Psychotherapy, Counselling & Life Coaching from the author of this page, Tim LeBon is available now in Central London 

Express your interest in  a consultation now

Abraham Maslow – father of humanistic psychology

Self-actualisation, the hierarchy of needs and peak experiences

Learn about Maslow ; Research Maslow & learn about motivation in the workplace. Discover where you are in Maslow's hierarchy of needs

How to use Maslow hierarchy of needs to increase motivation in workplace; Is Maslow pyramid of needs useful? Learn about Maslow and his theories.

Maslow's Hierarchy of needs (or pyramid of needs)




Hierarchy of needs - Evaluation

  • Plausible, especially at lower levels

  • Very wide applications and implications

  • Can help you understand motivation at work and at home

  • If correct, suggests we need to focus on the negative before attempting the positive (as opposed to positive psychology, which in many ways is part of Maslow's legacy)

  • Influential ideas regarding counselling, management, human nature


  • Are there universal human needs, especially at higher levels ? (c.f. Sartre - "existence precedes essence").

  • Can it account for exceptions ? (e.g. Van Gogh, Ghandi, Hemingway)

  • Does it cover all needs? (e.g. mastery)

Psychotherapy, Counselling & Life Coaching from the author of this page, Tim LeBon is available now in Central London 

Express your interest in  a consultation now


"the desire to become more and more what one is, to become everything that one is capable of becoming."

Examples of self-actualisers

Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, Mahatma Gandhi, Albert Einstein, Eleanor Roosevelt, William James,

Benedict Spinoza, Ruth Benedict, MaxWertheimer

(Typical) Characteristics of self-actualisers

1. Perceive reality accurately

2. Accept themselves, others, and nature.

3. Spontaneous & natural - like simple things

4. Problem-centred - have a sense of mission to which they dedicate their lives.

5. Like privacy & detachment.

6. Have a freshness of appreciation.

7. Have Peak Experiences.

8. Are compassionate and humane

9. Have profound interpersonal relationships

10. Democratic character structure.

11. Creative.

12. Are their own people; Resist enculturation

13. Philosophical sense of humour

14. Motivated by "Being (B) Needs" rather than Deficiency Needs



Peak experiences


"Feelings of limitless horizons opening up to the vision, the feeling of being simultaneously more powerful and also more helpless than one ever was before, the feeling of ecstasy and wonder and awe, the loss of placement in time and space with, finally, the conviction that something extremely important and valuable had happened, so that the subject was to some extent transformed and strengthened even in his daily life by such experiences." Abraham Maslow

 Read more  .....

How to be a self-actualiser



Self-actualisation - Evaluation




Maslow quotations

On method, Freud and Behaviourism

"Freud put these medical spectacles on our nose. It's time to take them off".

"It was the beautiful program of Watson that brought me into psychology. But its fatal flaw is that it's good for the lab and in the lab, but you put it on and take it off like a lab coat..."

"The study of crippled, stunted, immature, and unhealthy specimens can yield only a cripple psychology and a cripple philosophy" (Motivation and Personality).


"If we want to know the possibilities for spiritual growth, value growth, of moral development in human beings, then I maintain that we can learn most by studying our most moral, ethical, or saintly people".

"If you only have a hammer then you treat everything like a nail".

"The highest possibilities of human nature have practically always been underestimated" (FRHN, 1971)

"I wanted to make science consider all the problems that non-scientists have been handling - religion, poetry, values, philosophy and art. I went about it by trying to understand great people, the best specimens of mankind I could find".

On the Hierarchy of Needs

"It is quite true that man lives by bread alone - where there is no bread. But what happens to man's desires when there is plenty of bread and when his belly is chronically filled ? At once other (and "higher") needs emerge, and these, rather than physiological hungers, dominate the organism. And when these in turn are satisfied, again new (and still "higher") needs emerge, and so on. This is what we mean by saying that the basic human needs are organised into a hierarchy of relative prepotency"



"A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write., if he is to be ultimately at peace with himself. What a man can be, he must be. This need we may call self-actualisation ... It refers to man's desire for self-fulfilment, namely, to the tendency for him to become actualised 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".

"There seems no intrinsic reason why everyone shouldn't be (self-actualising). Apparently every baby has possibilities for self-actualisation, but most get it knocked out of them ...I think of the self-actualising man not as an ordinary man with something added, but rather as the ordinary man with nothing taken away."

"One cannot choose wisely for a life unless he dares to listen to himself, his own self, at each moment in life" (FRHN, 1971)

Peak Experiences

"The power of the peak experience could permanently affect one's attitude toward life. A single glimpse of heaven is enough to confirm its existence even if it is never experienced again. It is my strong suspicion that one such experience might be able to prevent suicide, for instance, and perhaps ... alcoholism, drug-addiction and addiction to violence."

Humanistic versus Transpersonal Psychology

"The Third Force is like Sweden, Norway and Denmark, where God died and there is no god, where everything is sensible, rational, commonsensical, logical, empirical but not yet transcendent. You can admire and respect Scandinavia, but you can't love it, but less worship it ! Everything that has a good, mundane, this-worldly, reasonable ... intelligence could do has been done there. But it's not enough ! (1965)


Abraham Maslow:  Early education, life  and books

1908 Born April 1, in New York, the first of seven children born to uneducated & poor Jewish immigrants from Russia

1928 Marries his cousin, Bertha - they are to have a happy and lifelong marriage & 2 daughters

Studies psychology (up to PhD level) at Wisconsin.

Researches monkey behaviour with Harry Harlow.

1935 Research assistant to Thorndike in New York. Maslow became interested in research on human sexuality.

1936 Begins teaching full time at Brooklyn College. 

Meets many newly immigrant European intellectuals

e.g. Adler, Fromm, Horney.

1951 Heads psychology department at Brandeis

1954 Motivation and Personality published

1962 Founds Association for Humanistic Psychology (with Rogers, May etc).

Visiting fellow at Non-Linear Systems, California

Towards a Psychology of Being published

Becomes involved in Esalen Institute, California

1967 Elected President of American Psychological Association

1970 Died of a heart attack after years of ill health.

1971 The Farther Reaches of Human Nature published posthumously

1983 Esquire magazine choose Maslow as the most important US psychologist of last 50 years.


Assessment of  Maslow's theories

"Maslow has done more to change our view of human nature and human possibilities than any other American psychologist of the past fifty years" (Leonard,1983).

"Maslow has opened up a new way of seeing the universe". (Colin Wilson,1972).

"What Maslow offered in self-actualisation was not just a psychological fact but a full-blown vision of human nature". (Lowry)

"(Maslow was) The father of humanistic psychology" (Peter Drucker)


Maslow recommended reading - Maslow's books

Motivation and Personality, 3rd Ed.   New York: Harper & Row, 1987
The Farther Reaches of Human Penguin Books, 1976
Toward a Psychology of Being, 3rd Ed.   New York:Wiley, 1998
Maslow on Management
New York:Wiley, 1998
Religions, values and peak-experiences   
Penguin, 1986

Best books about  Maslow

The Right to be Human, A Biography of Abraham Maslow  Edward Hoffman McGraw-Hill, 1988 - especially recommended

New Pathways in Psychology : Maslow & the Post-Freudian Revolution
Colin Wilson   New American Library 1972

An Introduction to Theories of Personality B.R. Hergenhan Prentice Hall.  This contains a good chapter on Maslow. Maslow's theories are also discussed in virtually every introductory textbook on psychology and management

Best Maslow  links





How Maslow can help you go up the pyramid of needs, be self-actualised and have peak experiences

Hierarchy of needs

1) Implications of the hierarchy

If the theory is true, what are the implications for

i) human nature

ii) therapy

iii) management

iv) you

2) Self-awareness based on the hierarchy of needs

Where are you in the hierarchy right now ? (out of 100% for each need)

3) Does the hierarchy of needs apply to you ?

Think of a specific time in your life when one of the needs was not met

(e.g. you were hungry, did not feel safe, did not belong or felt a lack of esteem)

i) Was it true that this lack stopped you fulfilling 'higher' needs ?

ii) What helped you move on ?

4) Is the hierarchy of Needs complete ?

Are there any needs not covered in the hierarchy that should be ?


5)a) Think of a person you know, either personally, or because they are a public figure, who seem to you to be fully-functioning, healthy people, self-fulfilled What are they like ?

b) Now try to categorise them in terms of Maslow's features of self-actualised people. Do they fit ?

c) In what ways are you self-actualised ? How could you be more self-actualised?

Peak experiences

6) Describe a peak experience in your life

7) What could you do to have more peak experiences ?

Bookmark this page  Tim LeBon 2011

Back to Tim LeBon’s site