This post has been formatted to reflect an original journal entry.
It’s the night after Thanksgiving, and I’m embracing the slowness of it. Reading Maslow after a long workout. Motivation and Personality. Relieved of the anxiety that my first apple tarte tatin may not be holiday-worthy. (But, in fact, it was tasty and simpler than I’d anticipated.) On Maslow: It is amazing how differently I’ve come to view his work, especially the real nature of the hierarchy—the pyramid—so vastly and wildly different from the way I first understood it when introduced in school. Reading it all in his words changes everything. I remember a psychology professor once talking about self-actualization as some sort of pie-in-they-sky notion. Utopian. Nirvana. No one ever gets there. But, he was a surly guy, as I recall. Probably not much of a peak experiencer himself. But, the likeliest reason, I’m certain, has to do more with my own maturity.
Not sure even reading Maslow in his own words would have meant much to me until I had reached a point in my own maturity, in the evolution of my own personality, at which I was able to see myself in them. But that really is why I love reading him so much. It’s not about specific points on which we may agree (I’ve mentioned thoughts on religion and creativity before.), but the totality of it. The process. The evolution of consciousness—the holism of it—and the interrelationships, the needs and desires, the dynamics of perception, creativity, shifts in cognition over time. I am able to see myself in the process. Through his writings, better able to see myself in process. Like holding a lens to my own transformations. Indeed, I’ve long viewed personality as an evolution in ways of being and experiencing the world. But only because, in my eyes, I’ve undergone many significant transformations in my life thus far. But, I am certain a great many of us feel this way. Can look back at ourselves five, ten, fifteen years ago and think, My God, who was that person?!
Always seeing myself on a steady—though not often linear—climb upward. And not always (or often) correlated with increases in status, income, other outward measures of achievement. What I am talking about, of course, are evolutions in sense of self—self-confidence, belief in abilities, embracing of the “weird”—also, taste, more pleasing dress and behavior (by my standards), enhanced appreciation of a wide variety of things, desire to be creative and playful, lightness of being (a more frequent occurrence), less and less preoccupation with what’s going on inside and greater concern with what can be done outside (because what’s going on inside isn’t all that interesting or dramatic, but only with fixing what issues might arise, delight and enhanced sense of wonder at one’s nature, or acting in accord with a firmer sense of self).
Even if all these needs are satisfied, we may still often (if not always) expect that a new discontent and restlessness will soon develop, unless the individual is doing what he, individually, is fitted for. A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write, if he is to be ultimately at peace with himself. What a man can be, he must be. He must be true to his own nature.
— A. H. Maslow
Got me reflecting on what it means to me to transform—how I know I’ve evolved, outgrown a phase in my own development. Become truer to myself. Some additional observations:
- Prior self is almost unrecognizable, outlandish, even embarrassing. (Maslow says this comes with enhanced need satisfaction.)
- Increase in sense of rootedness. More comfortable and confident in my own skin. Better willing to navigate tricky situations without getting overwhelmed or anxious. But that makes sense.
- Loss or lessening of bad habits, enhancements in taste, appearance, etc. Redefinitions of beauty and pleasure. Usually in more nuanced terms.
- Periods of imbalance. Always. Trying new things, sometimes to extreme. Whether in terms of lifestyle, diet, ideologies, disciplines, etc. Then, returning back to center, incorporating what feels right. I’ve learned that excesses of discipline do not suit me. Nor does abstinence from anything I enjoy. Nothing radical or totalizing in either direction. Always balance. Don’t do well incorporating negative virtues into my repertoire. (I’m reminded of Nietzsche discussing shades of this…The Gay Science, if I remember.) But, have largely outgrown those periods as I’ve gotten older. Now, more of a tweaking, a fine-tuning, of the little things.
I adventure in order to discover myself. I’m going off-script now. As I was largely copying from a hand-written journal entry. But I am struck with a thought: As I evolve, so does my ideal self. And often that ends up taking some wild and interesting directions, depending on circumstances—what kinds of people/opportunities/obstacles—life flings my way. Unexpected transformations in personality. And my ideal self is largely a matter of taste. An amalgam of what I find most pleasing at any given time and always feels as if it’s just beyond arm’s reach. Includes a knowledge—a sense—that I will evolve yet again. Probability of attainment. A related thought: Maslow positions needs in his hierarchy as instinctual. Human needs, like love, identification, belonging, esteem as representing “weaker” instincts and compared to, say, hunger, etc. Love the elevation of instincts. The embracing of animality. Also, for me, a matter of taste. I think I’ve written this previously. The notion that all human instincts/drives/needs are not bad, but neutral, even good. I must read this chapter again with greater care. Note-taking. Makes me think of my excursions into my femininity differently—those aspects I identified as impulses, drives, etc. How to position it within this framework. (Or should I?) My ideal self depends on my animality. About that I can think more deeply.