Pursue What Matters
Episode 204: Book Review – Transcend
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Dr. Melissa Smith 0:00
Do you want to reach your potential? We all do, but how to do it can be a challenge. Join me as I review an excellent book about the new science of self actualization.
Hi, I’m Dr. Melissa Smith, welcome to the Pursue What Matters podcast where we focus on what it takes to thrive in love and work. So I have another book review for you this month, the end of the month, it’s that time. And this book is something I’ve certainly referenced before in the podcast. It’s so full of really good, useful information. And so the book I have for you, is transcend the new science of self actualization. It’s by Scott Barry Kaufman, PhD. He’s a psychologist, he has a very popular podcast, I think it’s called the psychology podcast. Anyway. So if you like some of the topics that we cover today, maybe check out his podcast, it’s very popular, it’s very geeky. So if you’re into psychology, it’s really fun. But it’s also got lots of great concepts that are just helpful for every day living. Okay, so let’s, let’s learn a little bit more about the book. So this is a bold reimagining of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, with new insights for living your most fulfilled and connected life. So many of you have probably heard of Abraham Maslow. And if you haven’t heard of him, you’ve probably heard of the hierarchy of needs, you probably learned about it in psychology, 101, or in high school psychology, think about the pyramid, where we think about our basic safety needs are at the base of that pyramid. And then as we get those basic needs met, we move up that pyramid we move up that hierarchy where we get needs met for self esteem and for love and connection and purpose and meaning. Now, the funny thing is, Maslow never talked about this as a pyramid. And so you know, it’s the message that has been sent isn’t really consistent with Maslow’s research. And so transcend really takes Maslow’s research and then all of the decades of research since Maslow, and really brings us a new comprehensive model for understanding self actualization.
Okay, so when psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman first discovered Maslow’s unfinished theory, so that’s important to keep in mind of transcendence sprinkled throughout a cache of unpublished writings, he felt a deep resonance with his own work and life.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 the furthest reaches of human potential, and integrating the latest research on Attachment, creativity, purpose, and other building blocks of a life well lived. And so that’s really what this this book does really well. It talks about, how do we have a life well lived. He talks about purpose, he talks about creativity. He talks about growth, he talks about love and intimacy. It’s a really powerful book. I hope that you enjoy it as much as I did. So just a quote to get us going on this from Ervin de Yalom. He wrote the book that’s known as the Bible on group therapy. He said, Maslow is destined, in my view to be rediscovered many times before the richness of his thought is fully assimilated. So now let’s learn a little bit more about Scott Barry Kaufman. So again, he’s a psychologist who’s taught at Columbia, University of Pennsylvania, New York University and elsewhere. He writes the column beautiful minds for Scientific American and hosts the psychology podcast, and it’s a really fun podcast, so I would highly recommend it. It’s received more than 10 million downloads. This book was written in 2020. So I’m sure he’s had more downloads since then. And so he he collects the research of Maslow, he also conducts his own research. And that’s really what you see here in this book. So now let’s hear what others are saying about the book. So from Angela Duckworth, she is the researcher and our author of grit. So what a masterpiece Maslow, 2.0 a must read for anyone who wants to understand what Maslow meant by self transcendence, part biography, part treatise part how to guide, I loved it. And so when you think about transcendence, I just want you to think about it. What helps us to reach our full potential what helps us to have greater wellbeing. And so there are lots of components to this. But that’s really the heart of what we’re what we’re looking at. And then from Adam Grant, who I really like he said, Scott Barry Kaufman does a first rate job, restoring the classic pyramid based on Maslow’s own revisions, and updating self actualization in light of contemporary science. And then from Ryan Holiday, Scott, Barry Kaufman is one of my favorite thinkers about the psychology of getting better and growing as a person. So of course, I’m not going to try and do a full summary of the book. But I do want to just share some highlights that I think can be really helpful.
So one of the things that we think about with Maslow and his work, so he was very influential, you can think about the influence of Freud and a view, and Maslow, all kind of around the same same sorts of contributions to psychology. And Maslow really pointed to what later would become the third wave of psychology. It’s, it’s known as the third wave of psychology, and that is positive psychology. And it’s really asking the question, how do we reach our potential as humans, what increases our well being? And this third wave of psychology was a huge shift in psychology, because before that, psychology was very clinic clinical based, it was very deficit based. So it was looking at pervasive mental illness, it was taking a very, a very medical view of individuals and wasn’t really looking at normative development. It wasn’t looking at our growth potential. And NASA was really the first psychologists that started paying attention to how do we reach our potential, what increases our well being. And of course, since then, we have had this third wave of psychology that has exploded, Martin Seligman really started a lot of that foundational research. And now it’s just it’s blossomed, and it’s very, very cool. And so one of the things that we learn in the book that conference spends, it’s kind of the foundation of the book is thinking about two categories of needs, known as security needs, and growth needs. So when we think about security, we’ve got three components that he really pays attention to. And these are really kind of how the book is organized. So first is safety. And that’s when we think about secure attachment. Kaufmann says there’s no such thing as a completely securely attached person. All of us are at least a little bit anxious and avoidant, when stress rears its head in our relationships. And so with safety, he talks about attachment and attachment styles, which is a really good discussion. The next component that helps to build security is connection. And so when we have our physiological and safety needs met, then we really can emerge into love and affection, and belongingness needs. Now I’m going to be doing a whole podcast on belonging. So I’m excited to share more of that with you. But Kaufmann says, when one feels belonging, one feels accepted and seen. And when one is deprived of belonging, one feels rejected and invisible.
So the third component of security needs is self esteem. And Maslow teaches about healthy self esteem. He said, all people in our society have a need or desire for a stable, firmly based, usually high evaluation of themselves for self respect, for self esteem, and for the esteem of others. And that was Maslow that that taught that and, and that’s very true, right? If you just think anecdotally about your own experience. If you think low of yourself, it’s hard for you to have wellbeing, it’s hard for you to connect and to have loving connection in your life. And so having healthy self esteem is one of the strongest correlates of life satisfaction. So people who have healthy self esteem, have higher life satisfaction. And then we know that low self esteem is one of the biggest risk factors for depression. And so those are the three components of our security needs. Safety, which includes attachment connection, and then self esteem. So now let’s look at the second category of needs that Kauffman really explores in the book. And those are the growth needs and when The growth needs, there are three components of that. So first we have exploration. Second, we have love. And third, we have purpose. So with exploration, what Maslow taught and what the research really points to, is that as humans, we have a need for exploration, that desire to seek out and make sense of novel challenging, and uncertain information and experiences. It is an irreducible fundamental need. And that’s what Kaufman teaches in the book. So we know that coping with uncertainty is a big challenge in life, and one that for sure can bring a lot of anxiety. But uncertainty also has its delights. Think about travel, think about visiting a new country, think about signing up for an obstacle course or race. We, as humans, seek novelty, now we need that novelty balance with predictability, but exploration is core to our human needs. So you know, it’s often necessary to leave the safety of familiarity, at least to some extent, in order to grow. Now, you know, I can just think about my own life. And the moments where I’ve had the most growth have been when I have moved out of my comfort zone, right, I can think about moving away for college as being a high growth period, during graduate school where it’s all new and foreign, it was like a whole new world and that we need exploration in order to grow. And the other thing that Kaufmann teaches is that it takes courage to grow, right, because we have to cope with uncertainty, we have to cope with the risk. And so if you’re highly risk aversive, if you are high anxiety, it can be hard for you to explore. So you’re gonna need to push yourself a little bit more on that. And then the second component of the growth needs is love.
So from Erich Fromm: Love is the only sane and satisfactory answer to the problem of human existence. I love it. Love is what it’s all about. And so what Maslow found in a clinical study of healthier people who have their love need satisfied, so right they, they report, lots of love in their life, they need less to receive love. So they’re less needy, right, they’re more grounded within themselves. And here’s the other good news, they are more able to give love. So they’re free with their love, they have empathy and care for others. And so in this sense, they are more loving people. So in the upcoming podcast about belonging, I’m going to talk more about the B realm need or be love. I talked about that also with the three questions for getting your needs met. So when we when we think about love in terms of growth, we don’t need to receive love except in steady small maintenance doses. And, and so right like when we have a baseline of love in our lives, we can go without it for a little bit. But when we have a deficit of love, it makes us very needy it it moves us to tunnel vision. And so instead of needing growth, love is admiring instead of striving for satiation, growth love is, it usually grows rather than disappears. And you know, this kind of growth, love is really enjoyable. So Sharon Salzberg, who is a Zen teacher, she talks about real love, and it’s this innate capacity we each have to love in this everyday sort of love. Recognizing that love is a freely given gift. We all have deep reservoirs of love within us that we can tap into anytime to generate even more love in our lives. And so that is the second component of those growth needs. And then the third component of the growth needs is purpose. I love this one. The need for purpose can be defined as the need for an overarching aspiration that energizes one’s efforts and provides a central source of meaning and significance in one’s life. Because if you are living your life just for you, you’re not going to be happy, you’re not going to have good well being. Having a purpose can often often causes a fundamental reordering, of the most central motives associated with the soul. Think about, for those of you who have children, the moment you have your first child, your life is reordered. Everything shifts. And you know, parenting while challenging is one of the most purpose driven and meaningful activities we can engage in as humans. So those who are most self actualized pursued their calling, not happiness. That reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from Viktor Frankl who says, those who pursue success will inevitably fail and he says that it As much like happiness, if we pursue happiness, we’re not going to find it. happiness and success are the byproduct of committing yourself to a purpose greater than yourself that can be to another person that can be to a meaningful mission. Purpose is energizing, it moves you beyond yourself. And Nietzsche said, He who has a why to live, can bear almost anyhow. And this, of course, became Victor Frankel’s motto, when he was in the concentration camps. Of course, his book Man’s Search for Meaning. This sense of meaning and purpose, is what carried him through and helped him to survive the very incredible and incredibly difficult situations that he found himself in. So having a calling called into the future, can be can really help us to have greater wellbeing in our lives. And so there is a little snapshot of the book transcend. Again, it has so much great research, so many really wonderful nuggets. And so again, we think about two classes of needs, security needs and growth needs. And within security. The components of that include safety, connection and self esteem. Within growth they include, it includes exploration, love, and purpose. And that when we have all of these in place, we’ll move towards transcendence, the heights of human potential where we can contribute at our highest level, where we’re living to purpose, we have more creativity, we’re more effective and productive.
And so I would highly recommend this book I have, I can’t tell you how many times I have referenced it, both in my personal life and professionally, it’s really an excellent resource. So head on over to my website to check out the show notes with the resources for this episode at www.drmelissasmith.com/204-transcendbookreview. So I will link to the book and also to Kaufman’s podcast psychology podcast is a really great resource. And I would love it if you would review the podcast on Apple or Spotify and connect with me on Instagram @dr.melissasmith I’m always sharing more resources related to the podcast that I hope can be helpful for you. In the meantime, I’m Dr. Melissa Smith. Remember love and work, work and love. That’s all there is. Until next time, take good care.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai