Maslow gave them that self-meaning and appreciation and became one of the pioneers of a movement that brought the focus of individual feeling, yearning and wholeness into psychology. He sort of read them out and spoke their thoughts, feelings and aspirations for them. He devoted much energy to humanistic psychology and the human potential and inaugurated the "fourth force" in psychology towards the end of his life. The first force consisted of Freud and other depth psychologists; the second force, the behaviorists; his own humanism and European existentialism, the third. This fourth force was made up of transpersonal psychologies that derived from European philosophies, which examined meditation, higher consciousness levels and para-psychological phenomena and which reacted against the then dominant psychoanalysis and behaviorism schools of the 20th century. Among the most prominent European philosophers were Kierkegaard, Husserl and Heidegger and the most prominent in the humanist/existential group were Carl Rogers, Maslow and Rollo May. Humanist/existentialist psychologists rejected Freud's deterministic position and the individual behavior's lack of ability to deal with his own nature (Boeree) and instead placed prime focused on human psychology and human factors, such as choice, responsibility, freedom and the meanings in human life (Boeree). In handling neurosis and other mental or psychological disorders, the person must be viewed according to the level of fulfillment of his or her needs in the four or five categories. His or her behavior should be viewed mechanically, as driven by inner psychological forces, programmed external circumstances or reinforcements, or certain genetic structures, but as the result of choice and the meanings created from the choices made.
According to Maslow's humanist/existentialist model, understanding and enhancing the development of the individual provide the key to his or her personal health, which can and will emerge if nothing in the family or society thwarts this inner unfolding in a free, unique and healthy direction (Beneckson). If and when this happens, the person achieves self-actualization, which Maslow and other humanistic personality theorists agree is the goal of healthy human development. The goal of counseling, therefore, is to help the individual receiving it to actualize himself or herself, since self-actualization is itself a need and the highest kind (Beneckson, Simone et al. 1987). The human organism constantly moves in that direction of fulfilling or actualizing itself, but stark realities in life get on the way of its progress, needs are unmet and obstructions occur until they are taken out. The meeting of needs or the elimination of these snags and snarls becomes the basic motivation behind every act of the organism (Beneckson).
His initial concept focused on only one growth need, which is self-actualization, which is premised on the fulfillment or satisfaction of all the needs in earlier and lower stages of personality development. He first assumed that self-actualizers are problem-focused, possess a fresh appreciation of life, are concerned with personal growth and have or are capable of peak experiences (Huitt 2004). But he later modified his concept of growth need for self-actualization by identifying two lower-level growth needs that must be met before achieving self-actualization (Maslow and Lowery 1998 as qtd in Huitt) and one after or beyond it. The two categories of need before self-actualization are those of knowledge and aesthetics, while the category beyond self-actualization is self-transcendence. The needs to know, understand and explore are cognitive; aesthetic needs are for order, beauty and symmetry; and the need for self-transcendence aspires to connect beyond the self and help others fulfill themselves and realize their own potentials too (Huitt). Notice that cognitive needs present themselves only after the four earlier categories or levels of needs are adequately met but before the need for self-actualization is confronted or apprehended. In his renewed version, Maslow suggested that, in the process of actualizing and transcending oneself, a person acquires knowledge and becomes wise in the choices to be made in a variety of situations or problems.
Other thinkers and observers believed that Maslow's concept of the highest levels of self-actualization as transcendent in nature is his most important contribution to the science and study of human behavior and motivation (Daniels 2001 as qtd in Huitt 2004). They also suggested that Maslow's famous hierarchy of needs reflects all the kinds of information a person seeks at different levels of development (Norwood 1999 as qtd in Huitt). Maslow's cognitive model helps an individual with unmet needs in the lower categories find the appropriate coping information or provides that information that will lead to the satisfaction or fulfilling of the need. If the information provided does not directly meet or connect to the satisfaction of the need within the time span required, the need remains unfilled (Huitt). His cognitive model can help acquire or lead to information that will accrue to the safety or security of the person under counseling. It can enlighten one who has a need for love and a sense of belonging, often found or widely-available in books relationship development and enrichment. If the need is for empowerment and esteem and how the ego can be developed, this modified version can provide the right or precise information. One who has reached the growth levels of cognitive, aesthetic or self-actualization also seeks information that will edify himself or herself by connecting to something beyond ego boundaries or by edifying others (Norwood as qtd in Huitt).
But not too long after Maslow appeared in the scene, another movement emerged and once more focused on the grueling, the impersonal and the mechanical from which he turned his back: information processing, computers and stringently rationalist theories, such as those by Jean Piaget's cognitive development theory and Noam Chomsky's linguistics (Boeree). The emerged cognitive movement soon established itself in the field and provided solid scientific ground to researchers and students on which to do their work. Meantime, Maslow's humanist-existential theory was relegated and reduced to mere impetus or inclination for self-indulgence, magic or even drug abuse (Boeree).
Maslow's theory was also discredited on certain grounds. One was his un-scientific methodology of studying certain aspects of the character of a limited group of subjects whom he perceived and declared as "self-actualizers." But he could also have intended to provide a starting point or suggest a direction, which he hoped others would take off from, rather than set up as the only established concept of personality development. As the father of American humanism, he started as a behaviorist with a strong physiological foundation and certainly made assumptions based on biological or scientific grounds or laws. He only attempted to extend its realm to include psychology (Boeree) in the hope of helping those who seek solutions to psychological problems or attain personal fulfillment and wholeness.
Maslow was also criticized for setting a two-percent limit to self-actualizers in the world. Other personality theorists believe that self-actualizers include every living creature that try to grow, to become more and fulfill its biological destiny (Boeree 1970). While one theorist contended that babies were the best examples of self-actualization, Maslow maintained that self-actualization is hardly achieved by the very young.
There have been attempts by other theorists to augment or suggest modifications on Maslow's models towards the same objective self-actualization and achievement of one's highest human potential (Huitt 2004). They all agreed the rest agree that much work needs to be done in this area in turning out a reliable theory that will be more helpful and informative than simply collecting, analyzing and providing data. But the currently available body of research is still vastly important to parents, educators, administrators and managers in charge of developing persons and targeting their total individual potential. It serves as a valuable outline of issues that can be used in dealing with, understanding and helping human beings of different personalities and competencies succeed in this information age (Huitt).
Learning is integral in self-actualization. Learning is presumed as one gets older and goes through life experiences that teach lessons from which the person learns or is supposed to learn. This is why Maslow said that self-actualization is rare in the very young who need to experience much in order to actualize and transcend themselves. Statistics show that the aging population is increasing and this should be read as a blessing (Dickinson 2002). Modern medicine and technology have extended longevity and old age is where self-actualization can occur, according to Maslow's theory. Older people's pool of experience and wisdom are a kind of school that no other can teach. These advantages enable them to function as leaders and advisers to younger people and also provide them the opportunity to give back to the world what they have learned as their contribution to the building of the future.
Maslow identified self-actualizers as those who make…