One Current in Psychology Gives New Meaning to the Idea of “Being the Best”
Humanistic psychology holds that people naturally seek to develop their potential.
One of the fundamental concerns of all people is well-being. What it consists of, how it’s obtained, how it’s preserved, what fosters well-being, and what threatens it. All these questions are asked about the notion (and the desire) for “being well.” Such questions have accompanied civilization from the remotest times until today.
In a sense, it couldn’t have been otherwise. To the extent that our living conditions change over time, it seems that it’s not possible to arrive at a single formula which will indicate a path to good living and fulfillment (the path of which Aristotle wrote, to name but one example). One needs to consider the subjectivity of the individual, the needs of any given person, and the ideas that each one has formed around this concept. That means that there’s no single answer to the apparently simple question, “What does it mean to be well?”
An approach worth looking at is that of humanistic psychology, a current within studies on the psyche which gained strength in the mid-20th-century based on the research of Abraham Maslow, Carl Rogers and Virginia Satir, among others. In a rough sense, the fundamental principle of the school is that people seek continuous improvement, as this is a natural impulse that leads one to configure the best version of oneself.
Theorists of humanistic psychology took up their ideas from Greek philosophy, from existentialism (from Kierkegaard to Sartre), from phenomenology, and even from certain ideas within the Judeo-Christian tradition. Their point is to defend people’s tendency to develop to their full potential, though they’re not always channeled in that direction. According to humanistic psychologists, life itself seems to be aimed at this purpose, but only within people does self-improvement involve a transcendental result, beyond physical, material, or biological need.
One of the best-known developments of this approach is “Maslow’s Pyramid,” a hierarchical organization of the direction that human force follows in satisfying basic needs (which determine survival) to ultimate improvements which allow for the development of our personal potential into fulfilling action.
It’s worth noting, too, that humanistic psychology concept shouldn’t be understood as a kind of career which is incessantly pursued, or as a competition whose sole objective is to be “the best,” as this is unsustainable. In our own time, this is the cause of disorders like chronic fatigue, depression and burnout. According to Carl Rogers, the search for well-being is understood in humanistic psychology “as a process, not a state of being. It is a direction, not a destination.” How can we understand such a posture? Put simply, with the idea that being the best is nothing more than being well.
Perhaps nothing more than this need concern us in life: be well – and stand out for it.
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