Toward a Psychology of Being – A Review

Anyone who has studied basic management or leadership has heard of Maslow and his Hierarchy of Human Needs. As important as his contribution is to the body of leadership theory, there are probably few leaders who have ever actually read his writings. Frankly it’s much easier to read other’s synopsis of his work; he isn’t the most spellbinding author. First published in 1962, (the second edition was published in 1968) Toward a Psychology of Being examines Maslow’s thoughts on the self-actualized human.

Humans have certain needs and when those needs aren’t satisfied, the result can be neurosis. A need is defined as that which, in its absence breeds illness, when present prevents illness and if restored, cures illness. Maslow also felt that the need is inactive, at a low ebb, or functionally absent in a healthy person. But, needs exist in a hierarchy and so when one need is satisfied the person becomes aware of another need. These needs produce motivation.

Maslow did not believe that a proper definition of motivation had yet been created, but he uses the concept anyway. The movement from one level of need to the next is what leads to motivation. Some people are strongly driven to grow, to constantly seek out more and more. Simply stated, they experience motivation; the inward desire to improve. It is this group that has reached the self-actualization level.

As people progress along the hierarchy, the satisfied need doesn’t entirely go away but stays in a sort of repressed state. Therefore, it is possible to regress if that need ceases to be met. Even a self-actualized person will fall back down the hierarchy if a lower level need becomes unsatisfied.

In his research, Maslow made an interesting observation about creativity in healthy, evolved, and mature, self-actualized people. He discovered that many who are considered creative were not really healthy and that creativity was not the sole property of what are considered the creative professions, such as artists and writers. In fact, people in many varied situations proved to be creative, that it was a tendency of self-actualized people.

Toward a Psychology of Being is not an easy read. It only takes the reader a few sentences to clearly understand that Maslow was a psychologist. But, for a serious student of human behavior and management/leadership theory, it is worth the effort. Unfortunately, the first and second editions are long out of print, so search your local library. There is a third edition, published by Wiley in 1998, available on Amazon with a list price of $80.00. My purpose here is to review books that would be helpful for leaders to study, not to critique publishers. However, I can’t let this go without comment. Why so much for what appears to be essentially a reprinting of the 1968 second edition?