What is Happiness (Part 4)?

In my previous three post, I mentioned the terms that the ancient philosophers and the modern thinkers teach are required to enter into a state of happiness.  However, once those terms are met, what does true happiness look like.  Let’s begin by looking at the specific teachings of Maslow.  Keep in mind that we are going to be talking about those who have reached the final level of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.  In other words, people that have no further needs or desires – what I would call a super-human condition.

Maslow was generous in providing a list of characteristics of those individuals who, like Campbell’s master of two worlds or Csikszentmihalyi’s individuals forging a unity with universal values, have reached the final level of human development – happiness.  Maslow characterized those who have achieved this final level – self-actualization, as exhibiting: “1) superior perception of reality, 2) increased acceptance of self, others, and of nature, 3) increased spontaneity, 4) increased problem-centering, 5) increased detachment and desire for privacy, 6) increased autonomy and resistance to enculturation, 7) greater freshness of appreciation and richness of emotional reaction, 8) increased identification with the human species, 9) improved interpersonal relations, 10) more democratic character structure, 11) greater creativity, 12) certain changes in the value system, and 13) higher frequency of peak experiences.”

Both Maslow and Csikszentmihalyi wrote that “precious few” people actually reach self-actualization, “Though, in principle, self-actualization is easy, in practice it rarely happens (by my criteria, certainly in less than 1% of the adult population).  For this, there are many reasons at various levels of discourse … humans no longer have strong instincts which tell them unequivocally what to do, when, where, and how.” Campbell speaks of a similar inability of everyday humans to reach the highest levels of human development, “Today, all of these mysteries [myths] have lost their force; their symbols no longer interest our psyche.”

More to come!

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