Abraham Maslow
Abraham Maslow

THE ROAD TO SELF-ACTUALIZATION

By Gregory Mitchell

One of the foundations of transformational psychology is American psychologist and philosopher Abraham H. Maslow's theory of human needs. Maslow (1908-1970) believed that people are not merely controlled by mechanical forces (the stimuli and reinforcement of behaviorism) or the unconscious instinctual impulses that psychoanalysis emphasizes. Following the lead of Adler, who recognized that individuals possess a unifying directional tendency toward self-mastery, Maslow preferred to focus on human potential, believing that humans strive to express their capabilities fully, and that this is the basis for happiness.

People who seek the frontiers of creativity and strive to reach higher levels of consciousness and wisdom, were described by Maslow as 'self-actualizing' individuals. Transformational psychology is not therapy, it is information and techniques to enable healthy persons to make their lives even better, to fulfill their potential - it is for you.

Maslow set up a hierarchical theory of needs in which the basic survival needs are the first priority, and the needs concerned with man's highest potential follow on when other needs have been met.

  1. Physiological Needs
    The needs for oxygen, food, water and a relatively constant body temperature. These needs are the strongest because if deprived, the person would die.

  2. Safety Needs
    Children often display signs of insecurity and their need to be safe. Adults, too, need the security of a home and means of income, and often have an underlying fear that these may be lost, e.g. in war or times of social unrest, or due to misfortune. Fear is the opposite flow to need. Accompanying any need for something is an equivalent fear of losing or not obtaining it.

  3. Social Needs
    This includes the need for mastery to be able to get one's own way, to establish some control over one's situation and environment, to express some degree of personal power, to be able to communicate and obtain objectives. And the need for love, affection and belonging. People need to escape feelings of loneliness and alienation and to give (and receive) love and affection, and to have a sense of belonging with high quality communication (with understanding and empathy).

  4. Esteem Needs
    People need to feel good about themselves, to feel that they have earned the respect of others, in order to feel satisfied, self confident and valuable. If these needs are not met, the person feels inferior, weak, helpless and worthless.

  5. Self-Actualization Needs
    Maslow describes self-actualization as a person's need to be and do that for which the person has a vocation. It is his 'calling', a full expression of his or her creative potential. It is to be autonomous and fully-functioning. If these needs are not met, the person feels restless and frustrated, even if successful in other respects.

Maslow's Hiararchy of Needs

Characteristics of Self-Actualizing Persons
Central to the lives of self-actualized people is a set of values that Maslow called the Being-Values, or B-Values. These characteristics apply equally to both men and women, of course.

Maslow's writings tell us much about the nature of wisdom. The self-actualizing people that Maslow describes focus on concerns outside of themselves; they like solitude and privacy more than the average person, and they tend to be more detached than usual from the dictates and expectations of their culture. They are inner-directed people. They appreciate the world around them with a sense of awe and wonder. In love relationships they respect the other's individuality and feel joy at the another's success. They give more love than most people, and need less. Because they take an independent view, they can see situations and problems more objectively and consequently they tend to be creative and make valuable contributions to society.

One reason that a person does not move through the needs to self-actualization is because of the hindrances placed in their way by society. For example, education can act to inhibit a person's potential (though also of course it can promote personal growth). So can other aspects of the family and culture act to condition and funnel an individual into a role that is not fulfilling. To escape this conditioning, a person has to awaken to their situation, to realize that their life could be different, that there are changes that can be made in the direction of self-actualization.

To promote our personal growth, we can learn to be authentic, to be aware of our inner selves and to hear our inner feelings and needs. We can begin to transcend our own cultural conditioning and become world citizens. We can help our children discover their talents and creative skills, to find the appropriate career and complementary partner. We can demonstrate that life is precious, that there is joy to be experienced in life, and that if one is open to seeing the good - and humorous - in all kinds of situations, this makes life worth living.

There is one further need that stands at the top of Maslow's hierarchy of needs. This is...

It is only by having at least a glimmer of this spirituality that we each are part of, that we can aspire to the highest potential of being human. To be able to genuinely love and to forgive unconditionally, we need to see in all others - even our enemies - the same essential quality that we ourselves are part of. Spirituality is a transpersonal quality, it is beyond the Ego and obsession with the self. It is the maturity of intuition.

Peak Experiences
Abraham Maslow defines a peak experience as having some (but usually not all) of the following characteristics: "an almost overwhelming sense of pleasure, euphoria or joy, a deep sense of wonder or awe, feeling in harmony or at one with the universe, altered percepts of time and/or space, a deep feeling of love, greater awareness of beauty or appreciation, and a sense that it would be difficult or impossible to describe adequately in words."

Maslow coined this term to describe quasi-mystical experiences, not necessarily of a religious nature. Peak experiences are sudden feelings of intense happiness and well-being, and possibly the awareness of new insights that were previously obscured. Accompanying these experiences is a heightened sense of control over the body and emotions, and a wider sense of awareness, as though one was standing upon a mountaintop. The experience fills the individual with wonder and awe. He feels at one with the world and is pleased with it; he or she has seen something of the essence of all things.

Maslow described peak experiences as powerful moments with their own intrinsic value and accompanied by a loss of fear, anxiety, doubts, and inhibitions. Peak experiences follow a period of struggle and resistance to self-actualization as a process, due to the effort of learning, achievement of goals or finding the answers to creative problems. Following the insight and integration of accomplishment, peak experiences are characterized as a relief; an inner peace of mind that one has rarely experienced before.

Maslow said that all individuals are capable of peak experiences. Those who do not have them somehow depress or deny them. Individuals most likely to have peak experiences are self-actualized, mature, healthy, and self-fulfilled.

Peak experiences render therapeutic value as they foster a sense of being lucky or graced; release creative energies; reaffirm the worthiness of life; and change an individual's view of himself or herself. Not long before his death in 1970, Maslow defined the term "plateau experience" as a sort of continuing peak experience that is more voluntary, noetic, and cognitive. He described it as a witnessing or cognitive blissfulness. Its achievement requires a considerable period of determined effort, he stated.

Transformation occurs when existing solutions, assumed truths and past decisions are exposed as unrealistic, and this new insight allows one to view from a more appropriate and empowering perspective.

The path of personal transformation is primarily a process of becoming aware of, facing up to and taking responsibility for one's thoughts, feelings and actions, and then expanding this self-realization by communicating with others, retaining integrity whatever the response, and further enhancing the quality of communication with ever-increasing empathy and understanding. Through understanding others better, we can recognize their essential goodwill, however misguided it might have become, and begin to recognize the spirituality of humankind.

Rollo May - Love and Will on the Path of Self-Actualization
Rollo May, the American existential psychologist, authored the influential book Love and Will in 1969. The central thesis of the book is that Eros, the life force, is the fundamental energy behind Will; that Love directs our Will toward our highest potential. Eros is the force that drives men to seek God. Eros is the spirit of life and is not to be confused with the sex drive. Rollo May points out that the sex drive seeks satisfaction and release of tension whereas Eros drives us outward toward self-realization.

May was influenced by American humanism, and was interested in reconciling existential psychology with other approaches, especially Freud's. He recognized certain characteristics of individuals as they balance their drive for self-actualization with the anxieties of life:

Rollo May May was a critic of the narcissism rampant in modern society. For example, he perceived the sexual revolution of the 1960s and 1970s, as well as commercialization of sex and pornography, as having planted the idea in the minds of adults that love and sex are no longer directly associated. In this way, emotion has become separated from reason, making it socially acceptable to seek sexual relationships and avoid the natural drive to relate to another person with feeling and create new life together. May suggests that the only way to turn around the cynical ideas that characterize our generation is to rediscover the importance of caring for another, of loving service, which May describes as the opposite of apathy. The choice to love, then, is one of will and intentionality, unlike the instinctive drive for sexual pleasure. Therefore real human existence demands thought and consideration.

May describes the anxiety caused by a threat to some value which the individual holds essential to his existence as the self that he knows. He also quotes Kierkegaard: "Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom." May's approach is existential: he conceives the self as a dynamic entity, alive with potentiality. His approach is also holistic, seeking to understand the whole reality and essence of a person's being. Man is thought of as being and becoming, as a dynamic process, as a complex organism in relation to the universe. However, if an insight or perception is too hard at the moment, if it causes too much anxiety and threatens established beliefs - of self and/or of others - then it may be repressed and afterwards be hidden by defenses.

Jung's path to Individuation, the Ego development required to overcome the Freudian Superego, Adlerian theory and the Stages of Development of intellectual ability, all support May's concept that the family environment and subsequent socialization are primary factors in enabling the self to face the anxiety inherent in existence, where one's highest values may often be under threat. Families in Western society today tend to be an open system. Teachers, clergy, relatives and friends play important roles in a child's life and along side the primary caregivers are often a significant source of support - or alternatively sometimes a threat - to the development of the individual. In addition, societal beliefs and expectations regarding gender roles, child-rearing practice, judgments about 'appropriate and inappropriate' behavior, and numerous other beliefs and values all impact human development.

Personal Development for Self-Actualization
The courses of personal development offered by Trans4mind follow the natural developmental progression described by Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.

Basic needs of physical and mental health, plus adequate security and safety, are assumed starting points for students on the courses. Our courses provide skills that help the student better meet his or her social needs for belonging and acceptance. Learning to perceive acutely, concentrate, read, and study very well aid the individual's integration with society and the work place.

The courses teach skills that give a dramatic increase in performance. The certainty of being able to excel gives a corresponding rise in self-esteem.

Furthermore, our courses provoke an independence of thought, so that the student becomes free to think and live outside of the box of their cultural upbringing - to be truly themselves and in a much better position to fulfill their needs for Self Actualization.

Through the preparation obtained by well-done personal development, the student is in an ideal position to proceed in the natural direction of Transpersonal discovery, to find their own spiritual truth, independent from existing religions and philosophies.

▶︎ All courses are now free to download in PDF format ◀︎

MIND DEVELOPMENT COURSES 1-8
Study skills
Super Student - Mind Development Course 1

Many people have bad experiences at school and perhaps later in life, when attempting to study a new subject. It is easy to quickly get bogged down with new terminology, and often, new concepts and procedures seem unclear. This situation can quickly get out of hand as the student gets left behind and the subject either becomes an ongoing struggle or it is abandoned. But none of that is necessary; it is possible to succeed with the study of any subject.

With this course you will learn how to study a subject with maximum comprehension, with excellent recall, and with the ability to apply what you have learned effectively.

You will also learn how to take notes at rapid pace from books or live lectures, and how best to represent that information with key words, mind maps and flow charts that aid memory and understanding.

These abilities will be useful for your home studies, at college or work, and for your study of further Mind Development courses. You will indeed be able to succeed at studying effectively those subjects you are interested in, even those that were difficult before. The course is available freely online...

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Perception
Super Vision - Mind Development Course 2
The first course in the Mind Development system is "Super Vision," a home-study course to improve the mind's capacity for visualization and integration between left and right brain, boosting memory, creativity, natural eyesight and drawing ability. This is a new way of seeing - and being.

The practical exercises offered in this course help to develop visual perception, which is one branch of non-verbal communication, and address the subject of breathing and relaxation. Adequate oxygenation of the brain and a relaxed state of being is necessary for further developing the mind.

The eyes and the ears are the main channels through which one gains information about the world. As with listening skills, training in visualization and looking makes you more aware. When you are more aware, the subconscious mind has less influence. This means you are more relaxed, less anxious, less easily upset, a better memorizer - and your vision is improved.

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Communication
Effective Communication - Mind Development Course 3
This course teaches powerful communication skills that enable you to be more effective at work and in those situations of everyday life where better communication can make all the difference.

The Effective Communication course offers a series of practical exercises which develop the skills of communication and help the student to apply the fruits of his or her learning here and now - both to his or her personal growth and to the practical issues of personal relationships and business.

Improvement in our ability to communicate externally is reflected by a similar gain in communication between parts of the brain. The practice exercises enable development of all areas of the brain, even those which have been long under-used. They affect, particularly, the integration of the right and left hemispheres of the brain. Each hemisphere governs a different way of thinking and seeing the world. By doing the exercises thoroughly, the student can bring both halves of the brain into mutual communication, so that he or she is freer to think holistically and experience the world from an expanded point of view.

Communication is the vehicle for all further techniques, so communications skills are a vital aspect of Mind Development. The Effective Communication course includes practical exercises to enhance the person's capacity to listen attentively and comprehend. Following that, questioning skills are practiced, which have relevance to communication, memory and understanding. This will help the student to maintain control of communication in practical, social and business situations. You will also learn about practical problem solving and how to achieve your goals in life.

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Concentration
Educating the Will - Mind Development Course 4
This course teaches the skills of concentration as a means of educating the will. Often, when we put our mind on something, we think of something else and this, in turn, reminds us of something else. The mind wanders from one thing to another by associations, until the original thing is forgotten. 'Concentration' means putting all one's attention on something, and keeping it there for as long as one wishes to. So if you concentrate on a book, you are aware of the book and you are not thinking, looking or listening to anything else. If you are concentrating you are awake and aware. In much of everyday life, most people are effectively day-dreaming - at worst they are sleep-walking automatons. Their minds flip mechanically from one thing to another, never resting on anything for very long or intentionally. This process may go on for the whole of their lives and they never learn or achieve anything of consequence.

Unless we can wake ourselves up from this mechanicalness and sleep, we cannot begin work on ourselves and we cannot get things done in life. We must learn the mood of concentration - of actually BEING in the Here-and-Now, noticing and observing, and focused on our actions.

Concentration is a means to develop the will, so that life may be lived purposely and creatively, rather than as a reaction to the flow of sensations. Because you will not flit from one thing to another, like a butterfly, you will be able to choose to focus your mind on things, e.g., study or work, and will increase your skills and knowledge in these areas. Most importantly, you will be able to focus more clearly on your vision of what you want to achieve.

In short, your mental life is both intensified and broadened. The ability to concentrate is, therefore, a valuable skill which will enhance all other skills. Almost all the drills and exercises of Mind Development help develop your ability to concentrate. But are there are ways to improve your concentration directly? Yes, and this course teaches the best of them.

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Reading skills
Power Reading - Mind Development Course 5
This home study course can double your reading speed and supercharge your brain's capacity to digest, remember and implement huge amounts of information... essential ingredients to success in your professional and personal life.

We all learn to read at school, after a fashion. But for most of us, this is not an optimal use of our brain power. In this course you will learn to better use the left brain's focused attention combined with the right brain's peripheral attention, in close harmony. Good communication between the brain hemispheres is a prerequisite for creative thinking and also a sense of well-being, where thoughts and feelings are integrated.

Reading may be defined as an individual's total inter-relationship with symbolic information. Reading is a communication process requiring a series of skills. As such reading is a thinking process rather than an exercise in eye movements. Effective reading requires a logical sequence of thought patterns, and these patterns require practice to set them into the mind. The methods currently used in schools do not touch on the issues of speed, comprehension and critical analysis and indeed all those skills which can be described as advanced reading techniques. In short, most of your reading problems have not been dealt with during your initial education. By using appropriate techniques, the limitations of early education can be overcome and reading ability improved by 500% or more.

The course teaches in-depth reading techniques that greatly improve literary intelligence, so that you can clearly perceive the ideas and values that the writer is expressing and relate them to those of other authors and so be better able to make objective conclusions.

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Memory skills
Creative Memory - Mind Development Course 6
In most civilized societies the development of language centers in the left hemisphere of the brain will produce dominance on that side, while spatial, visual and intuitive problem-solving skills, which are based on right-hemisphere relational processes, will be underdeveloped.

Though a highly developed memory and intuitive skills are not essential for life in modern society, they were important survival skills for primitive man who had no reference books to look up when he forgot something, no maps to guide him on long journeys, and was often in perilous situations where intuitive insight made the difference between life and death. To further evolve, we need to reclaim this heritage, which depends on the restoration and integration of our right-brain processes.

Without memory there is no knowledge, without knowledge there is no certainty and without certainty there is no will. We need a good memory to be able to orient ourselves in a rich network of all that we know and understand, to make sense of it and to move forward to attain goals that are based in reality and true to our selves.

You will learn advanced memory techniques in the Creative Memory Course that utilize the amazing powers of the right brain, which enable you to "file away" any new piece of information so that it is readily accessible for future immediate access.

As you continue to use the methods of cumulative perception taught in this course, this kind of random access memory begins to become second nature. Many memory experts call this the "soft breakthrough" because it happens almost imperceptibly at first, instead of hitting you like a mental bolt of lightning. Everything you find important is given its own unique mental file. Just like the executive whose desk has been buried in paper for years, who suddenly discovers his computer can do a much better job of storing and arranging information, a filed, organized mind suddenly begins to perform impressive recall tasks on demand.

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Sprinting
Zen & the Art of Sprinting - Mind Development Course 7
This course by Gregory Mitchell is on the periphery of Mind Development but nonetheless illustrates how closely mind and body function in co-ordination.

Using these techniques Gregory was able to run 100 meters in a time that nearly matched the then British champion, with relatively little physical fitness preparation (60% or less compared with a typical athlete). You may not personally want to increase your sprinting speed, but the principles described here have many applications both for physical and mental development.

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No-Mind
Zen & the Art of Calculation - Mind Development Course 8
The Goal of Zen is the state of 'No-Mind'. This is an intuitive way of dealing with the world. The aim of this course is to enable a student to turn on a particular form of 'No-Mind' consciousness that can be applied to a practical task - that of arithmetical calculation. Habitual responses are set up which are the inverse of linearity. Several parts of the calculation have to be handled simultaneously; the result will be obtained about five times as fast, so it appears to be instantaneous.

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