We ended yesterday’s post with the statement that fully evolved individuals – those who have all six of their intelligences highly developed and who can be called “self-actualised” – are less in need of praise, honours, prestige or rewards. We also said that in our opinion “Honours, prestige and rewards” are often the things that primarily drive our schools and our education systems.
These were some of the conclusions of Abraham Maslow, a ground-breaking American psychologist who set out to discover what makes the most able individuals in every society become what they are, and who in fact became the father of ‘positive psychology’.
As promised yesterday, here’s the continuation of Maslow’s descriptions of what makes a fully evolved human being:
Self-actualizers have ‘psychological freedom’. They do not need or value unwarranted fame, celebrity or notoriety. They have a feeling of power in the sense that they have a feeling of self-control. They have control of themselves and their destinies; they are not afraid of themselves, ashamed of themselves, or discouraged by their mistakes. It is not that they are perfect; they make mistakes too, but they take them in their stride.
They are able to make their own decisions – even in the face of contrary popular opinion.
They resist their surrounding culture when it does not accord with their own point of view.
They can become extremely independent and unconventional when they feel their basic principles are involved.
For these individuals self-discipline is relatively easy because what they desire to do agrees with what they believe is right. They are responsible because they believe responsibility is rewarding.
Whereas average humans are motivated by making good the perceived and actual deficiencies in their lives (coping behaviour) – seeking to fulfil basic needs for safety, love, respect and self-esteem – self-actualised individuals are focused mainly on their need to develop their higher potentialities, capacities and intelligences.
Maslow believed that the term motivation did not really apply to the most mature individuals. They are spontaneous, they are doing what is natural; they are merely expressing themselves.
They have a deep feeling of kinship with the whole human race. They are capable of friendship with people regardless of race, creed, class, education or political beliefs. “This acceptance of others cuts across political, economic and national boundaries.” This psychology is the opposite to that of the psychopath and the sociopath.
On the other hand, their circle of friends is usually quite small, involving others who are similar in outlook and ability. They can be very tolerant of others’ shortcomings, and yet they are very intolerant about dishonesty, lying, cheating, cruelty, and hypocrisy. Healthy individuals tend to seek people with similar character traits, such as honesty, sincerity, kindliness and courage. They are less attracted by superficial characteristics and more attracted by someone’s emotional, intellectual and spiritual qualities.
Healthy individuals are not without problems – they too suffer moments of guilt, anxiety, sadness and self-doubt. Neither are they universally calm and free of temper outbursts. However, they generally exhibit joie de vivre, enthusiasm for life, and a good sense of humour. They enjoy laughter, and enjoy bringing smiles to the faces of others.
Their relationships are never exploitative. Because they have great respect for themselves they are able to be more respectful to others. “The love that is found in healthy people,” said Maslow, “is much better described in terms of spontaneous admiration and the kind of receptive and understanding awe and enjoyment that we experience when struck by a fine painting.” These people need less love from others and are able to remain alone for long periods, but at the same time they are able to give love – they are more loving people.
They are attractive beings, and attracted to others; they find it easy to enjoy friendship and intimate relationships without fear. At the same time they are not afraid to be constructively critical of others.
They also have the good sense to understand that unwarranted and uninvited criticism is not conducive to friendship, and that judgemental behaviour is highly destructive of friendship when someone is perceived to be judging from an attitude of superiority and/or arrogance, regardless of whether their criticisms are truly justified.
To finish this second part of our three part series, we’ll just reiterate that a rounded, balanced and holistic personality has every intelligence developed to a high degree: personal, social, physical, spiritual, instinctual and intellectual, and that the collaborative functioning of these intelligences enables us all to become emotionally literate and able to keep destructive emotions in check and positively channelled.
To give an example of what this means in practice – someone who has made a spiritual commitment to peace, non-aggression and non-violence will use his or her intellect and memory (thinking of the consequences!) as well as empathy, intuition and practiced instinctual behaviour (such as physical routines, walking away, etc) to defuse emotions such as anger, jealousy and resentment. Appropriate strategies to do so can be learned in schools, homes and elsewhere, and practiced in those safe environments.
The question is – do schools and homes offer such enlightened learning on a regular basis, and do they allow children and young people to regularly practice (through interaction) the necessary skills without fear of harsh and unnecessary punishment when they fail to behave with mindful intelligence and self-restraint? Speaking from the perspective of experienced educators, we know that it’s normally punishment enough, when things go wrong, for a child to have to admit that they failed to “do the right thing”, and apologise accordingly.
Self-control, peaceful living, helpfulness and generosity do not come easily to all children, and sometimes never come at all if there are no meaningful or regular opportunities to practice these skills and attitudes within a controlled and supportive environment. Learning through educational drama is extremely helpful in this regard, but so is learning in any subject when it requires small groups and partnerships to learn together as collaborators and researchers – to communicate, to share, to resolve problems and disputes, and to be mutually supportive.
Please return tomorrow for the final installment of Maslow’s positive personality descriptors.