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Life Arts    H1'ed 1/26/20

Self Actualization: Individualistic or Holistic Connection?

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Self actualization characteristics according to Abraham Maslow include the following (for more details, see prior post):

  • More efficient perception of reality and more comfortable relations with it.
  • Acceptance of self, others, nature
  • Spontaneity: Simplicity, naturalness
  • Problem centered
  • A quality of detachment and need for privacy
  • Autonomous, will, active agency; independent from culture and environment
  • Continued freshness of appreciation
  • Common mystic or peak experiences
  • Deeper interpersonal relations
  • A democratic character structure
  • Discriminatory between means and ends, between good and evil
  • A philosophical, unhostile sense of humor
  • Creativity
  • Resistance to enculturation and transcendence of any particular culture

How does one get to self-actualization (for more details, see prior post)?:

  • Be here, experience your life "fully, vividly, selflessly, with full concentration and total absorption." (Maslow, 1970, p. 45). It helps to be in nature or to have a friend with whom you can be emotionally expressive-through silliness, music making or other forms of play.
  • All day long, choose openness rather than defensiveness. Choices involve everything you do-e.g., trying new foods/music/activities or how you approach others you meet.
  • Let your true self emerge. Shut out the noise of the world that tells you how you should think, feel, behave. Instead, pay attention to your own body's signals: Listen to the inner voices that press you toward growth and connection.
  • Be honest rather than not. Take responsibility for your own feelings and reactions. Accept them.
  • Dare to follow your unique path.
  • Set up the conditions for peak experiences. Increase your exposure to situations that bring deep joy.
  • Accept the process. Self-actualizers are in a process where, little by little, they find out who they are and follow it not only in terms of spiritual direction and life path but what their unique biological nature is like.
  • Be ready to address your psychopathologies. One must find and dismantle the defenses set up against knowing oneself.
  • Perceive the sacred, eternal, poetic, symbolic in the people and entities around you.

Interestingly, Maslow's self actualization looks different from our ancestral pathway. Jon Young and colleagues (2010; 2019) collaborate with the San Bushmen of the Kalahari, a band culture that has been around for at least 140,000 years (Suzman, 2017). The Bushmen approach self-actualization in ways that are reflected in the writings and advice of indigenous peoples around the world (Narvaez et al., 2019). Their approach may most relevant today.

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Jon Young stresses:

"Human beings are facing a great connection challenge. The prevailing worldview, based on many generations of ancestral trauma, has resulted in, and perpetuates, the current epidemic of separation. This separation has resulted in widespread repercussions to the body, mind, spirit, and the natural world." (2019, p. 220-221)

With this perspective, Young and colleagues place self-actualization's focus on "relational interconnectedness that transcends the separation of the self and nature" (Young, 2019, p. 221).

What does a connected self look like?

  • Quiet Mind: presence, unbridled creativity based on sensory integration, access to one's unique genius.
  • Inner Happiness: as of a child, innocent and fresh, with glee, wonder, and brightness.
  • Vitality and Abundance of Energy: one elder described this as an abundance of electricity in the body.
  • Unconditional Listening and Mentoring: capacity to catch the stories of others, listening deeply without judgement or need to advise, commitment to mentoring and "paying it forward."
  • Empathy: feeling into our connection with nature, deeply feeling this connection in our own bodies leads to love and respect for nature.
  • Truly Helpful: personal gifts and vision are surfaced and activated, initiative, service to others.
  • Fully Alive: awareness of the sacredness of life, a sense of awe, respect, and wonder.
  • Unconditional Love and Forgiveness: compassion and forgiveness, and understanding with respect to the people of our world, forgiveness as a core routine.

How does one get to this relational connection?

Jon Young points out "Just as we cannot exercise our biceps by reading about them, or learn advanced mathematics by jogging, we cannot use purely cognitive or recreational approaches to increase connection effectively" (p. 221). There exist methods for increasing fitness or learning a particular skill. Similarly, there are methods for building connection.

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Darcia Narvaez,Ph.D. Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

Darcia Narvaez is a Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Notre Dame. Her prior careers include professional musician, classroom music teacher, business owner, seminarian and middle school Spanish teacher. Dr. Narvaez’s current research explores how early life experience influences (more...)
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