[This post was co-authored with L. Ari Kopolow, a former student and friend of Maslow, Director of Potomac Grove Psychiatry, and Author of the upcoming book Walking with Maslow]
June 8, 2020 marks the 50th anniversary of the passing of one of the most humanitarian thinkers the world has ever known. With the COVID Pandemic threatening our lives, economic fears endangering our security, and a government that seems to fuel rather than quiet domestic conflict, we could all benefit from the guidance of Abraham Maslow. Maslow is the American psychologist who added such positive concepts to our language as self-actualization, peak experience, transcendence, and human potentiality. His positive, optimistic attitude toward life challenged the psychology world to move away from its preoccupation with pathology and illness and focus instead on healthy growth and potentiality.
While Maslow and his ideas received limited recognition and acceptance by his academic peers, his influence today is widespread. Almost everywhere you look in the worlds of psychology, business, healthcare town planning, and more, Abraham H. Maslow is there. His ideas form the framework for the treatment you get when examined by a nurse. His concepts help businesses set their priorities and contribute to our understanding of healthier work environments. He is considered to be the grandfather of positive psychology, in which his concepts have played a significant role.
On a personal level, Maslow’s goal was to help people live the best lives they are capable of having. He believed that as we grow healthier, we are capable of having transcendent peak experiences, in which heightened consciousness plays a role in our insights, creativity, and feelings of connectedness. His positive view of humanity is perhaps even more time for us today as they were when he first started expressing them more than seventy years ago. We are capable not only of satisfying our basic needs—food, shelter, love, esteem—but also of achieving those moments of “heaven on Earth” that Maslow called peak experiences.
Today we need them more than ever. If applied wisely, his thoughts could halt society’s abandonment of its deeper core values, such as truth and justice. Maslow named valuelessness as the greatest malady of the 20ty century. Sadly its presence has become even more significant in the 21st century. In this time of upheaval, a re-examination of Maslow’s work will yield insights that can help transform the world on both individual and societal levels.
We remember his passing while realizing we still have much to learn from him.