Maslows Quest for the Self Actualization Person

What traits made Wertheimer and Benedict so special? To answer this question, Maslow began to take notes on these two people; and he hoped to find others whom he could call a "Good Human Being." However, he had trouble finding them. The young students in his classes were willing volunteers, but none of them seemed to match Wertheimer and Benedict as Good Human Beings, causing Maslow to wonder if 20-year old college students could be Good Human Beings (Hoffman, 1988).

Maslow found a number of older people who seemed to have some of the characteristics for which he was searching, but when he interviewed these people to learn what made them special, he was almost always disappointed. Typically, he found them to be "well-adjusted ... but they have no flame, spark, excitement, good dedication, feeling of responsibility" (Lowry, 1973, p. 87). Maslow was forced to conclude that emotional security and good adjustment were not dependable predictors of a Good Human Being.

Maslow faced additional handicaps in his quest for whom he now called the "self-actualizing person." First, he was trying to find a personality syndrome that had never been clearly identified. Second many of the people he believed to be self-actualizing refused to participate hi his search. They weren't much hiterested in what Professor Maslow was trying to do. Maslow (1968a) later commented that not one single person he identified as definitely self-actualizing would agree to be tested. They seemed to value then privacy too much to share themselves with the world.

Rather than behig discouraged by his inability to find self-actualizing people, Maslow decided to take a different approach—lie began reading biographies of famous people to see if he could find self-actualizing people among the sahits, sages, national heroes, and artists. While learning about the lives of Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln (in his later years), Albert Einstein, William James, Albert Schweitzer, Benedict de Spinoza, Jane Addams, and other great people, Maslow suddenly had an "A ha" experience. Rather than askhig "What makes Max Wertheimer and Ruth Benedict self-actualizing?" he turned the question around and asked "Why are we not all self-actualizing?" This new slant on the problem gradually changed Maslow's conception of humanity and expanded his list of self-actualizing people.

Once he had learned to ask the right questions, Maslow continued his quest for the self-actualizing person. To facilitate his search, he identified a syndrome for psychological health. After selecting a sample of potentially healthy individuals, he carefully studied those people to build a personality syndrome. Next, he refined his original definition and then reselected potential self-actualizers, retaining some, elimination others, and added new ones. Then he repeated the entire procedure with the second group, making some changes in the definition and the criteria of self-actualization. Maslow (1970) continued this cyclical process to a third or fourth selection group or until he was satisfied that he had refined a vague, unscientific concept into a precise and scientific definition of the self-actualizing person.

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