At several points in my life, I’ve studied the work of Abraham Maslow, particularly around self actualization. He was one of the few then to study psychological well-being rather than illness, creating what he called Positive Psychology. His “hierarchy of needs” (and thus motivation) is widely known although not as supported by science now. This is partly because the higher needs vary somewhat by culture and personality.
Nonetheless, it is useful for broad understanding. We can only pursue personal development effectively when our basic needs are being met. Inquiry means little if we don’t have enough to eat or a roof over our head. What does “Who Am I?” mean to someone lacking self-esteem?
This also relates to why many adults stall development in what Loevinger called the Conventional stages of ego development such as ‘Conformist’. Development levels off if it’s not supported. If those around you have not gone further, they’ll not be examples to emulate nor support your growth. For example, if they cannot love, they won’t be fulfilling that need in those around them. (this also points to the value of darshan)
But if we can reach self-actualization, he saw unfolding “B-values” like Wholeness, Beauty, Simplicity, Uniqueness, Effortlessness, Playfulness, and so forth.
It turns out Maslow added another level late in life, beyond self-actualization. He called it “self transcendence.” Some later researchers have added this into the hierarchy, along with cognitive and aesthetic needs below self-actualization. Maslow also founded Transpersonal Psychology with others, based on observations of “peak experiences,” including his own.
Happily, there are easy and systematic ways to develop self-transcendence. While peak experiences can be profound, we want the benefits to be ongoing rather than fleeting. And we want a stable base for stable growth.
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