American psychologist Abraham Maslow contended that people have basic needs that must be met in order to have full satisfaction in living. Among them was what he called self-actualization. Even if all the other needs are satisfied, a new discontent and restlessness may eventually develop if we are not doing what we are intrinsically suited for.
People tend to agree that musicians must make music, artists must paint, and poets must write if they are to be ultimately at peace with themselves. However, the pull toward completion is within all of us. We are all pulled to satisfy our true nature.
This level of maturity is often thought of as a distant goal. However, self-actualization is going on all the time throughout one’s personal history. In each person’s life, there are moments of higher functioning that show the person at the healthiest and best. The person has a kind of spurt in which he or she is more integrated and less split, more open for experience, more clearly expressive, and less dependent on lower needs.
Such episodes or spurts can come at any time in life to any person. What distinguishes self-actualizing people is that the moments of heightened awareness and functioning come more frequently and last longer than for people in general. Thus, self-actualization is a matter of degree and frequency rather than a permanent state. The goal is to make these moments less fleeting and to expand them so that life gradually becomes more consistent with the higher stage of self-actualization.(Abraham H. Maslow, (1971). The Farther Reaches of Human Nature)
Questions for Sharing
- When was a time when you had a special sense of insight or understanding?
- When was a time that you showed unusual creativity?
- When was a time when you felt especially connected to people who were not in your usual circle of acquaintances?
- When was a time when you felt intense compassion?
- When was a time when you had clear insight into solving a difficult problem?
- When was a time when you felt at peace with yourself?
- When was a time when you chose to follow your instincts rather than complying with what most people were doing and thinking?
- When was a time when you felt a strong sense of moral imperative that was not being followed by most people you knew?
- When was a time when you felt at peace with the world?