MTSU professor explains psychologist’s take on ‘self-actualized’ New Year

MTSU News If the beginning of the New Year finds you in a contemplative mood about New Year’s resolutions and how to improve your life, you might take a cue from Abraham Maslow, a 20th-century American psychologist whose work is cited in academic journals and studied in universities worldwide. However, there are numerous myths about Maslow’s theories that abound and should not be accepted as part of his work.
Those myths are debunked in a scholarly writing by MTSU psychology professor emeritus William Compton, who has studied Maslow’s concept of “self-actualization,” or reaching one’s fullest potential.
Dr. William Compton
For more than 50 years, Compton, who is an adjunct professor in the College of Graduate Studies, has examined how people pursue well-being in their lives. He wrote the world’s first comprehensive textbook on positive psychology in 2004. The third edition, co-authored with Edward Hoffman, will be available in 2019.
Compton said Maslow is best known for creating a “hierarchy of needs,” a ranking of human development covering basic needs like food and shelter to mental and emotional needs. The hierarchy frequently is expressed in a pyramid shape, but Compton said Maslow found that to be problematic.
The pyramid often misleads people to think they have to meet the lower needs fully to progress to the higher ones, as though life were a ladder-like existence.
“He said that you move back and forth between the needs, depending on the situation, depending on where you are in your life at a certain point in time, and it’s a very dynamic and fluid process,” Compton said.
Another assumption about the hierarchy is that it ignores intellectual and creative needs. Compton asserted that Maslow believed some of us don’t necessarily have to be brainy or artistic to be our best possible selves.
“The quest for higher wisdom, maybe, is not one of …


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