Abraham Maslow was the closest scholar of the mind to an Ecopsychologist that can be found if one thoroughly studies the twenty-first century insights into Psychology and behavior. To summarize his impact, and how it differs from the contributions of others in the Behavioral field, Maslow was simply able to realize that people with basic needs met, and fewer judgments against them from others, are better able to cope, to learn to interpret factual reality, and to find acceptance of self, others, and the structure of society and earth.
He called our highest self actualization experiences “peak experiences.” When one feels a kinship, a belonging, and a “one-ness” with the Universe, a peak experience within a self actualized person is possible.
Today, although it is the wrong terminology, Ecopsychology is called an “emerging” field.” In Science, new concepts, whether based on the laws of nature, biology, or human interpretation are slow to change. We are still fighting the theory of Evolution, for example, two hundred years after Darwin was born! Ecopsychology is simply the idea that as humans we are more than just in our mind, we are in the earth, and the earth is in us, affecting thoughts, behavior, belonging, health and well being. Maslow knew intrinsically, that belonging to a structure, a sensible system, greater than ourselves, makes us healthier.
Maslow made considerable insights into our natural tendencies because he recognized that people will act upon motives. He realized that basic needs, shelter, food, health, and so on, must be addressed before one can move on to the next rung of the ladder of needs in order to become fully “self actualized.”
He studied people from every walk of life, but he was particularly fascinated by those who have reached a level of achievement that reflects their ability to not only be aware of their gifts and talents, but to be able to have the security and confidence to act upon those qualities. He saw people such as Einstien and Ghandhi as “self actualized.”
Most of us go through life quite paralyzed by our constant need to feel acceptance and love from others. We are taught to be in a perpetual state of awareness of our shortcomings. This sense of inadequacy fuels the market for more products, but removes our connection to humanity, and the rest of the world. Maslow looked at our human motives and could see with acceptance and belonging we are able to attain our best “selves.” He saw, quite correctly, that shame and blame are the cause of many more problems, than they are solutions for the serenity that eludes us. We think finding someone to blame, or scapegoat will “help.”, but it just leads to conflict and alienation.
Today, we know that part of our physical, mental, and emotional health is tied to the external world we live in, our environment. That we are destructive to our own environments, with everything from addictions to pollution, tells us as a species we still have a way to go to “Self Actualize.” This is certainly a step in the right direction, in that Maslow, although he may have called it “more ability to see truth” clearly was able to see we tend to live in denial. We tend to tell white lies to fit in, to find acceptance. We mask our true feelings on a daily basis to be able to cope and function within culture.
When we move past prejudice, constant “tribal” style exclusion rituals, we will find that we all belong, and indeed share the same DNA, atoms, and carbon based life.
We, as a species, are on the path to self actualization, although some of us simply refer to it as “belonging and connecting.” We are on the path to more peak experiences, although we may just call that connection pointing the way toward insight. We have senses we ignore, and a place in the web of life.
Maslow, although an enormous nature lover did not make the complete leap to the realization of Biophilia, and our Biology, that tells us Psychology happens in more than just the mind. Psychology happens in the world, and in nature, and we are a species of that Biology. But Maslow was definitely on the right path, and were he still here, would likely be the first to recognize that Ecopsychology is the only true Psychology.