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  • Despoina Limniotaki

Abraham H. Maslow: Toward a Psychology of Being (book review)

Freud was first to acknowledge it: one of the causes of much psychological illness is the fear of oneself. We protect ourselves form unpleasant truths. We feel safe by knowing less about what is going on around and inside us. In general, it is referred to as "fear of knowledge". However, being afraid of one's emotions, impulses, memories, capacities, potentialities and destiny, for Maslow, it is not just another fear - it is denying of one's own greatness, a tactic that can only hold people back and provide them with a defence mechanism against reality, instead of making them responsible for their decisions.

Knowledge should not be feared but rather be used the other way around: as a gift. It can be an anxiety-reduction method instead of a burden. Through exploration of ourselves and our inner wishes, we can reach growth and eliminate fear. A full functioning person should be aware of all aspects of life. This is the way to courage and safety. A pre requisite for self-actualization.

Reaching a high level of maturation is the infinite goal. It lies on interdependent stages and coping, as is the case of many other theories of pesonality. At each stage one is supposed to perceive realities to which other people are blind. Maslow seems to be interested in what a peson is capable of feeling once having reached each stage: love, creation, nature - how do they feel like? In this way, he sets himself apart from the contemporary psychology of the sick and the abnormal who are striving for something. It is Being-psychology, as it refers to ends rather than means. The object or experience is seen as a unified, self-sufficient entity. People are not part of a universe any more; they enclose a world in themselves.

Such a theory calls for totality. Everything exists in itself and for itself. Therefore, beauty is everywhere. In sickness and in health, if both can provide a chance for the person to be inspired, fascinated or filled with awe. The purpose is the enrichment of soul. Moreover, it is independent of egoism, it is truthful and fair to people because it asks them to remain true to themselves.

In contrast, there is D-cognition. Anxiety based, organised by the deficiency needs of the individual. It doesn't permit people to see more than what is there. It limits their perceptions and, as a result, their potentialities. Maslow thinks that D-cognition is an energy-consuming process. It involves alertness and tension, that is, fatigue.

Managing to live like this, is a peak experience. During peak experiences, people manage to take up many of the characteristics of a self-actualized personality, often for a long time. Such states may occur to any person at any time. Maslow points out that a theory of such degree and frequency becomes more amenable to research procedures and also, to all people.

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