Self-Actualization to be held Thursday, May 20, 2021. You can read about this webinar at the following link:\n \n\n\nQuotes taken from "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"The Self: Explorations in Personal Growth"},{"insert":", Clark E. Moustakas, editor, 1956. NY: Harper and Row Publishers.\n\n\n"}]}

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