Abraham Maslow and self-actualization skills vs. self-knowledge learning needs.

Abraham Maslow, self-actualization skills vs. self-knowledge learning needs.

Self-Knowledge Learning Needs vs. Self-Actualization Skills
How to Make the World a Better Place Chapter 8
by Mark Zimmerman

Go To:
Chapter 1 Emotional Literacy Education and Self-Knowledge
Chapter 2 Emotional Literacy Language and Vocabulary
Chapter 3 Emotional Literacy Education Teaching Compassion
Chapter 4 Emotional Literacy Education Understanding Fear
Chapter 5 Emotional Literacy Education, Hate, Violence & September 11, 2001
Chapter 6 Abraham Maslow, Emotional Literacy and Ortho-Education
Chapter 7 A Theory of Human Motivation by Abraham Maslow
Chapter 9 National Standardized Test, FCAT Testing and State Tests
Chapter 10 The Cause of War and a Solution

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Abraham Maslow and his description of "self-actualization needs" (Toward a Psychology of Being pages 15, 29, 32, 35, 36, 43, 47, 51, 53, 83, 93, 125, 129, 176, 187, 230) must be divided into two needs, i.e. the self-actualization needs and self-knowledge needs. Self-actualization is a function of the cortex which the writer calls the Learning Neurological Network. Self-actualization is the process of growing neurological connections in the Learning Network of the brain, which results in the creation of specialized functions.

Biological brain functions are permanent neurological networks which compartmentalize the brain. Self-actualization is the process of reorganizing neurological networks, through learning, by recombining compartmentalized brain functions, designed for other purposes, into new and useful capacities. One such process of combining brain functions is learning how to read. Others include learning how to play a musical instrument, the arts, sciences and language arts, etc. This would include any complex task that requires a learning process to reorganize brain function around the new task including engineering, plumbing and carpentry, etc. This creates new neurological pathways which begin the process of interconnecting otherwise compartmentalized neurological networks into new brain functions. In other words, self-actualization is a natural process for almost all humans. Essentially, it is what makes us profoundly different from animals. The first truly cultural, self-actualizing and learned skill was agriculture. Without it no civilization is possible.

In a word "culture" best describes the societal result of self-actualization. A dictionary definition of culture is:
1. The totality of socially transmitted (learned) behavior patterns, arts, beliefs, institutions, and all other products of human work and thought.
2. Intellectual and artistic activity, and the works produced by it.
3. a. Development of the intellect through training or education. b. Self-actualization resulting from such training or education.
4. A high degree of taste and refinement formed by aesthetic and intellectual training.
5. Special training and development: voice culture for singers and actors.
6. A personal quality resulting from the development of intellect, manners, and aesthetic appreciation. Culture implies self-actualization attained through close association with and appreciation of the highest level of civilization, i.e. learning and education. Cultivation suggests the process of self-improvement or self-development through which culture is acquired: Example - The books and paintings in her library reflect her considerable cultivation revealed especially in good manners, poise, and sensitivity to the feelings of others (compassion).

The author agrees with Abraham Maslow on many points as he often associated self-actualization with the arts, science and music, etc. Where the author differs with Abraham Maslow is on the point of what happens after self-actualization needs are satisfied. Here he seems to come to the end point of his own perception and ability to see the question. What follows is a point by point attempt by the author to bring to light these issues, and try to explain this most important question.

(1) The developing brain, from embryo to adulthood is growing through cell division and neurological connections. At first these brain cells are an indiscriminate mass. Something must be a driving force to organize this indiscriminate mass of brain cells into function. The author believes that Maslow's needs, provide the motivation states like hunger and thirst, to organize these brain cells. Needs are instinctive. We are born with them and they drive, not only our behavior, but also help the brain to organize itself around those needs. In other words, we are driven to learn how to satisfy needs by need-states and need-emotions. Abraham Maslow describes these drives as "deficiency needs" (Toward a Psychology of Being page 28).

(2) During the process of brain growth, the brain compartmentalizes its functions and networks, as various parts of the brain become more specialized. Compartmentalized brain functions divide the brain into contradictory and competing parts and networks. These functions compete and conflict in a fight over dominance of brain capacities and resources. The conflict is over which need will be satisfied or not, and therefore which function and neurological network will be used. This is an instinctive and a learned process.

(3) Compartmentalization of brain parts, neurological networks and functions result in deficiency-cognition, i.e. Maslow's "d-cognition" (Toward a Psychology of Being pages 84, 86, 137, 223).

(4) Self-actualization is the process by which compartmentalization is decreased by integration of compartmentalized brain parts, neurological networks and functions. This results in being-cognition, Maslow's "b-cognition" (Toward a Psychology of Being pages 12, 103, 120, 130, 137, 204, 223, 229).

(5) Abraham Maslow wrote, "2. Brain-injured soldiers. Goldstein's [1] work (55) is well known to all. He found it necessary to invent the concept of self-actualization to explain the reorganization of the person's capacities after injury.

"Footnote [1]: Goldstein had offered many acute observations of how the brain injured organism spontaneously reorganizes its capacities and strives to actualize its potential through whatever avenues remain open to it." Abraham Maslow - (Toward a Psychology of Being page 29)

(6) Self-actualization is the reorganization through integration of some compartmentalized brain parts, neurological networks and functions. This process could be called "the integration of compartmentalized neurological networks for the purpose of creating new function." Learning how to read is an example of a self-actualizing process, where functions originally designed for other purposes (by nature, biology and evolution) are reorganized into the new function of reading. This is very important, because it means that 99% of people have the in born ability to self-actualize to some degree, and therefore benefit from integration.

(7) Other examples of the self-actualizing process are learning the arts, music, poetry, or any other process that involves discipline, skill, concentration and advanced learning such as teaching, psychology, pottery, basket weaving and architecture, etc. In other words, self-actualization can be described as the culturization of a person.

(8) Divisions in the brain increase through this process, as new compartmentalization occurs, yet something new happens as some compartmentalization of neurological networks are resolved. Integration occurs at the neurological level where integration did not occur before. On the one hand, new divisions are created along with new skills, but also integration occurs at a beginning level in some areas of the brain.

(9) At first, self-actualization leads to increased confusion due to increased division of brain functions. This leads to resistance to self-actualization as a process, because at first it seems to make one's need-emotions more unpleasant, i.e. the struggle and effort of learning. Anxiety (mental pain) also occurs as a stimulant to help the brain increase its activity and aid in the learning process. During this same process, integration occurs which will manifest itself as glimpses of Maslow's "peak-experiences" or "being-cognition" (Toward a Psychology of Being pages 81-111). These glimpses are characterized as experiencing an inner peace of mind that one has never experienced before.

(10) These peak-experiences are directly related to one's specialized learning process. For example, a poet may experience b-cognition through an effort to write poetry, or an artist might experience b-cognition through their effort to paint, i.e. through an intense and concentrated effort to see color, line, shadow, contrast, darkness and light. Using this technique, and after much practice and utilization, colors are more acute, lines stand out and shadow and light contrast more deeply, etc.

(11) There is no easy way to reach peak-experiences (glimpses of satisfaction and happiness) without discipline and hard work, for it is achieved through a learning process, which modifies the brain and integrates sensory, emotional and cognitive neurological networks.

(12) A danger arises in this process in which confusion actually increases and therefore need-emotions-unhappiness increase. This is why so many people who are self-actualizing, appear unstable or insane, such as Van Gogh, Jim Morrison and Arthur Rimbaud.

(13) Many self-actualizing people stop developing at this point, because to go deeper into self-actualization increases confusion and unhappiness. It is also likely that regression may occur as an effort to quiet the chaos of the mind. Howard Hughes (the richest man in the world at the time), for example, became addicted to codeine, and he died a drug addict.

(14) If one continues the process of self-actualization, and satisfies that need fully, a new, never before encountered, pre-potent need-emotion arises, namely "self-knowledge."

(15) In its initial stage self-knowledge relates to and acknowledges the immediate need, which is how to manage and control unhappiness and confusion, etc. By doing so, one increases satisfaction and comfort (peace of mind). The writer defines self-knowledge, in this context, as the following: "Knowledge of unhappiness, the disposition to focus the ten senses of sight, hearing, taste, touch, smell, feeling, thought, consciousness, memory and experience upon unhappiness, is a part of the growth process which transforms unhappiness into satisfaction."

(16) It could be said at this point in brain development that the conscious experience of the need-emotions-unhappiness are a hunger for happiness. Abraham Maslow might say that unhappiness is a deficiency-need that one experiences when happiness is lacking.

(17) Knowledge of unhappiness deals directly with the issues of the need-emotions of unhappiness. The state of unhappiness is holistic. It involves the whole mind, and requires a whole mind activity to complete the process of integration. This effort reduces conflict, confusion and anxiety.

(18) Notice that the writer defines "knowledge of unhappiness" as a disposition. It is a need-desire at this point in brain development, because it is the only way to resolve divisions of the mind into unity. The need-emotions of unhappiness, when conscious, are drives. They motivate the individual to seek integration, peace and harmony. Unhappiness is the subjective experience which reflects these divisions and conflicts of the mind, and its compartmentalization of neurological networks and brain functions.

(19) Notice that the effort produced by knowledge of unhappiness relates to the exercise of the "ten senses of sight, hearing, taste, touch, smell, feeling, thought, consciousness, memory and experience." In other words, the effort is not merely to strengthen certain parts of the brain for the purpose of self-actualizing (acquiring skills), but recruits all the functions of the brain into a single activity, the acquiring of self-knowledge. Abraham Maslow referred to this as "intrinsic counter-cathexis" (Toward a Psychology of Being page 218). A dictionary definition of cathexis is: Concentration of emotional energy on an object or idea. In this case the object or idea is the self, more specifically with knowledge of unhappiness, it is the will, longing and desire to focus on the subjective experiences of unhappiness.

(20) Also, notice where the writer says in his definition, "...(it) is a part of the growth process which transforms unhappiness into satisfaction." Here we are moving into a process of integrating the whole mind, not just parts of it. Though it is not complete as it is written here, this process decreases compartmentalization and increases integration. This results in more peak-experiences, b-cognition, b-values, satisfaction and comfort. It is also an important first step which can lead to full integration of the neurological networks. By experiencing increased emotional satisfaction, the individual is self-lead in the right direction toward full neurological integration and higher states of the self such as happiness.

(21) Compartmentalization of the brain is its "normal" state of mind. These divisions and conflicts are sustained by unconsciousness. If a person is not forced into some sort of self-actualizing process, the subject is not likely to consciously experience their own divided brain. When the brain is maintained at a lower level, i.e. in a depressive state, the levels of conflict are kept at a minimum and do not emerge into consciousness, and therefore do not interfere with behaviors related to the satisfaction of the lower physiological and safety needs.

(22) Consciousness, though transcending, is a normal state of mind. When utilized and exercised fully, it plays an important role in integrating the compartmentalized brain.

(23) Culture itself is mankind forcing itself into self-actualization through its intense effort to acquire specialized skills through learning. Its function in evolution is to give the organism specialized skills to cope with environmental challenges.

(24) A process which deals directly with the problems created by self-actualization is increasingly becoming a need by the society. That need the writer calls "self-knowledge."

(25) Maslow's needs (see Chapter 7 A Theory of Human Motivation by Abraham Maslow): 1. physiological needs 2. safety needs 3. love needs 4. esteem needs 5. self-actualization 6. In Maslow's hierarchy of needs the writer would add, self-knowledge needs.

(26) Self-knowledge needs are not Maslow's cognitive needs i.e. "The desire to know and understand" (see Chapter 7). The writer defines self-knowledge needs as, "Knowledge of the self is the disposition (need-desire) to focus one's ten senses of sight, hearing, taste, touch, smell, feeling, thought, consciousness, memory and experience upon the self. It is a part of the growth process which brings about the cessation of the divided self, and the growth and creation of the integrated self.

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