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Toward a Psychology of Being summary

Abraham H. Maslow

Understanding Human Nature & the Fundamentals of Our Well-Being

4.5 (361 ratings)
21 mins

Brief summary

"Toward a Psychology of Being" by Abraham H. Maslow is a psychological study of human motivation, describing the hierarchy of needs and exploring the concept of self-actualization as a path to fulfilling our potential.

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    Toward a Psychology of Being
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    Humans have an innate need to self-actualize.

    Do you, like many philosophers have over the years, believe in the concept of human nature? 

    Abraham Maslow certainly did –⁠ but his vision of it was unique. Unlike other philosophies, his didn’t require recourse to some higher authority like God. It just required a deep understanding of human psychology. Maslow felt that people’s inner nature could be studied scientifically –⁠ discovered rather than just theorized about. 

    Maslow believed each person has an inner nature that’s partially individual and partially shared with the rest of humankind. It’s not strong or overpowering, like animal instinct, and it’s intrinsically neutral or good, not evil. As a consequence, it should be encouraged to grow rather than suppressed. 

    This instinctual drive is what Maslow called self-actualization.

    The key message here is: Humans have an innate need to self-actualize. 

    From Maslow’s perspective, people’s inner nature –⁠ their drive toward self-actualization –⁠ constantly pressures them to express it. People deeply desire to fulfill their greatest potential and talents. They want to realize their missions, fates, or vocations; they want to become more internally unified, integrated, and synergized. In short, they want to know who they are.

    However, many people repeatedly deny their drive to self-actualize –⁠ and illness is often the result. Every time people deny their natures, Maslow believed, that denial gets recorded in their unconscious. If a person has a natural inclination to be an artist and he chooses to sell socks instead, that’s a denial of his nature – for which he’ll end up despising himself. Similarly, if someone is intelligent but repeatedly hides it so she doesn’t intimidate others, she’s denying her nature and will also come to despise herself. These repeated instances eventually result in pathologies or neuroses. 

    Unfortunately, in Maslow’s time, psychology tended to be hyperfocused on those pathologies and neuroses. Its job was to cure people and make them “not sick” – not necessarily to make them healthy. 

    It was under these conditions that Maslow set out to develop a new form of psychology –⁠ one that studied the traits, habits, and choices of healthy, self-actualizing people. He called this a psychology of Being, with a capital B. Nowadays, it’s more commonly referred to as positive psychology

    Maslow believed that self-actualization was humanity’s shared destiny – something that each individual human and humanity as a whole could achieve. But, paradoxically, he also estimated that very few individuals do ultimately become self-actualized –⁠ just one in a hundred or even one in two hundred. The next blink will look at why.

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    What is Toward a Psychology of Being about?

    Toward a Psychology of Being (1962) expands on famed psychologist Abraham Maslow's pivotal theories of motivation and self-actualization, which were first introduced in Maslow's 1954 book, Motivation and Personality. It presents a series of hypotheses about the human condition, dealing with important questions about people’s innate desires, the nature of well-being, and the process of psychological growth.

    Toward a Psychology of Being Review

    Toward a Psychology of Being (1962) explores the concept of human motivation and self-actualization. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • It offers deep insights into the inner workings of human behavior, providing a fresh perspective on what motivates us and how we can achieve self-fulfillment.
    • By focusing on the positive aspects of human psychology, the book encourages readers to tap into their potential and strive for personal growth.
    • With its thought-provoking analysis of human needs and the hierarchy of motivations, the book challenges traditional psychological theories and opens up new avenues for exploration.

    Who should read Toward a Psychology of Being?

    • Psychology fanatics 
    • Aspiring self-actualizers who want to get more out of their lives
    • Parents, teachers, counselors, and all those who work with young people

    About the Author

    Abraham Maslow was a titan of twentieth-century psychology; his works and theories form part of the bedrock of humanistic psychology. His focus on individuals’ drive to self-actualize and express themselves marked a distinct shift away from psychology’s prior focus on pathology. In popular culture, Maslow’s most famous concept is the hierarchy of needs, which he believed represented the organization of humanity’s shared, fundamental desires. 

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    Toward a Psychology of Being FAQs 

    What is the main message of Toward a Psychology of Being?

    The main message of Toward a Psychology of Being is understanding the motivation behind human behavior to reach self-actualization.

    How long does it take to read Toward a Psychology of Being?

    The reading time for Toward a Psychology of Being varies, but it typically takes several hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Toward a Psychology of Being a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Toward a Psychology of Being is worth reading for its insights into human motivation and self-actualization. A valuable book for personal growth.

    Who is the author of Toward a Psychology of Being?

    Abraham H. Maslow is the author of Toward a Psychology of Being.

    What to read after Toward a Psychology of Being?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Toward a Psychology of Being, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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    • Practical Optimism by Sue Varma
    • The Personality Brokers by Merve Emre
    • Stress Resets by Jennifer L. Taitz
    • The Power of Discipline by Daniel Walter
    • The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell