Encyclopedia of Psychology and Religion

Living Edition
| Editors: David A. Leeming


  • Robin S. Brown
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-642-27771-9_9289-1

While most often associated with the humanistic psychology of Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow, the notion of self-actualization was first introduced by the German psychiatrist Kurt Goldstein. In developing a holistic theory of the personality significantly influenced by gestalt theory, Goldstein (1939) argues that individuals are naturally drawn to realize what he conceives as their own innate potential. Self-actualization can therefore be considered a theory of motivation, with the tendency to self-actualize posited as the basic drive around which all other needs organize themselves. Significantly, Goldstein’s original conception was not portrayed as a developmental goal, but rather as a ubiquitous factor serving to organize our basic relationship with the world. This aspect of Goldstein’s theory has perhaps come to be obscured by the way the notion of self-actualization later came to be popularized by Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow.

For Maslow (1943), self-actualization is construed...


Humanistic Psychology Late Vision Spiritual Tradition Gestalt Theory Buddhist Teaching 
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  1. Goldstein, K. (1939). The organism: A holistic approach to biology derived from the pathological date in man. New York: Zone Books.Google Scholar
  2. Maslow, A. H. (1943). Motivation and personality. New York: Harper.Google Scholar
  3. Maslow, A. H. (1971). The farther reaches of human nature. New York: Viking.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Teachers College, Columbia UniversityNew YorkUSA