By John Tamiazzo, PhD
(August 10, 2018)
We owe a great debt of gratitude to the pioneering work of psychologist Abraham Maslow, founder of the school of Humanistic Psychology. His research set the tone for a new and positive direction in the field of psychology.
Maslow was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York and was the oldest of 7 children. After high school he attended City College of New York but dropped out after a year because he hated the curriculum there. In 1927 he began studies at Cornell University but left after one semester because of poor grades. He went back to City College, completed his studies there, and then went on to the University of Wisconsin in 1935 where he got his degree in psychology. He went to graduate school at Columbia University where he met the man who would deeply influence him and the future creation of his theories of human nature, Alfred Adler.
In graduate school Maslow began to question how the field of psychology came to its conclusions about the human mind and mental illness. Therefore, in contrast to conventional psychology which solely studied the mentally ill and created theories of mental illness and pathology based upon that research, Maslow studied mentally healthy people who were generally happy, creative, and involved with life. Maslow said that if the field of psychology continued to only study and classify mental illnesses, we would continue to have a ‘sick psychology’. In order for the field of psychology to truly progress and to understand the full dynamics of the mind and human nature, psychology must also study creative, fulfilled, happy, and well-adjusted people; those that Maslow referred to as peak achievers.
Maslow’ research led him to develop a hierarchy of needs including feelings of safety, security, love, friendship, intimacy, accomplishment, and fulfillment. Maslow wrote, “A person that threatens someone, humiliates, unnecessarily hurts, dominates, or rejects another human being becomes a force for the creation of psychopathology; every person who is kind, helpful, decent, psychologically democratic, affectionate, and warm, is a psychotherapeutic force for good.”
Upon this foundation, Maslow interviewed people that he called peak achievers who lived life more in the transcendent realm of consciousness. He found that peak achievers noticed beauty and sacredness in everyday life, felt a deep connection with a Higher power, felt a reverence for the fragility of human nature, experienced more unconditional love, made fewer judgments of themselves and others, and were a powerful source for manifesting harmony and good will. These attributes created the foundation for the human potential movement he inspired in the early 60’s.
In 1986, organizational psychologist Marsha Sinetar wrote a fascinating book based upon the work of Maslow titled, Ordinary People as Monks and Mystics. Sinetar writes, “Maslow described peak experience as an ecstatic moment, a moment of rapture and of love. During these moments the self, the ego, disappears, melts, as the individual fuses with the cosmos, nature, work, a craft, and with another.”
Abraham Maslow was a trail blazer who taught us that we have an innate potential for greatness. His work is timeless. One of his best books, The Farther Reaches of Human Nature, created a much needed balance within the field of psychology. He wrote, “The self-actualized person must find those qualities that make his living rich and rewarding. He must find meaning, purpose, individuality, playfulness, simplicity, beauty, love, and truth.”
Dr. John Tamiazzo is the former Executive Director of the Sedona Community Center. He is the author of two self-help books, Love & be Loved: 8 Steps to Creating Intimacy and Finding the Love You Want; Returning to the Land of Oz: Finding Hope, Love, and Courage on Your Yellow Brick Road. His work integrates solution focused therapy, transpersonal psychology, neuroscience, imagery processes, and dreamwork. Visit his website www.johntamiazzo.com to learn more about his counseling services, business and non-profit consulting, public speaking, and his upcoming Fall workshops and classes in Sedona.