Ian Weinberg in Healthcare, Social Media, Writers Developer and facilitator of neuromodulation program. Practicing neurosurgeon. • Netcare Linksfield Hospital Sep 12, 2020 · 1 min read · 1.3K

Self-actualization post Covid

Self-actualization post Covid

The concept of self-actualization is used pretty loosely. Coined originally by Kurt Goldstein, the concept referred to the individual becoming holistic through the realization that we comprise ‘self’ together with the environments that we inhabit. The concept was subsequently developed further by Maslow who positioned it at the apex of his hierarchy of needs. In this context Maslow defined self-actualization as ‘what a man can be, he must be’ (I assume this referred to women as well!) More contemporary thinkers have defined self-actualization as the full realization of one’s creative, intellectual, emotional and social potential as the source of our primary motivation, as opposed to being motivated and driven by environmental expectation, reward, power and status.

In the world of modern coaching, self-actualization became the buzz word. Consequently, coaching clients have been guided to ‘unleash their full potential’. When one fleshes out what the cornerstone is of the existing coaching offering we note an emphasis on such functions as goal-setting, enhancing self-esteem and seeking material reward and achievement. It struck me that all these concepts were directed at enhancing oneself as an entity divorced from one’s environment, or even at the expense of the environment. The self-actualization arising from this approach would be a half-baked version still driven by environmental expectation, status and prestige. It would serve only to forever feed the narcissistic needs of our being.

The missing component is value contribution to the greater whole. Value contribution can be defined as making something better than it was before engaging with it. This applies to self, to one’s personal environment and to the greater environment. Fundamental to value contribution is the requirement that we develop a sensitivity and empathy to self and to those in the greater external environment. In this way we may see ourselves as well as our suffering in the lives and suffering of others and thereby develop the motivation for value contribution. Additionally we contribute meaningfully to our own self-actualization. This was one of the core themes in the teachings of Viktor Frankl. Frankl took the concept further by indicating that this engagement would contribute materially to finding our own personal meaning and purpose. Allied to value contribution is the concept of gratitude. Effectively, gratitude is empathy received from something bigger than self. It is an acknowledgement of one’s fortunate situation as well as the existence of an order greater than oneself. This leads poignantly on to another of Frankl’s teachings – transform the expectations that you have of life into the question rather of what the greater order of things expects of you as a unique self-actualized individual. Here lies the real driver to attaining personal meaning and purpose.

As we engage a new post-Covid order I would like to believe that somehow we will be able to transcend the half-baked version of self-actualization with its narcissistic components, its obsession with consumerism and its disparaging judgementalism, to the more authentic version. Perhaps the fear, the illness, the financial hardships and the resulting existential vacuum may just be the catalyst that spurs us on to incorporate a little more sensitivity and empathy and thereby create a more meaningful, supportive, respectful and sustaining space. 



John Rylance 4 d ago · #21

We would all like to know what the future holds.
I found this quote over the weekend.
I hate spoilers but i would like to know how 2020 will end.
Wouldn't we all, but maybe its better to wait and see.
At least in not knowing we can feel we are able to influence outcomes.

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Ian Weinberg 5 d ago · #20

#19 Thanks for sharing that perspective @Harvey Lloyd I guess it does boil down in the end to the forces of sensitivity and value contribution on the one hand and narcissistic, insensitive consumerism on the other. In Buddhist terms - the age old conflict between dukka and enlightenment. Anyone’s guess where this one will end.

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Harvey Lloyd 5 d ago · #19

@Ian Weinberg This one is a keeper. You very eloquently stated both what Buddha and Jesus preached. Even some forgotten kingdoms of our early city state attempts preached the same thing. One such story of early civilization stated that the King each year was hauled outside the gates and the village would humiliate and strip the king of his clothes. In the end new robes were presented and a feast was had. The new year began. All in an effort to subdue arrogance brought on by materialism.

All of this to point out exactly what you stated. Humility is the first to go as we venture into the material world. The second greatest commandment is to love your neighbor. A challenging task in any millenia.

One of two things will happen over the next few decades. Materialism will win and we all participate in a very scary world or a remnant will withstand the scary world and rebuild. My hope is the third alternative is possible. The wise men such as you get through and the remnant stops the advancement of gross materialism.

Thanks for the thoughts.

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Pascal Derrien 6 d ago · #18

What goes around comes around , we will get thru the turbulences it's a question of personal accountability Covid is actually enabling us to do just that if we think about it ....my two cents :-)

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Lada 🏡 Prkic 7 d ago · #17

#13 Ian, you're not naive. Hope dies last. I have no faith in the world's leaders, global politics and new fairer world order, but I'm still hoping. Human nature is the reason why things just won’t change. The same nature makes us hope even when hope is the only thing left. :)

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Jerry Fletcher 7 d ago · #16

Ian, I share your hope but fear that a huge portion of mankind cannot begin to perceive that possibility. I suspect that the inherent biases in the USA and in other parts of the world are, sadly, allowing a fascist viewpoint and behaviors to come to the fore. And so it goes.

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maria gusto Sep 13, 2020 · #15

User removed

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maria gusto Sep 13, 2020 · #14

User removed

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