Research on Self-Actualisation
While Maslow conducted extensive biographical research and case studies of people he considered to be self-actualisers, his methodologies cannot be considered ‘scientific’. Moreover, his criteria for describing a ‘self-actualiser’ could be argued as highly subjective. He did not explicitly compare self-actualisers with self-actualisers. Nevertheless, his work has provided valuable insights the ‘being ways of thinking’. In his near 30 years of research, Graves did conduct investigations of a much more scientific nature and built on Maslow’s ideas, as did Jane Loevinger.
Everett Shostrum (1963, 1977) developed the Personal Orientation Questionnaire to create a standardised approach to identifying self-actualisers. The results of scoring the questionnaire reveal the extent (high or low) to which a person self-actualises in their life. Michael Sheffield et al (1995) used it to find that those low in Self-Actualisation tend to have poor interpersonal relationships. Mark Runco, Peter Ebersole & Wayne Mraz (1995) found that creative thinking is more associated with high Self-Actualisation.
L Thomas & P E Cooper (1980) found that self-actualisers are more likely to be open to experiences and accepting of those experiences. They are also more likely to recognise a ‘peak experience’ and to use such experiences to enhance personal growth. Karen Dion & Kenneth Dion (1988) related Self-Actualisation to participants’ overall satisfaction with their love lives. Those who scored high in Self-Actualisation were more inclined to be satisfied with either a current or past relationship and to be more intensely involved and more open than those with low scores. However, self-actualisers were more realistic in their expectations and seemed to show lower levels of need and caring for their lovers.
‘Be all you can be’, a final stage or a higher level of thinking?
In 1943 Maslow, like Jung, Goldstein and, later, Rogers held Self-Actualisation was the final state of psychological maturity for the human being.
However, there is a contradiction in the works of Maslow and, perhaps, to a lesser extent, Rogers in that they initially talk of Self-Actualisation as fulfilling all your potential – being all you can be – yet later describe a meta or abstracted way of thinking? While Maslow, without ever saying so explicitly, quietly leaves behind his earlier conception, Rogers in 1961 is still mixing up the 2 in quite a confusing way.
For all that Graves (1971b/2002; 1978/2005) matched his 7th level of thinking to Maslow’s later version of Self-Actualisation, according to Beck (2006) and Cowan (Chris Cowan & Natasha Todorovic, 2005), Graves also talked to them about people self-actualising on each level of the Spiral. At first this appears to be a paradox. However, the paradox is resolved by thinking of Self-Actualisation as having two different but related meanings:-
- Being all that you can be – fulfilling your potential
- A way of being/thinking when the D-needs have been met (Maslow) or the subsistence levels surpassed (Graves)
Since Graves (1978/2005) describes the psychology of the individual as becoming markedly different when the next vMEME emerges, Self-Actualisation in the sense of being all you can be takes place when that nodal vMEME meets the needs of its life conditions and, thus, creates conceptual space for the next vMEME to start to emerge.
Self-Actualisation, as a way of thinking and being – ie: G-T YELLOW – can only take place, according to both Maslow and Graves, when the lower (1st Tier) needs have been met.
While ‘Self-Actualisation’ tends to be used in Psychology text books as ‘be-all-you-can-be’, in Integrated SocioPsychology it is used more in the sense Maslow described it in 1956.
However, the idea that ‘self-actualising into YELLOW thinking’ is the ‘final state of psychological maturity’ is called into question by Graves meeting in 1959 the first participants in his studies to describe a way of thinking clearly more complex than the Self-Actualisation Maslow described in 1956.
Graves (1978/2005, p399-400) describes the effect of this discovery on his thinking: “The undeniable fact of its emergence in the course of the studies forced me to reconsider the long-standing conception of psychological maturity as a state which can be conceived to exist….
I had to open ‘actualisation’ as process and close down the idea that it is a theoretically-achievable state or condition. I had to include the data of this new system with the rest of mine beyond the Maslowian apex. It means that when Harvey, Hunt & Schroeder see the abstract man as mature, Maslow sees the self-actualised man as mature, Fromm see the productive orientation character as mature, Freud sees the genital character as mature, that they are subject – all of them – to man’s greatest illusion: the illusion of psychological maturity.
According to my data…maturity cannot be considered an achievable state, even in theory. Maturity, instead, must be conceived as possibly never-ending process, as a continuous emergence of newer and newer concepts of maturity, rather than as the theoretically achievable, most perfect state for human existence.”
So, from the Gravesian perspective, Self-Actualisation is really a never-ending process and the meta-level of thinking Maslow described in 1956 is Graves’ G-T system and Loevinger’s Autonomous stage of ego development
How much Graves and Maslow corresponded over this is unknown; but in 1971 Graves (1971b/2002, p52) claimed that the recently-deceased Maslow “came around to my point of view” that there was a higher level of thinking that what he had described as Self-Actualisation. Certainly by 1962 Maslow was having his doubts as to whether Self-Actualisation was a complete end state, writing (p125): “The goal of identity (self-actualization…) seems to be simultaneously an end-goal in itself, and also a transitional goal, a rite of passage, a step along the path to the transcendence of identity.” He attributed this transition to starting to have peak experiences (p117): “As he [that is, the person in the peak experiences] gets to be more purely and singly himself he is more able to fuse with the world, with what was formerly not-self….” By 1969 Maslow was openly using the term Self-Transcendence to describe motivation beyond Self-Actualisation – equivalent to Graves’ H-U (TURQUOISE).
Graves (1971a/1988, p13) even claimed that Maslow accepted “that the system is open-ended.”