Abraham Maslow Essay, Research Paper
“Dead Psychologists Society”
Abraham Maslow was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1908. Maslow went to the City College of New York when he was 18 to study law. He had an extremely high IQ but did very poorly in school and soon left college. It was later learned that Maslow attended college to study law largely to make his father happy although he had little interest in becoming a lawyer. He was first introduced to psychology at Cornell University where he hoped to receive a higher level of academic stimulation. Unfortunately, he found this experience disagreeable and was soon on his way home to Brooklyn, where he was united with his family and a special friend and cousin, Bertha Goodman. Maslow eventually married Bertha despite the concerns of his friends and family. Finally he would enroll in the University of Wisconsin where his love for psychology flourished.
Maslow created the theory of self-actualization assuming that all people are good by nature or at least neutral. He believed that the encouraged development of self-actualization helps individuals to reach their full potential. Maslow stated that a healthy development is only possible if a society “offers all necessary raw materials and then gets out of the way and stands aside to let the organism itself utter its wishes and demands and make its choices”(Ryckman pp. 435). If an environment is restrictive and minimizes personal choice the individual may develop in neurotic ways. In addition to this Maslow created what he called a hierarchy of human needs. These needs are called deficiency (basic) needs and growth (meta) needs. Simply, individuals basic needs must be satisfied before one could proceed to the growth needs. These needs are put in order of importance as Maslow saw it. The hierarchy consists of five separate stages, they are named in order: Physiological needs, Safety needs, Belongingness and Love needs, Self – Esteem needs, and finally Self-Actualization and growth needs. While basic needs are generally classified as physiological needs of an individual, Maslow recognized a flaw in this thinking. There may be exceptions to the heirachy needs of an individual. For example there are competitive people whose need to compete is more important than anything else in the world. Some people have such high and moral standards they would rather loose a close friend than give up their beliefs. Finally Maslow believed that when any of these needs are not being met the person becomes emotionally sick until the problem is resolved.
Abraham Maslow was considered to be a humanist psychologist. Theorists that are deemed humanists generally emphasize the uniqueness of an individual and generally believe that the individual should be free to make decisions without the influence of society. Maslow would assert that most societies naturally coerce individuals into behaving appropriately or “normally” according to society. Humanistic psychologists believe that individuals should be allowed to make their own decisions if they are to achieve their full potential. Maslow may have developed his theory of the hierarchy of needs as a direct result of his attempt and failure at the study of law. During the late twenties and early thirties it was important for a child to respect his parents and reach their expectations of success. During this time period law was more highly regarded than psychology. Maslow probably viewed his decision to study law as a decision forced by society and his parents. This supports his idea that a society that asserts the standard for normal most often produces mediocre people who most often obey the moral standard set forth by society. Furthermore, it seems that much of Maslow’s success as a psychologist comes after his marriage to Bertha. When describing the first kiss he shared with Bertha Maslow describes it; “Bertha didn’t protest or fight back, he recalled. She kissed back and then life began.”(Ryckman pp.433) He goes on to say that he regarded this first kiss as one of the greatest moments in his life, a true peak experience. This experience may have contributed to his theory of the hierarchy. The fact that he describes his first kiss as a peak experience and subsequently life began for him. He may have noticed his need for love and belongingness before he was able to progress as an individual.
I believe that Maslow’s theory holds a lot of truth in the world today. There is a strong influence of society on our behavior. Many conform to the ideals held by society in order to further themselves or their careers. The result is an exceeding number of people that realize in their later life they are simply not happy. This could be a direct result of the ideas imposed on them by society. For instance, in many instances your worth is measured by how much money you make. However, in many cases people who have a lot of money may have done something morally questionable by society. Bill Gates may be a clear example of this. Here is a billionaire who is trying to make even more money by smothering the competition. How many people realize that there is no such thing as a computer without Bill Gates operating system called Windows? How many young adults are attending college because society tells them they won’t be worth anything if they don’t? Unfortunately, I believe that college is a higher level of regurgitating information with little or no room for individual thought. Perhaps it would serve us better as human beings to live in a society where we show the options but don’t specify one as better than the other. Imagine for a moment we take away the need for money, what would you do? We are now free to pursue happiness as we see fit. It seems most would choose a life that makes them happy since they don’t have to worry about money. We might even be able to progress more quickly in all fields of study. Many people aren’t given the chance for their ideas to be heard simply because they aren’t “credible”, whoever decides that. Albert Einstein was not considered a genius in high school. In fact he performed at a lower level than his peers did. There was no college, yet this man is revered as a scientific genius. In our society the same outcome would not be likely. He probably would be in a low paying job hindering his natural progress because the powers that be say he doesn’t look good on paper. Allowing people to pursue their needs in a natural order may be a very welcome change to all humans.