One of my most memorable moments as a doctoral student in the 1960s occurred during a seminar in an advanced course on counseling psychology, taught by the most prestigious professor at the university. I, along with 11 others, studied the research and conclusions on self-actualization, including the specific characteristics of highly functioning people. These exceptional people, some of them historical figures, were called self-actualizers. The purpose of this advanced seminar was to teach us how to identify these traits and to help others embrace them to live fuller and more deeply passionate lives.
The traits of these self-actualizers included appreciation for beauty, sense of purpose, resistance to enculturation, welcoming the unknown, high enthusiasm, inner-directedness, detachment from outcome, independence of the good opinion of others, and absence of a compelling need to exert control over others. Each week we discussed the strategies we could employ as therapists to encourage clients to become self-actualized. At the halfway point of the semester, our distinguished professor gave the midterm examination, which consisted of only the following question: Continue Reading