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More sunseekers: the self actualizing tendency

There’s been a monsoon overnight. Not so long ago the clay soil round here was cracked from drought. Hard to believe, as I squelched through a waterlogged field this morning.

These poppies remind me of Carl Rogers’ theory which consists of 19 propositions – specifically #6 which relates to the ‘self actualizing tendency’.

The organism has one basic tendency and striving – to actualize, maintain and enhance the experiencing organism

Exploring the concept of survival circuitry

*This post carries a thinking through writing warning*

To explore the survival circuit concept we are better to start from the inside out, or bottom up, literally. To make full sense of that you will have to read the full link to Professor Joseph LeDoux’s article ‘Hubris and The Tree of Life’, in which he informs us that inverterbrates tend to develop, embryologically, mouth first and that verterbrates (including those reading this) develop anus first.

The next extract from the article is the bit that relates to yesterday’s reblogged post concerning LeDoux’s proposed term of ‘survival circuits’ from the Why We Reason blog. LeDoux suggested in an essay last month that rather than try to map our emotional lives onto animals, we map the neurological responses we share with animals. Seems sensible to me.

Body parts change during evolution to help organisms cope with their environment in new ways. There are certain things that have to be accomplished in order to survive. For example, you have to be able to meet nutritional demands, keep your fluids up to date, and defend against danger. And for your species to survive you have to reproduce. This list probably applies to all organisms, and, to some extent, even to simple single cell creatures like bacteria.

We need to eat, drink, have an innate survival response and reproduce to meet the basic requirements of our animal selves. That’s it.

For a while now I have wondered if, rather than dividing emotions into positive and negatives, whilst mapping five (or more) ‘universal emotions’, there is only one basic innate default setting – fear of these survival needs not being met, or the flipside, which is the compulsion to meet them when they are offered. You are either switched on in terms of survival, or your immediate needs are met and you are off.

Everything else we might attribute to the human experience and label as a mood, an emotion, or a feeling is a cognitive, sociological and cultural construction that starts with a threat to survival or the opportunity to ensure survival.

Of course we know it is far more complicated as a subjective experience because our lives have evolved way beyond only getting the needs of the organism met, but it seems perfectly reasonable that on some level, every day, we are subject to the table thumping requirements of our basic organismic self.

This appears, at first glance to reinforce the annoying Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, but actually it does the opposite and means I can continue to deconstruct that wrong-minded theory later.

However I still need some lunch.

Tree of Life by Gustav Klimt, 1909

Same sky, different gravy



Like many of us, this post has rather lost its way. Better then to say so, than pretend to be anything more than that: a little bit dazed and confused, unhappy but trying to remain positive. Sitting by the shore having a bit of a think, a bit like this.

I have heard a waterscape described as a void, but one that reflects yourself back at you. Can it really be a void then? I don’t think we are surrounded with voids in nature, rather that we perhaps host them inside ourselves. Does a void ask questions, or does it just exist as something to continuously fill up?

Of course, I don’t know, I’m just asking.

Carl Roger’s self-actualisation involves unconditional positive regard for children. I think it’s important. I also think a 14 year old in a court of law is still a child, albeit a damaged one, even in today’s atmosphere of extreme retribution. If only we could swap retribution for reparation.

And then there’s Carl Jung and his theory of individuation, a more metaphysical approach to integrating the parts of ourselves. There’s no time to consider that at the moment beyond this quote.

“Trust that which gives you meaning and accept it as your guide.”

The Actualising Tendency

My NAP for today is that the single obdurate seed pod is eventually going to give in and float off to actualise itself into another cow parsley, or whatever.

And that’s all.