William James – the Great Example of Self-Actualization

Abraham Maslow's gave a hierarchy of needs, that is a motivational theory comprising of human needs depicted as hierarchical levels through a pyramid. Needs at the bottom of the pyramid should be staisfuied first before going to upward needs. from down to up the needs are Deficiency vs growth needs physiological, love an dbelongisness, self esteem and sel actualization The five needs can be divided in two subsets. The first four levels are referred as deficiency needs (D-needs), failure to satisfy those needs produces a deficit or lack in that person, and the growth and being needs According to Maslow’s theory, self-actualizers differ from others on the basis of their motivation. They are not motivated towards a single specific goal they have metamotivations. Self-actualized people are the fulfilled ones and doing what they are and have been capoable of. For many people self-actualization can be attained through doing creative work or literature, sports, cooking. It could be measured through the concept of peak experiences. This basicaly happens when an indivdual sees the world totally for what it is, and there are feelings of joy and happiness. They have a sense of detachment and need for privacy. Welfare for humanity is also important to them.

An American philosopher who earned the title of Father of Psychology, William James, is an example of a self-actalized person. After completing medical school, James focused on the human psyche, writing a masterwork on the subject, entitled The Principles of Psychology. He later became known for the literary piece The Will to Believe and Other Essays in Popular Philosophy. Although is achieved success and respect a sense of moral impotence constantly tormented him, his poor health plague him for nearly six years. However, in 1870’s slowly he regained enthusiasm for life in general and for intellectual life in particular. The household in which he grew up contained three other gifted individuals. Henry James, the father, produced a sizable corpus of writings on religious topics. William’s brother, Henry, acquired fame as a novelist. His sister Alice, though, was perhaps the most talented member of the family; her literary contributions, unfortunately, were meager, for she suffered throughout her life from a particularly severe form of the neurasthenia that also afflicted her brothers. 

American philosopher and psychologist William James, is one of the self-actualized people of history. He was the leader of the philosophical movement of pragmatism and a founder of the psychological movement of functionalism. Physiological needs are the basic and strongest needs i.e. They have a greater personal impact as motivating forces. William James was born in an intellectual family. Had a doctoral degree throughput his early age there was no delay in his physiological needs. Safety and security of health, of one selves, of property, of family is called safety needs, and they are more important drives for infants and neurotic adults. During James early childhood – adulthood, safety need was not an issue he had a freedom to choose his career to explore what he wants to be either an But yet he did feel that his life was not in order as throughout his educational history he had to change his school due to his father’s job, which Needs expresses through a close relationship with a friend, lover, or mate, or through social relationships formed within groups. James was married to Alice Howe Gibbins and had 5 children. Moreover, in order to satisfy his needs for love and belongingness he started exploring the religious phenomenon of world and later on started teaching ethics and religion in 1800. Once the need for love and belongingness is achieved need for esteem arises. To achieve esteem and respect from ourselves, in form of self-worth, and from others in form of status and recognition. William James’s need for self-esteem was achieved in when he wrote the principle of psychology. In 1902, he published The Varieties of Religious Experience. For these great contribution he was recognized as father of psychology. The fullest development of self is known as self-actualization that depends on the maximum realization and fulfillment of one’s potential, talents and abilities. William James was a self-actualized personality as he had the characteristics of a self-actualized individual:

  1. Clear perception of reality: while teaching philosophy James was always derived towards the unique nature of psychology his views concerning the methods of science, the qualities of human beings, and the nature of reality later formed the theory of determinism, because his health deteriorated in early years he started having phobic panics and during that time he started reading Renouvier on free will and stated “my first act of free will shall be to believe in free will.” It showed that he had a clear picture of reality.
  2. An acceptance of self, others and nature: In 1875, James offered the very first U.S. Prior to James, serious research into the function of the human mind was scant in the U.S. it showed that he knew his strength and weakness and was ready to accept whatever society in general thinks of him, as long as they respected his work. 
  3. A focus on problems outside themselves: although William James was more attracted towards psychology and philosophy he disliked laboratory work and did not feel himself fitted for it. He liked best the adventure of free observation and reflection. His studies, which were of the nature. 
  4. Profound interpersonal relations: James was a highly social man and his friends formed an intellectual community of great distinction. Peirce, Shadworth Hodgson, Charles Renouvier, Josiah Royce, George Santayana. 

According to Maslow, self-actualized people have metamotivations which means maximizing personal potential rather than striving for particular goal object. William James regarded himself as a sort of patient to the end with unfinished business. He always felt that he had to make up for the professional indecisions of his young manhood, for his deep depressions as he always had the curiosity of the true doctor, which in time was to make him come to religion not as a creed, religion as theism, but to religion as an individual psychological experience, as a way of extending the person's hold on life by giving him the feeling of a second chance, of being twice born. To feel connected to others, to God and the universe. At a more mundane level, transcendence include doing things that we have not done before. William James life is an example of this, the year 1902 was a critical time period of his life when he met people at asylum and there images got imprinted in his head and he explained there situation in words as “ nothing they possessed can defend them against their fate” after this experience every morning he woke up with sense of insecurity and fear, he thought that he was getting some sort of revelations from God, and this experience made him sympathetic towards others James concludes: 'I have always thought that this experience of melancholia of mine had a religious bearing. The fear was so invasive and powerful that if I had not clung to scripture-texts like 'The eternal God is my refuge,' etc., 'Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy-laden,' etc. I think I should have grown really insane.' And since then he became a religious thinker. 

16 December 2021
Your Email

By clicking “Send”, you agree to our Terms of service and  Privacy statement. We will occasionally send you account related emails.

close thanks-icon

Your essay sample has been sent.

Order now
Still can’t find what you need?

Order custom paper and save your time
for priority classes!

Order paper now