Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Living Authentically and Self Actualisation

Copy of cartoon by Alden Smith

Today I am at home suffering from the worst flu I've had in years. I don't like having the flu except that I have been able to sit by the fire and read.

I have been reading about the American, humanistic psychologist Abraham Maslow. It is to Maslow that the term 'Peak Experience' is associated. What I find interesting about Maslow and other psychologists of the pioneering era of the early to middle 20th century is that although there were often fundamentals that they disagreed on there was much that they held in common. They agreed on the concept of authenticity, of living ones own life, not the life that is an expectation of ones parents or of societies. Furthermore, when taking on the persona of some role within society they agreed that it is important to make that role your own in your own unique and creative way.

Finding your own 'centre' and 'truth' and living outwards from this centre is far more healthy and life enhancing for the individual than being on the periphery of someone else's centre and trying to emulate or live someone else's truth. Of course making the distinction between the worth of 'role models', modeling our truth on others and developing our own truth within our own life story is a delicate balance and one we all find a slippery log to walk on at times, but attitude and intention and knowledge helps us along the way.

C. G. Jung the great psychoanalyst would fly into great rages if he ever witnessed other people emulating him in speech, mannerisms or in any way whatsoever. He believed that the process of individuation was a process where we all grow into our own truth and potential, to be all that we can be and that that wholeness is absolutely unique.

Maslow like Jung and others saw the sacredness of the individual and the need for individual growth, but he advanced his theory from a different perspective. In 1954 he published a book called "Motivation and Personality" which is seen as one of the major psychological achievements of the 1950s. In contrast to the approaches of Jung and Freud who studied human weakness and neurosis he focused on healthy, exceptional, high achieving individuals.

Maslow's theory of needs has self - actualization as the highest level of human experience, the highest level of spiritual intelligence.

Maslow discovered that self actualised people have a more efficient perception of reality, have better hunches and intuitive powers, more mystic experience, more peak experience, better awareness of connections and relationships, higher values and ethics based on principles rather than conventions, greater knowledge and wisdom and inclusive views on philosophy and religion.

"They see themselves as human beings who transcend the values of their culture and become world citizens"

The way to achieve this self actualisation is the road that many spiritual, psychological writers and advisers point to:

"Your inner voices, Maslow believed, are extremely weak, extremely subtle and delicate, where you have to dig to find them... One of the necessary methods in the search for identity, the search for self, the search for spontaneity and for naturalness is a matter of closing your eyes, cutting down the noise, turning off the thoughts, putting away all busyness, just relaxing in a kind of Taoistic and receptive fashion... The technique here is to just wait to see what happens, what comes to mind...... forget about the outside world and its noises and begin to hear these small delicate impulse voices from within."

So in relation to the photo in this post the point is that if you want to be a pirate, don't be a pale imitation of Blackbeard or some other grizzled swash buckler on the Spanish main -- choose your own colours, design your own flag, build your own galleon, and teach your own parrot your own particular words of piratical slang and cussing.


Katherine said...

Oh no, you caught that flu too! That's ONE thing it's best NOT to get really well... Hope you're feeling better now.

Alden Smith said...

Yes I caught it alright. I had to have the last 3 days of term off which is very unusual for me, I have to be really sick to miss end of term and I'm not really a taker of 'sickies'. (all that victorian work ethic thing in my upbringing). It is now the school holidays and I am bearing up well. So how is the painting going??

Alden Smith said...

Also Katherine, many thanks for Jimmy Nail and Big River - talk about a lump in the throat and tears in my eyes. What a song.