Abraham Maslow: 16 Traits of Mentally Healthy People (Self-Actualizers)

Abraham Maslow, unlike most psychologists, made it his business to study maximally psychologically healthy people.  (Needless to say, he didn't have much of a clinical practice!)  He felt that using behaviorism (based primarily on the study of animals, e.g. rats in mazes) or psychoanalysis (based primarily on the observations of mentally ill people in a clinical setting) to arrive at a general conception of human psychology is not likely to yield the most accurate conception.

Here is a summary of the 16 traits that Maslow felt were typically found among "self actualizers", his term for maximally psychologically healthy people.  It's somewhat amorphous, but interesting all the same.  Please feel free to examine it at your leisure:

16 Distinguishing Characteristics of Self-Actualizing People from the writings of Abraham Maslow

1. They are realistically oriented.
2. They accept themselves, other people, and the natural world for what they are.
3. They have a great deal of spontaneity.
4. They are problem-centered rather than self-centered.
5. They have an air of detachment and a need for privacy.
6. They are autonomous and independent.
7. Their appreciation of people and things is fresh rather than stereotyped.
8. Most of them have had profound mystical or spiritual experiences, although not necessarily religious in character.
9. They identify with mankind.
10. Their intimate relationships with a few specially loved people tend to be profound and deeply emotional rather than superficial.
11. Their values and attitudes are democratic.
12. They do not confuse means with ends.
13. Their sense of humor is philosophical rather than hostile.
14. They have a great fund of creativeness.
15. They resist conformity to the culture.
16. They transcend the environment rather than just coping with it.

Source: Theories of Personality, 3rd Edition, by Calvin S. Hall (Univ of Calif, Santa Cruz) and Gardner Lindzey (Stanford Univ), Copyright 1978 by John Wiley and Sons, Inc., pp. 266-275 (the list is on one of these pages!)

Maslow is perhaps better known for his "Hierarchy of Needs", a conception I broadly agree with.  Under this conception, human needs are arranged in ascending stages.  If one does not achieve fulfillment in one of the earlier stages, one can "get stuck" and may be unable to rise to the higher stages.  I found a fairly good presentation of this idea at this site:


And here's a bit more of the Maslow text from the source above:

     "Maslow upbraids psychology for its 'pessimistic, negative and limited conception' of humans.  He feels that psychology has dwelled more upon human frailties than it has upon human strengths; that it has thoroughly explored the sins while neglecting the virtues.  Psychology has seen life in terms of an individual making desperate attempts to avoid pain rather than in taking active steps to gain pleasure and happiness.  Where is the psychology, Maslow asks, that takes account of gaiety, exuberance, love, and well-being to the same extent that it deals with misery, conflict, shame, and hostility?  Psychology 'has voluntarily restricted itself to only half of its rightful jurisdiction, and that the darker, meaner half.'  Maslow has undertaken to supply the other half of the picture, the brighter, better half, and to give a portrait of the whole person."

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