Sharing my learnings from the book, Transcend by Scott Barry Kaufman, Ph. D.
Transcend by Scott Barry Kaufman, Ph. D.
When psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman first discovered Maslow’s unfinished theory of transcendence, sprinkled throughout a cache of unpublished journals, lectures, and essays, he felt a deep resonance with his own work and life. In this groundbreaking book, Kaufman picks up where Maslow left off, unraveling the mysteries of his unfinished theory, and integrating these ideas with the latest research on attachment, connection, creativity, love, purpose and other building blocks of a life well lived.
Kaufman’s new hierarchy of needs provides a roadmap for finding purpose and fulfillment–not by striving for money, success, or “happiness,” but by becoming the best version of ourselves, or what Maslow called self-actualization. While self-actualization is often thought of as a purely individual pursuit, Maslow believed that the full realization of potential requires a merging between self and the world. We don’t have to choose either self-development or self-sacrifice, but at the highest level of human potential we show a deep integration of both. Transcend reveals this level of human potential that connects us not only to our highest creative potential, but also to one another.
With never-before-published insights and new research findings, along with exercises and opportunities to gain insight into your own unique personality, this empowering book is a manual for self-analysis and nurturing a deeper connection not only with our highest potential but also with the rest of humanity.
- Maslow’s famous hierarchy of needs – a picture of a pyramid divided into five different levels. The bottom level, the base of the pyramid, represents humankind’s most basic need: safety. The top level, the pyramid’s tip, represents our most abstract need: self-actualization. This image makes it easy to think that going through life is like advancing through the levels. This understanding is a bit simplistic. What’s more, Abraham Maslow himself was working on a deeper way to understand the whole of human existence when he died in 1970.
- The book expand on Maslow’s work and reimagine it, showing how self-actualization is about integrating all your needs into a healthy whole that enables you to grow. They explain how realizing your full human potential can connect you not only to your best possible self but also to the people around you.
- Our most basic need is safety. Safety means stability, a sense of certainty, and having trust in our environment. It’s the secure foundation that allows us to take risks and explore the world. Beyond physiological needs like hunger, our sense of safety comes down to how we relate to the people around us.
- One of the ways we relate to others is called attachment, and it begins in childhood. From these interactions in infancy, we develop our attachment style. As we grow older, our attachment style plays a key role in our relationships. If we were lucky enough to grow up in a warm, caring environment, we learn to be attached in a secure way. We feel confident that others will accept us. But if our caregivers weren’t reliable or sufficiently available, we become anxious in future relationships. We may even avoid close relationships altogether, which is called avoidant attachment.
- people who have a secure attachment style are better equipped to deal with life’s challenges. They cope with and regulate their emotions in more constructive ways, and have more satisfying relationships. In contrast, insecurity, especially the anxious kind, can lead to depression and loneliness. though we learn our attachment style in childhood, we can change our patterns. New, positive experiences can help us develop healthier ways of interacting.
- Being around people – whether that means sharing a glass of wine or cooking a meal – fulfills a deep human need: connection with others. The need for connection is the need for stable, positive, intimate relationships. In two words, it’s the need for belonging and intimacy.
- Let’s look at belonging first. It comes down to being a part of a social group. The need for belonging is satisfied when you feel accepted by a particular group. When you feel rejected and invisible, in contrast, that need is unsatisfied. Research shows that the pain of social rejection is indistinguishable from physical pain. And the effects don’t end there. Continued rejection can lead to all kinds of problems, from poor sleep to depression.
- The quality of the connection also matters. That’s where intimacy comes in. Belonging is about feeling protected by your group; intimacy is about loving, caring for and protecting others with whom you have a close relationship.
- close connections hinge on what psychologist Carl Rogers calls unconditional positive regard. This occurs when each person feels seen, cared for, and safe expressing a whole range of feelings and experiences. There is also mutuality in high-quality connections, which means that the people involved are engaged and participating. Such connections also encourage experiences that keep us coming back for more – laughter, joy, having fun together, and reciprocal gestures of kindness.
- Self-esteem is not the same as self-regard. It has nothing to do with narcissism or egocentricity. Rather, self-esteem is the natural result of genuine accomplishment and connection with other people. Healthy self-esteem is the result of positive accomplishments.
- Healthy self-esteem has two aspects: self-worth and mastery.
- Self-worth – it comes down to liking yourself. Do you think that you’re basically a good person, and feel comfortable with yourself? But self-worth is about more than just how you see yourself. It is closely linked to the esteem in which others hold us. Our judgments about ourselves often factor in the judgements of others. If others like us and hold us in high regard, we have what researchers call relational social value. The higher our relational social value, the higher our sense of self-worth.
- Mastery – Mastery is the extent to which you can act intentionally, achieve your goals, and exercise your will. It comes down to feeling like a competent human being. our sense of mastery depends partly on how others judge us. That’s where another kind of social value – instrumental social value – comes in. That’s the degree to which others see us as having qualities that are important for the common good. if you’re consistently able to achieve your goals, you’ll feel increasingly confident, which tends to create an upward spiral. The result: an overall sense of mastery.
- Sadly, our adventuresome nature tends to fade in adulthood. As we grow up, our playfulness and wonder begin to wane. This is a shame, because exploration has many benefits. If we want to keep growing and developing, we should take a tip from children and treat life like a new land to be explored. Exploration enables you to grow as a person.
- Exploration is the desire to seek out unfamiliar information and experiences.
- behavioral exploration – two components: social exploration and adventure-seeking. social exploration is when we have a sincere interest in other people’s lives and are curious about what they’re thinking. It’s also what drives us to make new friends, take part in discussions, or seek out new experiences. It’s about engaging with people in a way that helps us learn more about them and the world. adventure-seeking are often driven by the desire to learn and grow, to overcome challenges and learn new skills. adventure-seekers master their fear and they’re more resilient and tolerant of stress because of it.
- cognitive exploration – two parts: One is openness to experience. This involves things like appreciating beauty, getting absorbed in activities, and enjoying artistic pursuits. People who are open to experiences in this way also tend to be intuitive, empathetic, and in touch with their emotions. second one comes down to reasoning and understanding the world through abstract thought. It’s the desire to learn new information and discover new ideas.
- Love is something people want, something they long for, something that must be found out there. Finding love means receiving love. But the people who feel that they’ve truly found love, the people who don’t experience love primarily as a lack, are those who give love. This just goes to show that we can move beyond the love-as-lack definition, and become capable of turning our love outward. Love is more fulfilling when it’s not based on a deficiency.
- Maslow distinguished between deficiency-love, or D-love for short, and love for a person’s whole being. He called this latter type of love B-love. D-love is something we feel like we have to search and strive for. It’s a need, and it has to be satisfied. But with B-love, people who love in this way don’t need to receive much love at all – their love is not about what’s missing from their lives. Instead, they’re focused on admiring others and giving.
- how do people who practice B-love act?
- they tend to be driven by self-transcendent values. B-loving people are also notable for high levels of tolerance, benevolence, and trustworthiness. They have character traits like kindness, humility, and forgiveness. Other people love being around them. But B-loving people are also able to look after their own needs and assert themselves when necessary – they just do it in a way that remains caring and considerate of others.
- B-loving people are able to integrate two aspects of human existence that might seem contradictory: agency and communion. Agency involves independence and separation from others. It’s about how much you’re able to achieve your own goals and assert yourself. In contrast, community is about contact, openness and participation – being together with others.
- B-loving people manage to bring both aspects into harmony. They do this by going beyond the need to receive love, maintaining high levels of self-reliance while also staying engaged in satisfying relationships.
- Purpose is what gives meaning to our lives. A purpose is a sort of focal point. It’s the center of your life, around which you can organize all your actions so that each has significance. It also gives you energy to pursue your goals and encourages perseverance.
- Purpose often means having a calling – an overwhelming urge to follow a particular path in life. And for many, that calling is closely linked to work. The closer you are to seeing your work as a calling, as something you’d do regardless of pay, the more likely you are to be satisfied – not just with your job, but with your life in general
- If you don’t have a calling, there are steps you can take to make the pursuit of your goals easier.
- choose wisely. When you choose goals that focus on growth – like self-improvement, creativity, or making the world a better place – pursuing them will tend to bring a feeling of well-being, which often isn’t the case when you strive merely for money, power, or popularity.
- choose for the right reasons. That means looking for goals that feel meaningful on a deep level. The more your goals resonate with you, the more your motivation increases – and the more likely you’ll be to achieve them.
- Peak experiences enhance your sense of self and your connection with the world. These are experiences of heightened beauty, wonder, joy, or serenity. Research suggests that peak experiences are great for mental health. They increase motivation and a sense of purpose, make relationships more satisfying, reduce fear of death and encourage personal growth.
- all peak experiences have one thing in common: self-loss. there are two types:
- One takes place when we’re in the grip of insecurity. We feel unsure of ourselves or of our identity. This kind of self-loss is frightening and can make the world seem bizarre and unreal.
- The other kind of self-loss – the kind induced by peak experiences – is another matter altogether. It brings a deepened sense of connection with the world – a feeling of openness and curiosity. It’s a paradox: the more the self dissolves and seems to merge with the world, the more self-actualized one feels.
- There’s one word that’s often used in connection with peak experiences: awe. The puzzling thing about awe is that it combines feelings that don’t usually go together, such as fear and ecstasy. And being filled with awe is good for you. Studies show that people who experience awe have increased life satisfaction; they also tend to be more generous and less aggressive.
- it’s actually possible to reach beyond the peak – and that’s where transcendence comes in. Transcendence is not just one aspect of your life – it’s about the entirety of your existence.
- Transcendence is about being the best version of yourself, mobilizing all your resources in service of this version, and integrating them in a way that raises the standard for the whole of humanity.
- Transcendent values leave deficiency needs behind. They’re what you can aspire to when you’re no longer motivated by lack, whether a lack of self-esteem or a lack of love. And they also exceed self-fulfillment. Instead, people motivated by transcendent values are devoted to a calling beyond themselves. This can include ideals like justice, truth, meaning, goodness, or beauty.
- The paradox is that transcenders are not necessarily happy. They may often feel frustrated when they can’t realize their vision, or feel sadness about things like human cruelty. But they’re also better able to integrate the good and the bad sides of life, and to feel less regret. Experiencing transcendence means accepting different perspectives, and being open to challenges and aware of the uncertainty inherent in human life.