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Abraham Maslow enjoys tremendous accolades as the father of humanistic psychology. His contribution towards understanding the capacities inherent in individuals and the development towards fulfillment of human needs is invaluable. His quest in development of the Humanistic perspective was not without other players such as Freud and Rogers. The theory came at a trajectory time of his career as he was building the motivational theories. He analyzed behavior of people, exploring aspects of religion and science, probing the drivers of human motivation, and expounding on gender issues and values. The consequence of his pursuits at some point manifested through revision of his thoughts. His theory of a healthy personality is built upon works of Freud and others, and he argued that this theory in the field of humanistic psychology transforms and/or assimilates the other works (Perls, 1969).
In particular, Maslow views the individual as having inner resources that aid him/her in developing positively. He and Rogers argue that the actual and perceived self comes to congruence using these resources. He focuses on the components constituting a healthy personality; this is a departure from previous psychoanalytical methods by Freud. Maslow’s application of efforts towards the needs, pursuits and envisions of the human individual results the understanding of a healthy personality. He terms an individual in this level of healthy in personality as self-actualizing with aspects of dominance. The aspect of high-dominance is based on fundamental characteristics of individuals with health personalities; prominent in creating dominance and being complete in acceptance of self (Maslow, 1979, p. 201)
In advancing his concepts, Maslow makes it clear that he is an atheist and a utopian thinker. He demands re-definition of religion, science, mentioning the later as a limit to the full realization of what is known, and what is knowable. He argues that self-actualized individuals are capable of redefining key concepts such as truth, determinism, control and knowledge. However, he denounces subscriptions to traditions or religion in this quest. This argument underscores the centrality of individualism as the central driver of self-actualization and healthy personality; systems and societies cannot confer abilities to attain such levels.
Motivation for a Healthy Personality
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is the foundation upon which the humanistic approach rests through its tie to self-actualization. Maslow has developed a hierarchical structure, in which the satisfaction of the lower tier need motivates for satisfying other higher needs. The constant endeavor to satisfy the needs ahead motivate a healthy personality, as an individual employs his/her potential more and more. Physiological needs such as food and water are considered to be the most basic, and are at the bottom of pyramid. Afterwards go the safety needs such as shelter, order and security, which ensure bearable living. The following need is the need for love; this entails a desire for intimacy and belonging. Maslow states that loneliness and isolation are the manifestation of their absence that may occur due to the demands of modern society, as indicated by trends of high divorce rate (Maslow, 1970).
Esteem needs rank higher and push an individual closer to self-actualization and healthy personality. They comprise of esteem emanating from self-confidence and feeling of security and the recognition of a person by other people. The former category relates to healthy personality, since a key characteristic of individuals with a healthy personality is feeling secure and complete acceptance of oneself. This component is critical in attaining a healthy personality, since a lack of self-esteem is a renowned cause of flaws in personalities. The next level of needs in Maslow’s hierarchy is aesthetic needs; these include beauty, poetry, and symmetry, among others. Self-actualization needs are at the top of the pyramid; they motivate the attainment of all other needs and are the eponymy of a healthy personality. The self-actualization needs fit in as the perfect driver of a healthy personality, since they push the individual into exploiting their full potential. It refers to the use and development of all capabilities and qualities within us to achieve the highest possible level. An individual who has satisfied all the other needs and fails in achieving this one remains devoid of psychological health and is, consequently, lack of completeness in personality (Maslow 1970).
Maslow’s Metamotivation to a Healthy Personality
Maslow argues that this stems from higher understanding of self-actualization. It is the exploration of life from an experiential approach, the motivation of which is not deficiency, but development. In achieving a healthy personality, individuals develop their inner potential to achieve the full actualization (Maslow, 1970, p. 94-96). The person’s motive is not reduction of tension; rather, it is to explore life, which increases the tension through new challenges. It is a moment of turning to one’s capacities and intrinsic nature, to explore interests and strengths and continue to advance at intrapersonal and interpersonal levels. Self-actualizers are concerned with enriching their life experience, fulfilling their full potential, knowing and understandings the universe. The individuals have passed the stages of ‘becoming’ the central endeavor of the lower needs, they are now striving towards ‘being’, a state of spontaneity in expressing oneself (Maslow, 1970).
Maslow does state that there are metaneeds of being at this stage. The failure of fulfilling the metaneeds results in metapathology, an unclear producer of despair. Manifestation of failure includes replacement of meaningfulness with despair, aliveness with loss of zest, and effortlessness with fatigue among others. This ultimately makes the personality unhealthy.
Maslow’s being Values and Needs
Maslow introduced the concept of the environment and succulent society in his Humanistic approach to a healthy personality. He states that self-actualizing individuals strive towards satisfaction of fourteen B values/needs, and their psychological health, which equates to a healthy personality, increases with the cultivation of more synergy with the environment. Psychologically, he states, the B-values entail a descriptive perception of the world in peak or mystical experiences, an alert that is in unity with the self, which can replace the ‘immature concepts’ of heaven. The development of a higher cognitive level can replace these and other concepts that he termed as immature with firmer concepts that require no defense of desacralization (Maslow, 1973).
Healthy Personality and Accomplished Individuals
To understand Maslow’s articulation of a health personality, it is important to explore the motives behind his Humanistic perspective, which hedges on his self-actualization proposal. His main motive is the acknowledgement that every human being has a tremendous potential to realize all the needs and achieve self actualization. In his exemplification of what a healthy personality entails, Maslow chose to examine the life traits of healthy personalities. The approach, by focusing on individuals with high accomplishment levels and healthy personalities, helps to mirror the depths of human capacities. Through projective techniques, free associations and interviews, Maslow set apart distinguishing characteristics of these personalities. His observation of the forty-nine individuals, including Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein amongst others led him to conclude that individuals are born with instinctoid needs. These are the universal needs motivating our growth, development and actualization of our potentials. He went ahead to remark that less than one percentage of people attains self-actualization, since the majority remains ignorant of the potential in them. Consequently, most people never achieve a healthy personality (Maslow, 1943).
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The purpose of this paper is to identify, explain and explore the meaning of a healthy personality through the lens of a modern Australian individual. Margaret Whitlam is chosen for outstanding factors that would ultimately aid in expounding on what a healthy personality is like. However, it is impertinent to note that in all aspects of analyzing a famous personality, some shortcomings exist; these are the aspects that Maslow calls tension additives that only serve as challenges to the self-actualizers. This paper explores the life of Margaret Whitlam, along serving Australian First Lady and wife of the then Prime Minister Gough. She was chosen for her courageous approach of having asked the husband why he did not tear the dismissal letter from office, when the Governor General, Sir Kerr John, removed him from office. The realization of the relative dormancy tied to the role and her redefinition of the First Lady’s role also contributes to this choice. She conspicuously exuded dominance with a unique personality; blending her passion with the courage to resolutely follow her path, she was diplomatic yet a social reformer and a civil rights activist. Speaking her mind, yet a loyal confidant and consort, she balanced the prestigious political standing with social calls, excellent in taming wit. She superbly cultivated humbleness and sprung generosity (The Independent, 2012).
This icon of Australian political life, whose celebrations as the perfect wife in politics and a national treasure, was born Margaret Dovey in Bondi in the family of a lawyer, and later Supreme Court judge. She attended school in Darlinghurst and was an excellent sports woman. Later, she went to University of Sydney for a degree in Social Studies and proceeded to work at Parramatta Hospital. She married Gough Whitlam at St. Michaels Church England in 1942. He was later elected to parliament in 1952, and became the Australian Labor Party leader in 1967. They had four children, a daughter and three sons who survived her death. She defined the role of the First Lady in an aroma that Australians will not forget, in 1975 amidst instability and economic constraints, Governor Sir Kerr dismissed her husband, she, however, displayed courage and remained outspoken. After the closure of her tenure as First Lady, she held numerous positions and was involved in various affairs, such as the board of the Sydney Dance Company, Chair Australian Opera Conference, International Women’s Year in 1975, the Law Foundation of South Wales, International Literacy Year, among others. Her honors abound such as Australia National Living Treasures, Doctor of Letters from University of New England and Officer of the Order of Australia among others (The Independent, 2012).
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Margaret Whitlam is a perfect example of an individual with a healthy personality. She enjoyed an outspoken public life as a passionate advocate of women’s rights. To explore her life on the scale of healthy personalities, it is necessary to note Maslow’s characteristics of self-actualized individuals. She had met almost all of them, albeit in an unconventional way and within the clutches of political life, where tragic endings always linger. Maslow notes that self-actualized individuals demonstrate an efficient perception of reality. This may have been a prominent characteristic of Margaret Whitlam, arising from her inner convictions that the Australian society required better laws, more reason in constructing some contentious bills, such as on abortions among others. Her commitment to social life and her advocacy for women’s rights, the protections of environment and embracing arts indicate clarity that the mists and comfort of the posh office could not take away (abc.net, 2012).
Maslow also describes the general acceptance of oneself, others and nature as a component of a self-actualized individual. Her healthy personality could not have shined better than in her contentment in the above requirements. There is little evidence of conflict within her private and public life; this exemplifies the reality of acceptance of self and others. Unless other people stood in the way of her pursuits and convictions, she was at perfect ease with others and the self. Her handling of the husband’s dismissal from office, notwithstanding the initial awe and shock demonstrates her acceptance of nature and occurrence of events. She was not broken and continued to serve and flourish in the public life, her life of service expanded due to inner contentment and outer acceptance. This is also an indication of a healthy personality. Spontaneity is another characteristic of a self-actualizer. Her life in politics involved the public outrage, emerging issues, need of balance among other challenging experiences. Her thoughts were expressed in a spontaneous manner without reservations or fear of opposition. For instance, her thoughts on abortion and marijuana, though contentious on other grounds, indicate her spontaneity in public issues. She clearly stated her belief that marijuana needs legalization. Her autobiographer, Dr. Susan Mitchell confirms her resolute outspoken nature by noting that Mrs. Whitlam was not ready to be an ageing princess in a cage of a tower, but her own person (abc.net, 2012).
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Simplicity and naturalness also form a part of exemplary self-actualizer’s personality. Mrs. Whitlam’s description as a down-to-earth person, whose simplicity was awe-inspiring, is self-evidence of straightforwardness. She was defended her believes against opposition. An article on Indipendent.co.uk taunts her as naturally okay with munching food in a fund raiser, as she could have dinner in her palace. Focusing on the problems outside oneself is another characteristic that Maslow puts forward. Mrs. Whitlam was a leader whose articulation of external issues, including drugs and environment pollution, brought a significant change into society, and public interests were constantly in her mind. Her inner accomplishments energized her to focus clearly on aspects beyond herself, as her autobiographer states of her refusal to age as a princess in a palace. Her ability to redefine the role of the Australian first leader enunciates a wider scope perception of what one can do with his own life for gains beyond self (The Independent, 2012).
Another self-actualizing characteristic in Maslow humanistic approach is an autonomous functioning. In this pursuit, Mrs. Whitlam was epochal in blending privacy of though and action with sharing. Abc news article states that their marriage life was characterized by massive intellectual involvement and sharing. Yet, she was an independent explorer of thoughts and ideas, forming own perspectives, but she shared those with others. Her description of a powerful consort to an enigmatic prime minister could not have been possible for a conditioned thinker whose mind runs in fixed tracks with no autonomy. She was popular to the extent of independently having her own media conferences, even in foreign nations. This showed her ability to articulate issues both in a team and autonomously (Hall, 1968).
Maslow also includes privacy and independence as parts of a self-actualized personality. These were indeed the cornerstones of Mrs.Whitlam, who, as noted above, was an ardent share of thought. Her independence in activism without the political interference of the husband’s official means indicates her privacy of action and thought. She was also a writer for magazines, a radio personality and a TV host as well. In all these spheres, it is conspicuous that she spoke out her ideas and executed her free will. She was also independent to the extent that she was not traditionally viewed as one whole with her husband in public issues or policies. The description of her persona by the opposition during her husband’s tenure in the office is sharply different. She also refused to succumb to public pressure in the onset, since some thought that her approach to public issues was unconventional and needed toning down. Her refusal to succumb to public pressure and limit her proactive life to traditional conceptions, which would have had immediate benefits to the husband’s public appeal, is a sign of independence. She gave insights to the role of the First Lady as a personal and political partner (Maslow, 1959).
Her social interest and democratic structure as proposed by Maslow were prominent. She watched upon the lives of ordinary people, and the notions of justice and democracy informed her advocacy pursuits. Her interpersonal relationships, another aspect of self-actualized individuals, were excellent, as the Gough became the admirer of her thoughts, passion and relational skills. It is important to note that her relationship skills are beyond the modern level, given that her death was almost close to celebration of 70 years in marriage. This is an outstanding show of interpersonal prowess and commitment. She had fully actualized her need for love in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, having lived with her husband for almost 70 years in a happy marriage.
Maslow also offers the continuity of appreciation as a characteristic of self-actualized individuals, which, going by her honoraries and prestigious appointments, outlived Mrs. Whitlam. Despite retiring from public office in 1975, she continued receiving recognition and appreciation from various quarters, such as the University of England honorary 8 years later (1983) and appreciation as a National Living Treasure 22 years later. Another characteristic of Maslow’s theory that identifies with her life is a sense of human that is not hostile. She was indeed an agreeable witty person, one who could discriminate means and ends; creative in approach and thought; she resisted enculturation and could differentiate good and evil.
In addition, Mrs. Whitlam was a fully accomplished individual from the early stages of life as a unique sports woman also. She later pursued higher self-actualization and did not abandon her role in swimming, but chose to pass her thoughts on physical health as a chair of Sydney Dance Company. Her retirement from political life did not hamper her zeal of social service, and she was at service to humanity. She is unique in demonstrating the attainment of Maslow’s stages of a healthy personality. As Maslow’s humanistic approach explores the inner potentials that help us to become self actualized, Mrs. Whitlam is a demonstration of a person who became the healthy personality and used her political life to attain help others. She had satisfied her metaneeds of beauty and justice through her judicious and democratic approach; aliveness by devoting herself to the service of the ordinary people; uniqueness by being a remarkably different First Lady; perfection by pursuing her goals without restricting her inner self; truthfulness through the honesty of her thoughts. She also satisfied the metaneeds of necessity through her key role in Prime Minister Gough leadership; simplicity by adopting a humble nature; effortlessness through letting herself be all she could be; self-sufficiency through depending on her understanding, thoughts and feelings; richness through the well-lived life; and completion by dying at 92 having achieved all that she could in life (Maslow, 1973, p. 139).
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