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Work of Abraham Maslow

What shall we think of a well-adjusted slave? -- A. Maslow

Sick people are made by a sick culture. -- A. Maslow


Maslow's Assumptions for Raising and Teaching Children

Toward a Psychology of Being


Excerpts from Maslow on Management

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I first heard of Maslow in my intro psych course in college, or "Uni" as the Ozzies and Kiwis say. Like many people, all I learned about his work was his "hierarchy of needs." This refers to his now famous pyramid, in which he puts self-actualization at the top. It wasn't till I happened to find a book by him called Toward a Psychology of Being, that I realized how much more he had to offer and how much I liked his ideas.

I liked the way he differed from traditional psychologists. For example, he studied happy, high performing people to learn more about what they had in common. And he didn't like the way psychlogists labeled and diagnosed people. He also didn't like the biblical idea that children are born "sinners" and are "evil" by nature. He said humans are basically "good" or what I would call health and survival seeking. He questions what other psychologists call "adjustment" and the "well-adusted" person when this person is in a sick culture. He asks "What shall we think of a well-adjusted slave?" (p 8)

To me, his writing makes sense. He presents a good balance between the views of traditional psychologists, his own research and his own personal beliefs.

His question: What happened?

One of the reasons I like him comes from when I read that in the front of one of his books he has two pictures. One is of a bunch of happy, smiling little kids. The other is a picture of a group of dour, sullen, depressed, beaten-looking highschool students. Under the two pictures he asks this question: What happened?

Quotes on "adjustment"

Adjusted to what? A bad culture? To a dominating parent? What shall we think of a well-adjusted slave?

An extensive reference list on Maslow: http://www.gjs.net/web-masl.htm

Notes from Toward a Psychology of Being

Introduction - Toward a Psychology of Health

Maslow outlines his basic assumptions [I have merged them with similar points in the final chapter of his book]

  • Each of us have "an essential inner nature which is instinctoid, intrinsic, given, "natural."
  • While this inner nature tends to persist in trying to develop its potential, and this inner voice tries to expression, it is weak in comparison to other animals. It is easily overcome, suppressed or repressed. It may even be killed off permanently. It is not as strong as the instincts of other animals, which are "powerful, unmistakabl inner voices which tell them unequivocally what to do, when , where, how and with whom."
  • These "instinct-remnants" are "weak, subtle, delicate, and very easily drowned out by learning, by cultural expectations, by fear, disapproval, etc."
  • It is hard to know exctly what this inner nature is, but he believes it is possible to determine it scientifically, (rather than invent it, as he implies others have done.)1
  • He defines authentic selfhood partly as "being able to hear these impulse-voices within oneself-- ie to know what one really wants or doesn't want, what one is fit for and not fit for, etc. [I would add what one needs] He says there appear to be wide differences in the strength of these inner voices.
  • This raw material very quickly starts growing into a self as it meets the world outside" and begins to interact with it. But all of it is only potential until it is actualized, if ever.
  • Each person's inner nature has some parts which are common to all humans, ie species-wide, and some which are unique to that individual. [This is similar to what I say about each person having needs which are similar, but in different intensities.]
  • This inner nature, our basic emotions and our basic needs are intrinsically "good." [healthy]2
  • Behaviors which many call "evil" seem to be "not intrinsic, but rather violent reactions against frustrations of our intrinsic needs, emotions and capacities.3 (p 3)
  • Since this inner nature is positive rather than negative, Maslow says it is "best to bring it out and to encourage it, rather than to suppress it." He says if it is "permitted to guide our life, we grow healthy, fruitful and happy." (p 4)
  • When this inner nature is not allowed to develop, if it is denied, or suppressed, we get "sick, sometimes in obvious ways, sometimes in subtle ways, sometimes immediately, sometimes later." (p 4)
  • We each have an inner conscience. This is separate from Freud's concept of the superego which is "authoritarian and relativistic" in that it relies primarily on the child's internalization of the parents and other authority figures. This intrinsic conscience also varies in strength between individuals. (p 7)
  • This inner conscience may cause us pain, frustration and conflict, especially when it conflicts with the social norms. But Maslow says all of this may be healthy. He argues that in a sick culture, the healthy person will show more signs of mental illness than the "well-adjusted" person. He says, in effect, that it is the healthy, but unhappy person, who is the catalyst for needed, positive change. (p 7)
More detail:

He includes in this inner nature "basic needs, capacities, talents, physiological or temperamental balances. [Maslow includes natal and prenatal injuries and neonate traumas but I'd say these are not part of our nature, but instead they are the first changes to it.] (Chapter 14, point 1)

Maslow believed there could be a scientific value system, a scientific system of ethics, "a court of untimate appeal for the determination of good and bad, of right and wrong." [In other words, for what is healthy and survival promoting for the individual and the group.]

He says that everything we do which goes against this natural value system, whether it is against the development of our own potential or agains the group, somehow "registers" within us.4 He mentions the old word "accidie" which meant to fail to do with your life what you know you could do.

Maslow says that each age has its model. He says perhaps one day the ideal person will be a self-actualizing person whose inner nature expresses itself freely. He then talks about what kind of a culture might help produce such people. He says just as "sick people are made by a sick culture, healthy people are made possible by a healthy culture. He adds that sick people also make their culture even more sick and healthy people make theirs more healthy.

Here is the exact quote

Sick people are made by a sick culture; healthy people are made possible by a healthy culture. But it is just as true that sick individuals make their culture more sick and that healthy individuals make their culture more healthy.

Maslow strongly questions the concept of adjustment. He says

Clearly, what will be called personality problems depends on who is doing the calling. The slave owner? The dictator? The patriarchal father?... It seems quite clear that personality problems may be loud protests against the crushing of psychological bones, of one's true inner nature.What is sick then is not to protest while this crime is being committed. (p 8)

Then Maslow says that his impression is that most people do not protest, but instead suffer the neurotic and psychosomatic symptoms years later. Or they might live their whole lives never realizing that "they have missed true happiness, true fulfillment of promise, a rich emotional life, and a serene, fruitful old age, that they have never known how wonderful it is to be creative, to react aesthetically, to find life thrilling." (p8)

Then he says that grief and pain and other negative emotions are sometimes necessary for growth. He says without successfuly overcoming such feelings, one doesn't develop the confidence that one can overcome them. He says that "not allowing people to go through their pain, and protecting them from it, .... implies a "certain lack of respect for the integrity and intrinsic nature" of the individual and his future development. (p 8)


15. Pure spontaneity consists of free, uninhibited, uncontrolled, trusting, unpremeditated, expression of the self, ie of the psychic forces, with minimal interferenc by consciusness. Control, will, caution, self-criticism, measure, deliberateness are the brakes upon this expression..."

He says "the healthy psyche doesn not have to be feared, as it has been for thousands of years."

He says the controls, the brakes which we place on our spontaneity and the expression of our inner selves are "usually lessened by psychological health, by deep psychotherapy, or by any deeper self-knowledge...[but prescribed drugs serve to increase the brakes]


1. I suspect that with advances in brain research we will come closer and closer to identifying a child's potential, needs, chemical balance, etc.

2. He includes in the basic needs: life, safety and security, belongingness, affection, respect, self-respect and self-actualization. I suspect that William Glasser read Maslow before he came up with his list of very similar needs. I also suspect that there are many more basic psychological needs, all of which will someday be quantifiable and measurable with brain chemical analysis. See my list of human emotional needs

3. This is the same thing Maria Montessori concluded about children and their so called "misbehavior."

4. He cites Karen Horney's use of the word "register."

Excerpted from Maslow on Management, by Abraham H. Maslow, with Deborah Stephens and Gary Heil. Copyright 1998 by Ann R. Kaplan. Reprinted by permission of John Wiley & Sons Inc. To order a copy, call 800-225-5945, or visit the Wiley Web site <http://www.wiley.com>.

Exclusive book excerpt

Editor's Intro

Thirty-six years ago renowned psychologist Abraham H. Maslow spent the summer at a small technology company, observing his ideas about motivation being put to the test. His journals, rereleased this month, offer lessons to anyone who manages people today

In the summer of 1962, Dr. Abraham H. Maslow, the psychologist well known for his work on motivation and personality, decided to take a sabbatical. That wasn't terribly unusual for a professor. What was unusual was where he decided to take his break--at a technology company called Non-Linear Systems, in Del Mar, Calif.

His latest book, Toward a Psychology of Being, containing the theory that human beings progress through a hierarchy of needs until they reach a point of self-actualization, had just been published. Andrew Kay, Non-Linear's president, was taken with Maslow's theories on motivation. He'd decided to experiment with replacing his company's voltmeter-producing assembly lines with work teams responsible for an entire product. It was a bold move at the time. Maslow accepted an invitation to observe.

Maslow kept a journal that goes far beyond what he saw at Non-Linear. In it he wrote about "enlightened management," describing the type of workplace that would be most conducive to the workers' reaching a point of self-actualization. He wrote about trust among workers and management, the need for honest recognition, and the importance of continuous improvement.

Maslow had already had an impact on leading management thinkers. In 1960, in The Human Side of Enterprise, Douglas McGregor postulated Theory Y of management, which assumed that people have an inherent desire to work. Theory Y ran counter to Theory X, which assumed that people dislike work and prefer authoritarian direction.

Mimeographed copies of Maslow's journal made the rounds, and it was eventually published as Eupsychian Management, meaning "the culture that would be generated by 1,000 self-actualizing people on some sheltered island where they would not be interfered with." The book was published in 1965, sold meagerly, and went out of print.

But Maslow's ideas continued to resonate. "Maslow's contribution to management was a big one," says Peter Drucker. "He pointed out that you have to have different personnel policies for different people in different situations for them to be truly effective."

In the early 1990s, Eupsychian Management was posted on a widely trafficked Web site devoted to Maslow. The journal will be republished this month as Maslow on Management. Excerpts appear on the pages that follow.

"Maslow's major contribution is much more in its potential than in its reality," says Jim Collins, coauthor of Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies and an Inc. columnist. "Imagine if you were to build organizations designed to allow the vast majority of people to self-actualize, to discover and draw upon their true talents and creative passions, and then commit to a relentless pursuit of those activities toward a pinnacle of excellence. Then imagine if the organization were to revolve around those self-actualized individuals. The outcome would be nothing short of a Copernican revolution of work and society, catapulting us out of what future generations will look back on as the Dark Ages of management. The potential is enormous." --Jeffrey L. Seglin

Enlightened management assumes that everyone prefers to be a prime mover rather than a passive helper

Assume that everyone is to be trusted. This does not assume that everyone in the world is to be trusted--that no one is to be mistrusted. It definitely assumes the reality of individual differences. It assumes that the people selected for the particular plant are fairly evolved types of people, relatively mature, relatively healthy, relatively decent. By definition it also assumes good environmental conditions.

Assume that everyone is to be informed as completely as possible of as many facts and truths as possible, of everything relevant to the situation. There is the clear assumption in enlightened management that people need to know, that knowing is good for them, that the truth, the facts, and honesty tend to be curative and healing.

Assume in all your people the impulse to achieve; assume that they are for good workmanship, are against inefficiency and wasting time, and want to do a good job. Remember that this impulse is either absent or very weak in a fairly large proportion of the human species but that we are selecting for our organizations those people who have a reasonable amount of this impulse. All fairly healthy people will have such impulses.

Assume that there is no dominance-subordination hierarchy in the jungle sense or authoritarian sense (or "baboon" sense). The dominance is of the "chimpanzee" sort: older-brotherly, responsible, and affectionate. Where the jungle view of the world prevails, enlightened management is practically impossible. If all people are divided into hammers and anvils or lambs and wolves, then brotherhood, sharing of goals, identification with team objectives become difficult, limited, or impossible. There must be an ability to identify with a fairly wide circle of human beings, ideally with the whole human species. The ultimate authoritarian can identify with nobody or perhaps at best with his own blood family....Authoritarians must be excluded or they must be converted.

Assume that everyone will have the same ultimate managerial objectives and will identify with them no matter where they are in the organization or in the hierarchy. I suppose we will have to work out here a little bit of the psychodynamics of teamwork, of identification with the team or the organization....One could try to work on the example of an army, in which perfect patriotism exists...and in which each one has the same ultimate goal of victory as everybody else, and therefore uses himself and his own peculiar capacities in the best possible way toward this ultimate goal of victory, even if it means self-sacrifice....One asks, "What is best for the solution of the problem...rather than what is best for my ego, or my own person?"

Synergy is also assumed. Synergy can be defined as the resolution of the dichotomy between selfishness and unselfishness, or between selfishness and altruism. We normally assume that the more one has, the less the other has....But...it is possible to set up organizations so that when I am pursuing my own self-interest, I automatically benefit everyone else, whether I mean to or not.

For instance, among the Blackfoot Indians the "giveaway" was such a synergic institution. The way in which the Blackfoot could attain prestige, respect, status, and love from everybody, and in his own eyes as well, was by being very generous during the Sun Dance ceremony; and so it was that the Blackfoot Indian might work hard and save and borrow for a whole year so that he would have a pile of blankets and food to give away to the public at the Sun Dance ceremony....After such a giveaway he might not have a nickel in his pockets, but he is defined as a very wealthy man....The people most respected in this tribe are the people who have given away the most.

How does he survive after giving away everything? He has such prestige that he is eagerly sought out by everyone in the tribe. They fight for his presence....He is regarded as so wise that to have him at the fireplace where he can teach the children is regarded as a great blessing. In this way he benefits and everyone benefits from his skill, his intelligence, his hard work, his generosity.

Enlightened economics must assume as a prerequisite synergic institutions set up in such a way that what benefits one benefits all.

Assume the "Ability to Admire" (to be objective and detached), in a special sense; that is, the ability to be purely objective not only about other people's capacities and skills, but also about one's own. This means particularly that there must be little or no hatred of self, no hostility to truth, beauty, goodness, justice, law, or order, or at least no more than the irreducible minimum inevitable in human nature....Given the ideal situation in which everyone is wise and all-powerful in a godlike way and without any selfish ego whatsoever, this would be easy. Then I could freely say that Smith had better be chosen for the job because he was best for the job or more skillful than I, without feeling any pang of envy, hurt, inferiority, or whatever. Of course in practice this is impossible because human beings cannot achieve this perfection except in small areas of life, but...at least there must be more of this rather than less.

We must assume that the people in organizations are not fixated at the safety-need level. They must be relatively anxiety free; they must not be fear-ridden; they must have enough courage to overcome their fears, they must be able to go ahead in the face of uncertainty....On the whole, where fear reigns, enlightened management is not possible.

Assume that everyone can enjoy good teamwork, friendship, good group spirit, good group homonymy, good belongingness, and group love. Beware of stressing only the pleasures of autonomy, of actualization of the individual self. Not enough attention has been given to the pleasures of being in a love community with which one can identify, not enough studies yet of the esprit de corps. Talk about identification with the group, the kind of pride that a high school boy can have in his own school's basketball team, ...or that a member of the Adams family will have simply from being a member of the Adams family, even if he doesn't amount to very much himself.

Assume hostility to be primarily reactive rather than character-based, that it will be for good, objective, present, here-now reasons, and that it is therefore valuable rather than evil. It is therefore not to be stifled and discouraged. (Phrased in this way it comes close to being simply honesty.) Certainly this freedom to express reactive hostility will make for increased honesty and an improved situation rather than the kind of permanent strain that comes when justified resentments and irritations cannot be expressed openly....The same thing is true with a good manager; the better the manager, the more freedom people will feel to express irritation and disagreement. If I am the boss and someone reacts to a normal order as if I were his father who is going to spank him, and if he cannot tell the difference, then good relations are very difficult.

Assume that people can take it, that they are tough, stronger than most people give them credit for. One can easily enough find the limits for each individual and how much he can take and not take. Certainly the strain should not be constant, but people can benefit from being stretched and strained and challenged at least once in a while. As a matter of fact, they must be stretched and strained once in a while in order to not get slack and bored. It makes life in all its aspects more interesting if one works at concert pitch, at one's highest level once in a while. Furthermore, we can assume that many people want to take it, to be stretched and challenged.

Enlightened management assumes that people are improvable. This does not mean that they are perfectible. Furthermore, it does not exclude their having the vision or hope of perfection. All it says is that people can be better than they are by at least a little bit.

Assume that everyone prefers to feel important, needed, useful, successful, proud, and respected, rather than unimportant, interchangeable, anonymous, wasted, unused, expendable, and disrespected. Esteem needs and self-esteem needs are universal.

Assume that everyone prefers or perhaps even needs to love his boss (rather than to hate him), and that everyone prefers to respect his boss (rather than to disrespect him). While we prefer to respect and to love our boss, if we can choose only one of those, most of us would choose to respect the boss and not love him, rather than to love him and not respect him.

Assume that growth occurs through delight and through boredom. It is a fairly safe assumption that a prerequisite for enlightened management is a delight in novelty, in new challenges and new activities; in variety; and in activities that are not too easy. But all those sooner or later become familiar and therefore uninteresting and even boring, so that the search then begins anew for additional variety and novelty, work at a higher level of skill.

Assume a preference for being a whole person and not a part, not a thing or an implement or a tool or a "hand." A person prefers to use all his capacities, to flex all his muscles, and resents being treated as just a part of the person.

Assume the preference for working rather than being idle. Most people prefer no work at all to meaningless work, wasted work, or made work....We must stress... the differences between the pleasures in the processes of working and in the goals or ends of work....In self-actualizing people, the work they do might better be called "mission," "calling," "duty," or "vocation"....This mission in life is actually so identified with the self that it becomes as much a part of the worker as his liver or lungs. To take away work (mission in life) from the truly fortunate worker, the ideally enlightened worker, would be almost equivalent to killing him.

All human beings prefer meaningful work to meaningless work. This is much like stressing the high human need for a system of values, a system of understanding the world and of making sense out of it....If work is meaningless, then life comes close to being meaningless....No matter how menial the chores--the dishwashing and the test-tube cleaning--all people become meaningful or meaningless by virtue of their participation or lack of participation in a meaningful or important or loved goal....I can use here my case of a woman who developed anhedonia (loss of zest and pleasure in life) because she had a job as personnel manager in a chewing-gum factory and simply couldn't get excited about chewing gum. She might have very much enjoyed exactly the same kind of work in a more meaningful (to her) factory.

We must make the assumption that the person is courageous enough for enlightened processes. This does not mean that he lacks fears, but rather that he can conquer them or go ahead in spite of them. He has stress tolerance. He knows creative insecurity. He can endure anxiety.

We must assume the wisdom and the efficacy of self-choice. It is almost a basic assumption for enlightened-management people to find out what they are best at by finding out what they like most. This assumes that what one likes, what one prefers, what one chooses, is a wise choice....This principle of the wisdom of self-choice is on the whole true, but it is especially true for healthy individuals and much less true for neurotic and psychotic people. As a matter of fact, neurosis may also be defined as the loss of the ability to choose wisely, in accordance with one's true needs. We also know that habit interferes with wise self-choice. So also does continuous frustration....

We must assume that everyone likes to be justly and fairly appreciated, preferably in public. Our false notions of modesty and humility stand in the way here. The Plains Indians are far more realistic about this. They assume that everyone likes to boast about his accomplishments and likes to hear others praise his accomplishments. This must be realistic, just, and fair. To be praised for what one does not deserve or to have one's accomplishment unduly exaggerated can actually be guilt producing.

Every time we talk about a good trend in human nature, we must assume that there is also a countertrend. For instance, it is perfectly true that almost every human being has a tendency to grow toward self-actualization; but it is just as true that every human being has a trend toward regression, toward fear of growth, toward not wanting self-actualization. Certainly, every person has some courage; but just as certainly, every person has some fear, also. It is true that everybody loves the truth; it is also true that everybody fears the truth....The question is, which is the strongest in the particular person at the particular time under the particular circumstances?

Assume that everyone, but especially the more developed person, prefers responsibility to dependency and passivity, most of the time. Certainly it is true that this tendency to prefer responsibility and maturity lessens when the person is weak, frightened, or sick or depressed. Another point is that it must be set at the right level so that he can manage it well. Too much responsibility can crush the person just as too little responsibility can make him flabby.

The general assumption is that people will get more pleasure out of loving than they will out of hating (although the pleasures of hating are real and should not be overlooked). For fairly well-developed people, the pleasures of loving, of friendship, of teamwork, of being a part of a well-functioning organization are real and strong and, furthermore, greater than the pleasures of disruption, destruction, and antagonism. We must remember that for people who are not highly developed--for deeply neurotic or psychotic people--there is the fair number of instances in which the pleasures of hatred and of destruction are greater than the pleasures of friendship and affection.

Assume that fairly well-developed people would rather create than destroy. The pleasures of creating something are greater than the pleasures of destroying something, although the latter pleasures actually do exist and must not be overlooked, especially since they can be rather strong in poorly developed people.

Assume that fairly well-developed people would rather be interested than be bored. Practically all people hate being bored.

Why we need entrepreneurs

The difference between the great and the deteriorating societies is largely in terms of the entrepreneurial opportunity

Entrepreneurs--the managers, integrators, organizers, and planners--undervalue the worth of their own function and are still apt to think of themselves in the older terms as exploiters, as superficial, as not really working, not really contributing. Therefore, as a group they are apt to feel a little guilty about their rewards.

Partly, I think, this is tied in with the notion of work as only sweating and laboring, and partly it is a consequence of misunderstanding the nature of inventions.

As for inventions, our tendency is to think that they result from a great flash of insight in which in one instant darkness becomes light and ignorance becomes knowledge. This is the notion of the brand-new discovery that never existed before, and it is obviously wrong in most cases, since any invention, however novel, has its history. It should be seen anyway as the product of collaboration and division of labor; that is, invention may result from a sudden integration of previously known bits of knowledge not yet suitably patterned....