1-Sentence-Summary: Toward a Psychology of Being encompasses the extended research of Abraham Maslow on the human condition, how people view their wants and needs, the process of psychological growth and how achieving a sense of fulfillment is possible by understanding your perspective on needs and the way your mind works.
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Favorite quote from the author:
For Abraham Maslow, psychology was about discovering a way to live a healthy and happy life. It wasn’t just about curing diseases and mental disorders. Most of the research conducted at the time was focused primarily on pathology. However, he was more passionate about the other half of psychology, which he calls “the healthy half”.
Maslow spent his time looking up what he calls “self-actualization”, which is the biological need of every human to find their purpose and follow it to achieve ultimate fulfillment. What makes Toward a Psychology of Being a great book is the fact that the author was truly ahead of his time, conducting remarkable research on fields that are still investigated today.
Even so, his findings are groundbreaking, as he discovered the widely known “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs”. This remarkable concept is easy-to-follow and visually suggestive. It depicts the five categories of needs that every human has and how to navigate through them to achieve self-actualization.
We’ll go in detail with this concept in the following lines, but first, let me show you my three favorite lessons from the book:
- To achieve self-actualization, one must go through all of the other needs beforehand and fulfill them.
- When one reaches the top of the pyramid, they experience what Maslow calls a “state of Being”.
- Reaching a state of Being implies opening your mind to the world, which in turn makes you more creative.
Although it’s difficult to compress all the valuable information Maslow has discovered into a few lessons, the essential part is there. Therefore, let’s explore all of them carefully, starting with the first one!
Lesson 1: To get to the top of the pyramid and achieve self-actualization, you must first fulfill all previous needs
Maslow believed in self-actualization as a science. Therefore, he stated that this ultimate state of fulfillment can only be achieved if one follows their true nature and inner voice. For example, maybe you have a burning desire and an inclination towards dancing. But you choose to spend your life being an accountant. In that situation, you’ll never achieve self-actualization.
In contrast, you’ll end up feeling the opposite, which is a state of dissatisfaction, disharmony, and loss of purpose. However, to even begin following your purpose, you must first meet your basic needs and work your way up the pyramid. The first category of needs you ought to fulfill is your physiological needs, like air, water, reproduction, shelter, and so on.
The second category is your safety needs represented by personal security, employment, health, and other similar aspects. Then, there’s the need for love and belonging, having a sense of connection or a family. The fourth category is the esteem need, which implies receiving respect for others, recognition, and freedom. Lastly, there’s self-actualization, at the end of the hierarchy.
Lesson 2: Achieving a “state of Being” is only possible through self-actualization
On the quest to achieve self-actualization, humans must go through different challenges and fulfill various levels of needs. Advancing to the next category on the pyramid implies that all previous needs have been taken care of. That’s why it is a challenge for anyone to make it to the top. However, once there, Maslow suggests that the person will experience a state of Being.
A state of Being implies that you’ll no longer see people as means to reach your goals. Instead, you love them for their qualities and intrinsic values. That’s because you have already achieved everything. In this state of Being, you’ll achieve a whole set of emotions, such as self-reliance, autonomy, usefulness. Peak experiences feel like pure ecstasy, and you have a lot of those moments.
You become free from all other needs and get to focus on what you wish. When you do so, you appreciate everything in detail and see everything as an end rather than means. In other words, you see the world in its wholeness and uniqueness, instead of focusing on the parts that are important to you, like we all do on our way to the top of the pyramid.
Lesson 3: Reaching a state of Being opens up one’s mind to a whole new type of creativity
Achieving a state of Being and that superhuman perspective that comes with it is not an easy feat. Still, people who’ve got there seem to know something that the average person doesn’t, simply because they have more time and willingness to connect with the world, instead of chasing their objectives. The first thing Maslow observed about them is their creativity.
He realized that the state of Being is similar to childhood. People tend to be more creative, but not in a genius-creative way, but more like a child who is curious about the world. As such, if one is focused on art, they’re likely to create abstract paintings, rather than structured pieces that sell well. Moreover, Maslow implies that not all people who work in creative industries truly possess this quality.
Some people just follow technical specifications to create a predefined outcome, like an orchestra, a wedding planner, or so on. What sets self-actualized people apart from geniuses is health. Geniuses are likely to mistreat their bodies and give minimal, if no consideration at all to their health, while self-actualized people have fulfilled this need at their first level of the pyramid, and they keep on doing so.
The Toward a Psychology of Being of Review
Maslow discovered not just one of the ways humans are programmed to function, but also how to go through obstacles to achieve ultimate fulfillment. Toward the Psychology of Being is a valuable piece of writing on the positive side of psychology that explores how one can improve their life, health, and reach self-actualization. The process is lengthy and challenging, which is why Maslow estimates that only 1% of the population achieves that state. However, reading this book will certainly bring you one step closer to your ultimate goal.
Who would I recommend the Toward a Psychology of Being summary to?
The 40-year old person who is passionate about psychology and the power of the brain on the body and spirit, the 27-year-old person who feels lost and frustrated and wants to find their purpose and achieve it, or the 38-year-old parent who wants to pave the way for a happy life for their child