Concept of Humanity

Maslow believed that all of us can be self-actualizing; our human nature carries with it a tremendous potential for being a Good Human Being. If we have not yet reached this high level of functioning, it is because we are in some manner crippled or pathological. We fail to satisfy our self-actualization needs when our lower level needs become blocked: that is, when we cannot satisfy our needs for food,

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safety, Love and belongingness, and esteem. This insight Led MasLow to postulate a hierarchy of basic needs that must be regularly satisfied before we become fully human.

Maslow concluded that true human nature is seen only in self-actualized people, and that "there seems no intrinsic reason why everyone should not be this way. Apparently, every baby has possibilities for self-actualization, but most get it knocked out of them" (Lowry, 1973, p.91). In other words, self-actualizing people are not ordinary people with something added, but rather as ordinary people with nothing taken away. That is, if food, safety, love, and esteem are not taken away from people, then those people will move naturally toward self-actualization.

Maslow was generally optimistic and hopeful about humans, but he recognized that people are capable of great evil and destruction. Evil, however, stems from the frustration or thwarting of basic needs, not from the essential nature of people. When basic needs are not met, people may steal, cheat, lie, or kill.

Maslow believed that society, as well as individuals can be improved, but growth for both is slow and painful. Nevertheless, these small forward steps seem to be part of humanity's evolutionary history. Unfortunately, most people "are doomed to wish for what they do not have" (Maslow, 1970, p. 70). In other words, although all people have the potential for self-actualization, most will live out their lives struggling for food, safety, or love. Most societies, Maslow believed, emphasize these lower level needs and base their educational and political systems on an invalid concept of humanity.

Truth, love, beauty, and the like are instinctoid and are just as basic to human nature as are hunger, sex, and aggression. All people have the potential to strive toward self-actualization, just as they have the motivation to seek food and protection. Because Maslow held that basic needs are structured the same for all people and that people satisfy these needs at their own rate, his holistic-dynamic theory of personality places moderate emphasis on both uniqueness and similarities.

From both a historical and an individual point of view, humans are an evolutionary animal, in the process of becoming more and more fully human. That is, as evolution progresses, humans gradually become more motivated by metamoti-vations and by the B-values. High level needs exist, at least as potentiality, in everyone. Because people aim toward self-actualization, Maslow's view can be considered teleological and purposive.

Maslow's view of humanity is difficult to classify on such dimensions as determinism versus free choice, conscious versus unconscious, or biological versus social determinants of personality. In general, the behavior of people motivated by physiological and safety needs is determined by outside forces, whereas the behavior of self-actualizing people is at least partially shaped by free choice.

On the dimension of consciousness versus unconsciousness, Maslow held that self-actualizing people are ordinarily more aware than others of what they are doing and why. However, motivation is so complex that people may be driven by several needs at the same time, and even healthy people are not always fully aware of all the reasons underlying their behavior.

As for biological versus social influences, Maslow would have insisted that this dichotomy is a false one. Individuals are shaped by both biology and society, and the two cannot be separated. Inadequate genetic endowment does not condemn a person to an unfulfilled life, just as a poor social environment does not preclude growth. When people achieve self-actualization, they experience a wonderful synergy among the biological, social, and spiritual aspects of their lives. Self-actualizers receive more physical enjoyment from the sensuous pleasures; they experience deeper and richer interpersonal relationships; and they receive pleasure from spiritual qualities such as beauty, truth, goodness, justice, and perfection.

Key Terms and Concepts

• Maslow assumed that motivation affects the whole person; it is complete, often unconscious, continual, and applicable to all people.

• People are motivated by four dimensions of needs: conative (willful striving), aesthetic (the need for order and beauty), cognitive (the need for curiosity and knowledge), and neurotic (an unproductive pattern of relating to other people).

• The conative needs can be arranged on a hierarchy, meaning that one need must be relatively satisfied before the next need can become active.

• The five conative needs are physiological, safety, love and belongingness, esteem, and self-actualization

• Occasionally, needs on the hierarchy can be reversed, and they are frequently unconscious.

• Coping behavior is motivated and is directed toward the satisfaction of basic needs.

• Expressive behavior has a cause but is not motivated; it is simply ones way of expressing oneself.

• Conative needs, including self-actualization, are instinctoid; that is, then deprivation leads to pathology.

• The frustration of self-actualization needs results in metapathology and a rejection of the B-values.

• Acceptance of the B-values (truth, beauty, humor, etc.) is the criterion that separates self-actualizing people from those who are merely healthy but mired at the level of esteem.

• The characteristics of self-actualizers include: (1) a more efficient perception of reality; (2) acceptance of self, others, and nature; (3) spontaneity, simplicity, and naturalness; (4) a problem-centered approach to life; (5) the need for privacy; (6) autonomy; (7) freshness of appreciation; (8) peak experiences; (9) social interest; (10) profound interpersonal relations; (11) a democratic attitude; (12) the ability to discriminate means from ends; (13) a philosophical sense of humor; (14) creativeness; and (15) resistance to enculturation.

• In his philosophy of science, Maslow argued for a Taoistic attitude, one that is noninterfering, passive, receptive, and subjective.

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The Personal Orientation Inventory (POI) is a standardized test designed to measure self-actualizing values and behavior. The Jonah complex is the fear of bemg or doing ones best. Psychotherapy should be directed at the need level currently being thwarted, hi most cases love and belongingness needs.

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