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    Understanding a Bit of Maslow

    November 14, 2006 by Brandy Vencel

    I intend to critique the Church Relationships Assessment section by section if possible, but I feel that a bit of introductory material is necessary before I can do that. It is my belief that to truly be able to discuss the “Relationship With Self” section of the survey, we must have at least a cursory knowledge of Abraham Maslow. My parents, strangely enough, taught me a good deal about this man when I was a preteen, which is why I was able to make this connection in the first place.

    Abraham Maslow is the father of the concept of the hierarchy of human needs. The hierarchy starts with real needs, such as food and water, and moves upward: physiological, safety, love/belonging, esteem, self-actualization. In 1970, Maslow revised his pyramid, adding two extra levels: cognitive and aesthetic.

    I mentioned yesterday that the survey seemed to reveal an underlying belief that understanding one’s feelings or properly handling one’s feelings is the key to assessing one’s relationship with oneself. As I was perusing the questions, I couldn’t get away from the idea that the implied definition of a healthy relationship with oneself was Maslow’s self-actualized man. The best example of this appears on the sample survey I linked to yesterday: “When I experience a positive emotion, I know how to make it last.” I think that there is good reason to question the idea that affirming this statement is an evidence of spiritual maturity, and I will talk about that more in my next installment.

    For now, I think it is important to note that in 1968, Maslow published the book Toward a Psychology of Being. In this work, he redefined self-actualization as being episodic. He writes:

    Such states or episodes can, in theory, come at any time in life to any person. What seems to distinguish those individuals I have called self-actualizing people, is that in them these episodes seem to come far more frequently, and intensely and perfectly than in average people. This makes self-actualization a matter of degree and of frequency rather than an all-or-none affair, and thereby makes it more amenable to available research procedures. We need no longer be limited to searching for those rare subjects who may be said to be fulfilling themselves most of the time. In theory at least we may also search any life history for episodes of self-actualization, especially those of artists, intellectuals and other especially creative people, of profoundly religious people, and of people experiencing great insights in psychotherapy, or in other important growth experiences.

    I added a bit of emphasis for effect. My point is that though Jesus never specifically taught His disciples how to prolong a positive emotion or experience, Maslow {father of modern-day humanism, please remember} certainly admired this ability.

    The survey claims to have the ability to reveal the impact that Christ has had on the various relationships in one’s life, and yet I see more evidence of the influence of Maslow in the bent of the survey than I do of Jesus. It is my belief that if a Christian is to properly assess his spiritual maturity and growth, he need look no further than the Bible to find the appropriate criteria. Namely, Jesus, as the ultimate and perfect man {in contrast to Maslow’s self-actualized man}, should be the model after which a Christian is being molded.

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  • Reply Brandy November 15, 2006 at 10:17 pm

    I do remember! I think what I remember the most was Coulson’s sense of guilt. I remember they had implemented some of Maslow’s ideas into an arm of the Catholic Church–a nunnery, I think–and it had destroyed the place. He seemed to carry that burden with him everywhere.

    What I didn’t remember was that he was actually Maslow’s research assistant. I think at such a young age I didn’t have a real appreciation for what that meant. I do now, and wish I could have him critique the survey for me!

  • Reply comedyken November 15, 2006 at 8:02 pm

    Brandy, Do you remember having Maslow’s research assistant, Bill Coulson over for dessert one evening?

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