Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Source
feel that they are capable of becoming. It is a difficult concept to put into words. Perhaps it is a longing for something to emerge from the depths of your being.
Before his death, Rabbi Zusya said, ‘In the coming world, they will not ask me, “Why were you not Moses?” They will ask me, “Why were you not Zusya?”’
Martin Buber, 1961, Tales of the Hasidim
Self-actualization can take many forms, depending on the individual. These variations may include the quest for knowledge, understanding, peace, self- fulfilment, meaning in life, or beauty… but the need for beauty is neither higher nor lower than the other needs at the top of the pyramid. Self-actu- alization needs aren’t hierarchically ordered.
Rogers and the path to personal growth Carl Rogers is one of the founders of the humanistic movement. He has written extensively on the stages through which people travel on their journey towards ‘becoming a person’. Rogers’ work was predominately based on his observations in the field of psychotherapy. However, he was increasingly interested in how people learn, how they exercise power and how they behave within organizations.
Rogers is an important researcher and writer for consultants, as his ‘client-centred approach’ to growth and development provides clues and cues as to how we as change agents might bring about growth and devel- opment with individuals within organizations. Rogers (1967) highlighted three crucial conditions for this to occur:
- Genuineness and congruence: to be aware of your own feelings, to be real, to be authentic. Rogers’ research showed that the more genuine and congruent the change agent is in the relationship, the greater the probability of change in the personality of the client.
- Unconditional positive regard: a genuine willingness to allow the client’s process to continue, and an acceptance of whatever feelings
The underpinning theory
are going on inside the client. Whatever feeling the client is experi- encing, be it anger, fear, hatred, then that is all right. It is saying that underneath all this the person is all right.
- Empathic understanding: in Rogers’ words, ‘ it is only as I understand the feelings and thoughts which seem so horrible to you, or so weak, or so sentimental, or so bizarre – it is only as I see them as you see them, and accept them and you, that you feel really free to explore all the hidden roots and frightening crannies of your inner and often buried experience.’
Rogers continues, ‘in trying to grasp and conceptualize the process of change… I gradually developed this concept of a process, discriminating seven stages in it’. The following are the consistently recurring qualities at each stage as described by Rogers:
- One: – an unwillingness to communicate about self, only externals; – no desire for change; – feelings neither recognized nor owned; – problems neither recognized nor perceived.
- Two: – expressions begin to flow; – feelings may be shown but not owned; – problems perceived but seen as external; – no sense of personal responsibility; – experience more in terms of the past not the present.
- Three: – a little talk about the self, but only as an object; – expression of feelings, but in the past; – non-acceptance of feelings; seen as bad, shameful, abnormal; – recognition of contradictions; – personal choice seen as ineffective.
- Four: – more intense past feelings; – occasional expression of current feelings; – distrust and fear of direct expression of feelings;
– a little acceptance of feelings; – possible current experiencing; – some discovery of personal constructs; – some feelings of self-responsibility in problems; – close relationships seen as dangerous; – some small risk-taking.
- Five: – feelings freely expressed in the present; – surprise and fright at emerging feelings; – increasing ownership of feelings; – increasing self-responsibility; – clear facing up to contradictions and incongruence.
- Six: – previously stuck feelings experienced in the here and now; – the self seen as less of an object, more of a feeling; – some physiological loosening; – some psychological loosening – that is, new ways of seeing the
world and the self; – incongruence between experience and awareness reduced.
- Seven: – new feelings experienced and accepted in the present; – basic trust in the process; – self becomes confidently felt in the process; – personal constructs reformulated but much less rigid; – strong feelings of choice and self-responsibility.
There are a number of key concepts that emerge from Rogers’ work which are important when managing change within organizations at an individual level:
- The creation of a facilitating environment, through authenticity, posi- tive regard and empathic understanding, enables growth and devel- opment to occur.
- Given this facilitating environment and the correct stance of the change agent, clients will be able to surface and work through any negative feelings they may have about the change.
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- Given this facilitating environment and the correct stance of the change agent, there will be a movement from rigidity to more fluidity in the client’s approach to thinking and feeling. This allows more creativity and risk-taking to occur.
- Given this facilitating environment and the correct stance of the change agent, clients will move towards accepting a greater degree of self-responsibility for their situation, enabling them to have more options from which to choose.
Gestalt approach to individual and organizational change
Gestalt therapy originated with Fritz Perls, who was interested in the here and now. Perls believed that a person’s difficulties today arise because of the way he or she is acting today, here and now. In Perls’s words:
[T]he goal… must be to give him the means with which he can solve his present problems and any that may arise tomorrow or next year. The tool is self-support, and this he achieves by dealing with himself and his problems with all the means presently at his command, right now. If he can be truly aware at every instant of himself and his actions on whatever level – fantasy, verbal or physical – he can see how he is producing his difficulties, he can see what his present difficulties are, and he can help himself to solve them in the present, in the here and now.
A consultant using a Gestalt approach has the primary aim of showing clients that they interrupt themselves in achieving what they want. Gestalt is experiential, not just based on talking, and there is an emphasis on doing, acting and feeling. Gestaltists use a cycle of experi- ence to map how individuals and groups enact their desires, but more often than not how they block themselves from completing the cycle as shown in Figure 1.11.
A favourite saying of Fritz Perls was to ‘get out of your mind and come to your senses’. Gestalt always begins with what one is experiencing in the here and now. Experiencing has as its basis what one is sensing. ‘Sensing determines the nature of awareness’ (Perls, Hefferline and Goodman, 1951).
What we sense outside of ourselves or within leads to awareness. Awareness comes when we alight or focus upon what we are experi- encing. Nevis (1998) describes it as ‘the spontaneous sensing of what arises or becomes figural, and it involves direct, immediate experience’. He gives a comprehensive list of the many things that we can be aware of at any one moment, including the following:
- what we sense: sights, sounds, textures, tastes, smells, kinaesthetic stimulations and so on;
- what we verbalize and visualize: thinking, planning, remembering, imagining and so on;
- what we feel: happiness, sadness, fearfulness, wonder, anger, pride, empathy, indifference, compassion, anxiety and so on;
- what we value: inclinations, judgements, conclusions, prejudices and so on;
- how we interact: participation patterns, communication styles, energy levels, norms and so on.
The underpinning theory
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Figure 1.11 The Gestalt cycle
Although your awareness can only ever be in the present, this awareness can include memory of the past, anticipation of the future, inner experi- ence and awareness of others and the environment.
Mobilization of energy occurs as awareness is focused on a specific facet. Imagine you have to give a piece of negative feedback to a colleague. As you focus on this challenge by bringing it into the foreground, you might start to feel butterflies in your stomach, or sweaty palms. This is like using a searchlight to illuminate a specific thing and bring it into full awareness. In Nevis’s terminology this brings about an ‘energized concern’.
This energy then needs to be released typically by doing something, by taking action, by making contact in and with the outside world. You give the feedback.
Closure might come when the colleague thanks you for the feedback and compliments you on the clarity and level of insight. Or perhaps you have an argument and agree to disagree. You will then experience a reduction in your energy, and will complete the cycle by having come to a resolution, with the object of attention fading into the background once more. The issue of the colleague’s performance becomes less important.
For real change to have occurred (either internally or out in the world) the full Gestalt cycle will need to have been experienced.
Nevis shows how the Gestalt cycle maps on to stages in managerial decision making:
Awareness Data generation, Seeking information, Sharing information, Reviewing past performance, Environmental scanning Energy/action Attempts to mobilize energy and interest in ideas or proposals, Supporting ideas presented by others, Identifying and experiencing differences and conflicts of competing interests or views, Supporting own position, Seeking maximum participation Contact Joining in a common objective, Common recognition of problem definition, Indications of understanding, not necessarily agreement, Choosing a course of possible future action Resolution/closure Testing, checking for common understanding, Reviewing what’s occurred, Acknowledgement of what’s been accomplished and what remains to be done, Identifying the meaning of the discussion, Generalizing from what’s been learned, Beginning to develop implementation and action plans