In the fall/winter of 1963-1964 at Brandeis University Abraham Maslow taught a course to help students better understand themselves. “Experiential Approaches to the Study of Personality” consisted of eight lectures and six labs. Most of the course lectures and labs were audio recorded and transcribed, only to be discovered many years later and made into a 2019 book, Personality & Growth: A Humanistic Psychologist in the Classroom.
At the invitation of Ed Hoffman (Maslow’s biographer), Fernando Ortiz and I joined Ed in doing three separate book reviews for the Journal of Humanistic Psychology. In the following excerpt from my review, Maslow reveals his internal conflict over not doing empirical research in this latter stage of his life.
While the effectiveness of the labs seems mixed, the lab on January 6 was exceptional. Maslow shared seven slides of drawings from Saul Steinberg’s book, The Labyrinth. Students shared their thoughts on each slide with Maslow moderating. The first drawing depicted a Don Quixote-like figure with lance on a horse facing a pile of large, assorted geometric blocks. Maslow commented, “I think it expresses me very much. Somehow I identify with it” (p. 351).
What followed was a powerful, personal reflection by Maslow. After the students had discussed, Maslow shared his feelings about this drawing and what it meant to him (pp. 359-362). He shared that when he first saw this drawing he laughed, then saw his situation, “the geometric things are sort of mechanistic . . . the sort of thing that I’m fighting against in the American Psychological Association” (p. 359) but later he talked about his identification with the blocks: "You see the truth is I’m also this kind of scientist. It doesn’t show to you, I don’t think, much . . . I love [the blocks], and I’ve done very careful and rigorous experiments – that’s a different kind of pleasure." (p. 361)
Continuing he reflected on a “civil war” within himself:
"I have a great disturbance over this, great guilt for not doing rigorous experiments now, which I’ve done all my life until recently, and feeling somehow not quite decent. Guilty. I felt uneasy about all these big things without data . ."(p. 361)
Maslow’s reflection illustrated to his class how projective techniques can help a person understand one’s self. He concluded: "[The drawing] made me understand a little more about my guts, about my own self, about my own internal conflicts, which are really not settled and never will be . . . There’s this kind of conflict in each of you." (p. 361)
Self-awareness is essential if we are to be all that we can be. Recognizing our own internal conflicts can make us better leaders, better followers, better people. Self-reflection can be difficult but insightful.
Ballard, J. (in press). Book Review: Personality & Growth: A Humanistic Psychologist in the Classroom by Abraham Maslow. Journal of Humanistic Psychology. https://doi.org/10.1177/0022167820916560
Maslow, A. H. (2019). Personality & growth: A humanistic psychologist in the classroom. H. Chiang & C. Nelson (Eds.). Anna Maria, FL: Maurice Bassett.
Steinberg, S. (1960). The labyrinth. New York: Harper & Brothers.
Image, "Knight at Night", by Yuri_B. Obtained from https://pixabay.com/illustrations/painting-knight-night-oil-paints-3995999/
© John Ballard, PhD, 2020. All rights reserved.
Decoding the Workplace “deals with principles and practices that are timeless . . . Is this a must-have for managers and would-be managers? Yes.” Ron Riggio, Book Review, Academy of Management Learning & Education, June, 2018. Now also available as an audiobook and paperback.