Transcend: The New Science of Self-Actualization is a fine book to take a peek into the life and work of the legendary psychologist Abraham Maslow, the founder of Humanistic Psychology, in a modern light.
In his final years, Maslow was fiercely busy working on a new theory that sought to bridge self-actualization to self-transcendence. When he died of a heart attack in 1970, his work remained unfinished.
Until now, that is.
Transcend, the April 2020 book by Scott Barry Kaufman, tries to explore Maslow’s ideas seen through the lens of modern research conducted over the years since his death.
Goodreads says, “In this groundbreaking book, Kaufman picks up where Maslow left off, unraveling the mysteries of his unfinished theory, and integrating these ideas with the latest research on attachment, connection, creativity, love, purpose and other building blocks of a life well-lived.”
This book brings Maslow’s masterwork to the present generation readers interested in the latest findings from the field. And also those who want to use his ideas to expand their sails, find purpose and fulfillment, and grow into full humans.
Sailboat of Self-Actualization
Transcend draws on Maslow’s theory about human needs and uses it as a sailboat to encourage the reader to set out on a voyage to self-actualization. It describes how love, relationships, creativity, and meaning can become part of our lives – without much hard work.
It offers some grounded tips on how to rise above the ordinary and become the best possible version of ourselves, what Maslow called self-actualization. It is easy and something all of us could achieve in our everyday lives, as the book assures us all along.
Kaufman’s research indicates, as was theorized by Maslow, that people with self-actualization harbor these 10 characteristics: acceptance, authenticity, equanimity, purpose, peak experiences, creative spirit, humanitarianism, good moral intuition, efficient perception of reality, and continued freshness of appreciation. Kaufman found these qualities were common in the general population.
Away from a pyramid, which is the way most of the world knows about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, Kaufman introduces us to a sailboat metaphor. Actually, Maslow never designed or suggested the idea of a pyramid – it was a marketing exercise.
In essence, Transcend is the operating manual for the sailboat.
In the hull of the boat, there is security, including safety, connection, and self-esteem, which Maslow called deficiency needs or D-needs. Without a secure hull that has absolutely no holes, the boat will eventually sink no matter how much energy you spend on fixing it once it is in water.
However, when the deficiency needs are met, and one feels secure, they can open the sails to what Maslow called being needs or B-needs — exploration, love, and purpose. When one has those in place, they can sail off on the grand journey of life.
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Kaufman’s research showed high-scoring self-actualized people were much more inspired by growth, exploration, and love of humanity.
The self-actualization scores are also associated with many indicators of well-being, like greater life-satisfaction, curiosity, self-acceptance, positive relationships, environmental mastery, personal growth, autonomy, and purpose in life.
High self-actualization scores predicted greater work satisfaction and work performance, as well as better reports of talent, skill, and creative ability.
Now comes the part where Kaufman updates Maslow.
Maslow argued self-actualization was extremely rare and virtually unattainable among the young people.
In direct contrast, Kaufman found self-actualization is a normal finding, not rare. Moreover, self-actualization did not correlate with age, education, race, ethnicity, childhood income, or gender differences.
Above the sailboat hovers transcendence, a rising to the grandest states of well-being and consciousness after one has achieved self-actualization. These come as peak experiences.
We do not need to choose either self-actualization or self-transcendence, as both together are essential to a full and meaningful life.
Healthy transcendence is an emergent phenomenon resulting from the harmonious integration of one’s whole self in the service of cultivating a good society. This view of transcendence, which I believe is the healthiest form of transcendence, is not about leaving any parts of ourselves or anyone else behind or singularly rising above the rest of humanity. Healthy transcendence is not about being outside of the whole, or feeling superior to the whole, but being a harmonious part of the whole of human existence. It’s all of humanity. In a nutshell: healthy transcendence involves harnessing all that you are in the service of realizing the best version of yourself so you can help raise the bar for the whole of humanity.— Scott Barry Kaufman, Transcend
Author of Transcend, Scott Barry Kaufman, is a humanistic psychologist who has taught intelligence, creativity, and well-being at the UPenn, NYU, and CU. His Ph.D. in cognitive psychology is from Yale, and his M.Phil in experimental psychology is from Cambridge. He hosts “The Psychology Podcast.”
Transcend: The New Science of Self-Actualization recently became the #1 Best Seller in Humanistic Psychology in the Audible Audiobook category on Amazon.
Buy the book: Transcend: The New Science of Self-Actualization.
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Author Bio: This review is presented by Sandip Roy – a medical doctor, psychology writer, happiness researcher. Founder of Happiness India Project, and chief editor of its blog. He writes popular-science articles on positive psychology and related medical topics.
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