Humanistic Psychology

Abraham H. Maslow, PhD - founder of humanistic psychology - in his 1954 book Motivation & Personality suggested that all humans are motivated by the same set of basic human needs.

The first needs that motivate us are physical survival needs such as the need for water, food, oxygen, and warmth.

The next, more psychological need is for ‘safety and security.’ This then becomes the next powerful motivator of human action.

When these basic needs are met, then we yearn for ‘love and belongingness.’ The next step up the need hierarchy is for ‘self-esteem and the esteem of others.’ (A good feeling about, and a positive mental image of one’s self.) Dr Abraham Maslow also described self-esteem as 'dominance-feeling' whether it's dominance over individual people, or social groups or over the environment, or an event.

Finally, when all the lower needs are met we are moved by ‘self actualization or self-realization’ – the drive to realize one’s full potential and to express one’s inner life and aptitudes in uniquely creative ways..

Dr Abraham Maslow went on to describe how ‘self-actualizing’ people tend to experience life in a more integrated, harmonious, altogether.. even transcendental way.

He called this phenomenon ‘B cognition’, the perception of Being, as opposed to ‘D cognition’, the perception of deficiency.

According to Dr Maslow, spiritual and mystical experience is the perception of Being.. as during and after meditation, and these perceptions are simply humanistic, occurring naturally at higher levels of integration and restfulness (alpha, theta and delta waves EEG) in the human brain. (Whole brain functioning).

Self-actualizers can also have ‘peak experiences’ and ‘plateau experiences’ - hey, a natural high? Go to it.

All in all, humanistic psychology has remained extremely popular since the 1960s and its holistic-dynamic approach is generally favored by psychotherapists. There must, then, be a lot of truth in this theoretical model of how we are motivated, one need at a time, in a pyramid-like hierarchical structure.

Such a grand theory as this allows humans to understand one another much more readily, hugely contributing to increased levels of harmony and co-operation, both at the level of the community and between nations and religious groups, worldwide.

Reference: Maslow, Dr A.H. Motivation and Personality, Brandeis University, 1954 and Towards a Psychology of Being; and also, The Farther Reaches of Human Nature, Brandeis University Press.

Find books by Abraham Maslow about humanistic psychology at Amazon:

Maslow hierarchy of need

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Humanistic Psychology Site was last updated on Tuesday, July 23, 2013