This is the final part of our three-part series on the characteristics of those individuals who, through education and through life’s experiences, have highly developed multiple intelligences beyond mere ‘IQ’ – according to psychologist Abraham Maslow. The following descriptors, along with those listed in the previous two posts, are the character traits of those individuals whom Maslow rated as very high on the scale of psychological health and wellbeing:
Healthy individuals enjoy life more: not that they don’t have pain, sorrow, and troubles, just that they get more out of life. They appreciate it more; they have more interests; they are more aware of beauty in the world.
They have less fear and anxiety, and more confidence and relaxation. They are far less bothered by feelings of boredom, despair, shame, or lack of purpose. “They spontaneously tend to do right, because that is what they want to do, what they need to do, what they enjoy, what they approve of doing, and what they will continue to enjoy.” This network of positive intercorrelation falls apart into separateness and conflict if someone becomes psychologically sick.
Putting it another way, “Self-actualising people enjoy life in general and in practically all its aspects, while most other people enjoy only stray moments of triumph, of achievement, or of peak experience.” They never tire of life. They have the capacity to appreciate the sunrise or sunset or relationships or nature again and again.
The healthy individual shows far less fear than the average adult. Lesser individuals are less influenced by truth, logic, justice, reality and beauty. Healthy individuals do not often feel threatened by the world around them, as they have great confidence in their ability to handle whatever confronts them. They are also unthreatened by the unknown and the mysterious.
This is in sharp contrast to the neurotic person’s fear of the unfamiliar and the mysterious. Maslow quotes Albert Einstein as being typical of this fearless attitude: “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all art and science.” Not only are mature self-actualising individuals less afraid of the external environment, they are also less afraid of themselves. They accept themselves and their natures philosophically, and give them far less consideration than neurotic people.
People who are more mature and highly (self)developed have the ability to be objective, issue-centred or problem-centred, which involves a certain amount of personal detachment from the problem. Such an attitude, however, can be interpreted as coldness, aloofness, snobbishness, even hostility.
They have an unusual ability to concentrate, which can cut them off from more mundane matters and lead to so-called absent-mindedness. Since they have fewer ‘problems’ of their own, they tend to be working to solve the problems of society; they have a mission in life. They are more concerned with ends rather than means.
“They have for human beings in general a deep feeling of identification, sympathy and affection, in spite of the occasional anger, impatience and disgust . . . they have a genuine desire to help the human race.”
According to Frank Goble, summarising Maslow’s work in his book The Third Force, the very best of humanity are sufficiently philosophical to be patient, and accept slow orderly change. They are apt to be both theoretical and practical.
They want to see virtue rewarded and cruelty, exploitation and evil penalised. They take pleasure in rewarding, praising and recognising the talents of others.
They have plenty of self-respect, they do not need love from everyone, and they are willing to make enemies if necessary.
They also enjoy calm, peace, quiet and relaxation.
They like to be efficient and effective, and dislike inefficiency. They manage to love the world as it is, while seeing its defects and working to improve them.
Their excellent perception of reality enables them to see both the good and bad in each situation, and they enjoy solving problems and bringing order out of chaos.
They are seldom mean or petty or inconsiderate of others, and are able to ignore their faults.
They enjoy their work and strive to be more efficient, better, neater, simpler and faster.
They tend not to be overly religious in the orthodox sense of the word, but have a belief in a meaningful universe and a life which could be called spiritual. Their ideas of right and wrong are based on their own experience rather than blind acceptance of social conventions.
Nevertheless, the characteristics of self-actualised individuals are very similar to the ideals and values taught by the great religions – “the transcendence of self, the fusion of the true, the good and the beautiful, making a contribution to others, wisdom, honesty and naturalness, the transcendence of selfish, greedy and personal motivations . . . the decrease of hostility, cruelty and destructiveness; the increase of friendliness, kindness, etc”
As we enter the final week before Christmas it seems appropriate to be reminded of what the best of humanity can be like – especially when we’re so often confronted, on an almost daily basis, with what the worst of our species can be like.
The question for parents and teachers is, as ever . . . how are we helping our children and young people to achieve these states of psychological health and how are we enabling them, through the development of all of their intelligences, to become fully evolved individuals who live and enjoy life to the full whilst making significant contributions to the wellbeing of others?