Day 1 Abraham Maslow

Imagine this. You are dropped in the ocean 1000 miles from land. What will you do? Sink or swim?

Abraham Maslow, the theoretical psychologist, had no doubts at all about what he would do. Abe started what became known as the third force in psychology. Psychoanalysis was considered the first type of psychology.

Founded by Freud, psychoanalysis was considered to be an excellent tool for helping people explore repressed and unconscious impulses, anxieties, internal conflict.

Behaviourism was the second big move in psychology. As the name suggests, Behaviourism focused on a person’s behaviour as a way to understand what was going on. It ignored the mind as anything except a part of behaviour.

Pavlov and his dogs, Skinner and his rats, were the more famous members of this school of psychology.

Abe Maslow, as a psychologist, was not taken with either of these methods. He saw people as having enormous potential. He set out to find the way that could use psychology to unlock each person’s possibilities.

For example, most people think that Einstein was, with all due respect, a freak. Not so Abe Maslow. What if Einstein was not exceptional but exactly what each of us could be. Abe didn’t mean we should all study physics.

But what if we could be the Einsteins of parenting or teaching? What if we could be the Einsteins of small business, or big business for that matter? How about the Einsteins of music, poetry, football, cricket or scrabble?

Abe Maslow was looking for a way that each of us can make “full use and exploitation of talents, capabilities, potentalities.”

He believed that we “have an innate tendency to move toward higher levels of health, creativity, insight, and self-fulfillment”, and that we are at our most aliveness when we give this tendency full reign.

The regret is that many of us allow the vicissitudes and setbacks of life to dull that tendency. It’s like having a big magnet inside our heads that is dragging us to success. Success is a natural outcome of living. We are designed to succeed.

The trouble is that the magnet can be weakened, damaged or interfered with. If we allow ourselves to be turned off by life, the magnet gets turned off.


Sink or swim? Abe Maslow was adamant. He wrote :”If I were dropped out of a plane into the ocean and told the nearest land was a thousand miles away, I’d still swim.

And I’d despise the one who gave up.”

Harriet Beecher Stowe was a swimmer. Not literally. She lived in the days when a weekly bath was a novelty, so donning the togs to swim in the river was inconceivable. She was an Abe Maslow type swimmer though. Dropped in the ocean a 1000 miles from shore she was always going to swim.

She lived in the American South when slavery was a way of life for millions of Negroes. She wasn’t a Negro herself but she understood their plight. When she saw Negro mothers lose their sons, sold on the selling blocks to plantations, she was tormented. She herself had seven children but four had died. She knew what these mothers were feeling when they had their children auctioned off.

Sink or swim? Harriet chose to swim! She would fight slavery in her own way. She started writing short stories for an abolitionist periodical. Encouraged by the response from readers, she allowed the stories to be printed as a novel. The book, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, was a sensation.

It sold 300,000 copies in the first year alone and would go on to become the best-selling novel in the world for the 1800s. The only book that sold more copies was the Bible.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin was also a force in England, selling millions of copies there as well.

When Abe Lincoln invited Harriet and her daughter to lunch at the Whitehouse he is reputed to have said: “So this is the little lady who made this big war”, meaning that the American Civil War was a direct result of Harriet’s book. In hindsight, it looks like a condescending remark but that was not Abe’s style. If he said anything of the sort it was to acknowledge the enormous influence that this book was having on the slave trade worldwide.

So you are not sure you can have an influence in your world? Abe Maslow and Harriet Beecher Stowe would beg to differ. When Harriet started writing, she could never have imagined the influence and impact that Uncle Tom’s Cabin would have. All she did was start swimming.

© “Release the Giant” 2008 well imagine that


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