Is self-actualization a basic need?
There are many questions. The first: Is self-actualization a basic need of man? First, try to understand what is meant by self-actualization. A. H. Maslow has used this term “self-actualization.” Man is born as potentiality. He is not really actual – just potential. Man is born as a possibility, not as an actuality. He may become something; he may attain actualization of his potentiality or he may not attain. The opportunity may be used or it may not be used. And nature is not forcing you to become actual. You are free. You can choose to become actual; you can choose not to do anything about it. Man is born as a seed. Thus, no man is born fulfilled – just with the possibility of fulfillment.
If that is the case – and that is the case – then self-actualization becomes a basic need. Because unless you are fulfilled, unless you become what you can be or what you are meant to be, unless your destiny is fulfilled, unless you actually attain, unless your seed becomes a fulfilled tree, you will feel that you are missing something. And everyone is feeling, that he is missing something. That feeling of missing is really because of this, that you are not yet actual.
It is not really that you are missing riches or position, prestige or power. Even if you get whatsoever you demand – riches, power, prestige, anything – you will feel this constant sense of something missing within you, because this something missing is not related with anything outward. It is related with your inner growth. Unless you become fulfilled, unless you come to a realization, a flowering, unless you come to an inner satisfaction in which you feel, “Now this is what I was meant to be,” this sense of something missing will be felt. And you cannot destroy this feeling of something missing by anything else.
So self-actualization means a person has become what he was to become. He was born as a seed and now he has flowered. He has come to the complete growth, an inner growth, to the inner end. The moment you feel that all your potentialities have become actual, you will feel the peak of life, of love, of existence itself.
Abraham Maslow, who has used this term “self-actualization,” has also coined another term: “peak experience.” When one attains to oneself, he reaches a peak – a peak of bliss. Then there is no hankering after anything. He is totally content with himself. Now nothing is lacking; there is no desire, no demand, no movement. Whatsoever he is, he is totally content with himself. Self-actualization becomes a peak experience, and only a self-actualized person can attain peak experiences. Then whatsoever he touches, whatsoever he is doing or not doing – even just existing – is a peak experience for him; just to be is blissful. Then bliss is not concerned with anything outside, it is just a by-product of the inner growth.