Humanism and Self Actualization Theory vs Culture

  • #1
As defined by wikipiedia:

Humanistic psychology is a psychological perspective which rose to prominence in 1960s drawing on existentialist thought coupled with phenomenology and an emphasis on the importance of personal responsibility, free will, and self-actualization.[1]
I believe all of these values are ingrained in our culture except that the cultural view of self-actualization is different then that of Maslow's Hierarchy of needs.

All these ideals are problematic. For instance:

1)Personal responsibility presumes we are in control of the situation. Taken to the extreme this belief can lead to a blame the victim mentality.

2)Free will assumes the presumption of choice. People in desperate need or lacking information (for instance biased information though marketing) will make choices which are not in their best interest or contradictory to their value system.

3)Now with regards to Self-actualization our cultural definition (A.K.A finding yourself) is quite different then that of Maslow's hierarchy of needs. In Maslow's Hierarchy self actualization includes: morality, creativity, spontaneity, problem solving, lack of prejudice, acceptance of facts. Some of these are value statements and some of them intellectual pursuits. It is one thing to assume that fulfilling a value system is a need it is another to presume the value system. Additional and unfortunately most people don't gain much happiness by intellectual pursuits and often the smartest people are the least happy.

Now the cultural viewpoint of self actualization is quite different. In culture we find ourselves not by looking for the right intellectual pursuits and ethical systems rather we look for additional needs or hobbies which are more focused towards our pleasure. In fact from a culture view point we are not looking at the top of the triangle but at the esteem and psychological slices. With regards to esteem we are looking for the right social group (respect by others), in the psychological slice we are trying to find the right type of partner as we our led to believe to draw our happiness from others. This culture viewpoint of self-actualization is actually contradictory with the first two points of humanism in that if we are driven by basic needs then we have less free will and their is less we can be responsible for because we were simply born this way.
 
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Answers and Replies

  • #2
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Values, like principles, are thoughts to admire and strive to uphold. But culture, like beliefs, are the systems that give effect to the things we call values. On their own, values have no way of being maintained without systems of beliefs, or culture, to give them effect.

Social institutions can provide a framework, or road map, to individuals of a society, for self-actualization. Whether one's personal and collective cultural worldview is individualistically or altruistically centered. From an individualist's perspective, self actualization is more likely motivated by self benefit or personal gain. From an altruistic perspective, self-actualization may relate more towards to satisfying the needs of others. I think that Maslow's hierarchy was intended as culture neutral.
 
  • #3
503
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Blaming the victim is an offensive form of culture. Consider, however, any situation where a person is under social pressure to comply with force, and I believe you will find a moment where the object of the force makes a choice to comply. This is extremely distasteful to think about in extreme cases, such as torture or rape, for example. But how far do you think most people are willing to go to resist something they disagree with? Certainly there are negative consequences, such as when the person comes into conflict between their own sense that their own will didn't matter and they are still reminded that they made the choice to comply. This could even be worse if a person, such as a rape victim, has convinced herself that she participated 100% voluntarily to avoid feeling ashamed of being too afraid to stand up to or report her attacker. Recognizing that victims participate in their own subjugation doesn't necessarily "blame" them for what happened as much as it tells the truth about how victimization works. It's not just the victim's body that is abused but also their mind, spirit, will, etc.

Now, what's really bothersome is to think about how much this occurs on an everyday basis on a level much less extreme than rape or torture. How many people make choices that go against their better judgment in order to keep a job or avoid making waves? Consider all the post-trauma that occurs as a result of that and it gives you a clue as to why there is so much social malaise in life generally, for those who aren't in denial of it at least.
 

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