Critically compare and contrast Maslow and Rogers accounts of the Self-Actualised/Fully Functioning Person with Positive Psychological Theories of the 'Wise Person'.
1. The student shows awareness of Maslow, Rogers and the two main wisdom theories of Sternberg and Baltes.
2. The humanistic theories are broader in scope than mere wisdom, so the student must focus (and was advised to) on the differences in the theories as much as the similarities. There is plenty of room for the student to develop their own individual argument here - once again there is no absolute answer, although no student is likely to be saying that Maslow and Rogers were explicitly concerned with wisdom per se.
3. The student shows evidence of reading - especially for Maslow and Rogers - beyond the lecture materials.
What is self-actualization?
“To be what we are, and to become what we are capable of becoming, is the only end of life.”
The above quoted lines of R. L. Stevenson speak volumes about the nature of the human beings and their ultimate goal. It is to be noted that all human beings seek to attain self actualization as well as wisdom in their lives in order to lead a more better and effective life (semanticscholar.org. 2018). However, there are several factors which effect the attainment of this particular self-actualization and wisdom. It is to be noted that various theorists like Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers have propounded their theories about the process of self actualization and its attainment (Ivtzan et al. 2013). On the other hand, there are theorists like Sternberg and Baltes who propounded their views about the attainment of wisdom. The opinion of Sternberg is interesting to note in this particular context “What the word wisdom is intended to reach is the combination of virtue and the most refined intelligence. Wisdom appears to not just be intelligence then, but intelligence harnessed to realizing the common good” (Ivtzan et al. 2013). This essay seeks to compare as well as contrast the concepts of self actualization as propounded by Maslow and Rogers with the concept of wisdom propounded by Sternberg and Baltes.
Self actualization can be defined as the fulfillment or the realization of one’s inherent talents as well as potentials (Johnson, Johnson and Smith 2014). It is often considered to be one of the most basic drives or needs of the individuals in society or in workplace (semanticscholar.org. 2018). It is to be noted that many psychologists have provided a different definition of this particular concept. For example, Kurt Goldstein defines it as “the motive to realize one's full potential” (Johnson, Johnson and Smith 2014). He further goes on to say that “the tendency to actualize itself as fully as possible is the basic drive... the drive of self-actualization” (Johnson, Johnson and Smith 2014). However, Carl Rogers defined the same term as “"the curative force in psychotherapy – man's tendency to actualize himself, to become his potentialities... to express and activate all the capacities of the organism” (Weststrate, Ferrari and Ardelt 2016). The theorist Maslow, on the other hand, places it at the top of his hierarchy of needs and defines it as the most basic need of the individuals in a work place or for that matter in the society itself (Kaur 2013). The concept of wisdom likewise has been defined in various diverse ways by the theorists and other experts in the relevant field. For example, Baltes has “associated with cognitive competencies” (Weststrate, Ferrari and Ardelt 2016). Staudinger, on the other hand, defines it as the “level of mastery of the basic pragmatics of life” (Weststrate, Ferrari and Ardelt 2016). It is to be noted that Sternberg goes a step forward and defines it as the “awareness of the existence of ill- structured problems; comprehensive knowledge characterized by tolerance and depth; and exceptional competency for formulating appropriate and feasible judgments in the face of uncertainty” (Cohen and Cairns 2012). It is interesting to note that his theory has been influenced by “Serenity Prayer” of Reinhold Niebhur,
What is wisdom?
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference”
It is to be noted that Abraham Maslow in his theory of “Maslow's hierarchy of needs” states that there are some basic human needs like food, shelter, warmth, security and others which needs to be fulfilled before a person can reach the stage of self actualization (Kaur 2013). Thus, according to the modern interpretation of the theory of “Maslow's hierarchy of needs” it is very difficult to attain the state of self actualization when the person concerned is not doing the thing which he or she actually likes doing (Kaur 2013). It is a reflection of this that the persons whose present life and future goals do not match often find it very difficult be happy in the present times and also to attain the state of self actualization (Cohen and Cairns 2012). Therefore, in the opinion of Maslow “the desire for self-fulfillment, namely the tendency for him [the individual] to become actualized in what he is potentially. This tendency might be phrased as the desire to become more and more what one is, to become everything that one is capable of becoming” (Nelson et al. 2014). Rogers on the other hand, uses the concept of self actualization to describe “something distinct from the concept developed by Maslow: the actualization of the individual's sense of 'self’” (Nelson et al. 2014). Therefore, in the opinion of Rogers self actualization can be defined as the process by means of which the individuals continuously maintain as well as enhance their perception of their own self through the various processes of self reflection, experience interpretation and others (Ivtzan et al. 2013). Thus in his opinion self actualization is “a subset of the overall organismic actualizing tendency and begins with the infant learning to differentiate what is 'self' and what is 'other' within its 'total perceptual field', as their full self-awareness gradually crystallizes” (Ivtzan et al. 2013).
The concept of wisdom has been also subjected to various interpretations. In common terminology the concept of wisdom is described as the ability or the quality of the individual to act as well as think using his or her knowledge (semanticscholar.org. 2018). However, in the recent times with the introduction of the domain the traditional definition has undergone drastic changes (Wisdom et al. 2014). For example, Baltes defines wisdom as the quality or the ability of the individuals which helps them in finding the proper conduct as well as the meaning of their lives (Wisdom et al. 2014). According to the theory of wisdom propounded by Baltes, “a wise person is someone who knows what is most important in life and how to get it. He or she knows what constitutes the meaningful life and how to plan for and manage such a life” (Wisdom | Authentic Happiness 2013). It is to be noted that Sternberg on the other hand gives a different definition of the same concept in his theory. According to the precepts of his theory, the individuals or the persons are wise only to the extent up to which they are able to utilize their wisdom or intelligence to achieve some common good (Wisdom et al. 2014). This particular goal of wisdom can be achieved by the alignment of the individual goals with the goals of the general population. Furthermore, he says that “Wise people can adapt to new environments, change their environments, or select new environments to achieve an outcome that includes but goes beyond their personal self-interest” (Wisdom | Authentic Happiness 2013).
Comparison of Maslow and Rogers' self-actualization theories
It is to be noted that the concepts of self actualization as well as wisdom are inter-related. Many people believe that the process of attaining the state of self actualization entails with the act of gaining knowledge about oneself and the surroundings or in other words the attainment of wisdom (Wisdom et al. 2014). Therefore, it would not be too far-fetched to say that both the concepts are inter-related and one is synonymous with the other. Therefore, in the recent times both the concepts have undergone drastic changes keeping in view the innovations as well as the changes in the field of the various studies (Beitel et al. 2014). However, it is to be noted although both the concepts seem to be similar at first view however there are significant differences between the two. The primary difference between the two can be said to be the fact that one concept is related to the attainment of a particular stage wherein the individual or the person concerned is able to achieve the specific requirements of his or her life whereas in the other one the individual or the person concerned is able to attain the knowledge or the information required which is necessary for the making of proper decisions (Beitel et al. 2014).
Therefore, from the above discussion it becomes clear that self actualization as well as wisdom form important aspects of the life of the individuals be it in the work place or in the society. It is to be noted that various theorists and scholars have given different definitions of the two concepts. It is interesting to note that with the advent of psychology and other new branches of knowledge both the concepts have attained a wider meaning and have often been seen as interlinked terms. However, there are some inherent differences between the two concepts as well. It is to be noted that many people consider the two concepts to be inter-related and often refer to one by the other. However, in the modern interpretation of the term the two are different and therefore should be considered as two different terms. It is to be noted that one concept helps in the attainment of life goals as well as objectives while the other helps in the attainment of knowledge as well as information which are important for making effective decisions in life.
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