The Self-Actualizing Genius State
~ Article written by L. Michael Hall PhD ~
What does a person actually do or experience when he or she self-actualizes? Maslow identified eight things that we could add to our list of prerequisites for the “genius” state. In fact, because some of the following quotations wonderfully describe the genius state, I’ll start with those and then back up to identify Maslow’s eight steps or facets for self-actualizing.
The genius state is a creative state of being totally present. And as this happens, one’s Matrix of frames vanishes from awareness.
“The puzzle that I’m now trying to unravel is suggested by the observation that the creative person, in the inspirational phase of the creative furor, loses his past and his future and lives on in the moment. He is all there, totally immersed, fascinated and absorbed in the present, in the current situation, in the here-now, with the matter-in-hand.” [Italics added]
“This ability to become ‘lost in the present’ seems to be a sine qua non for creativeness of any kind. But also certain prerequisites of creativeness—in whatever realm—somehow have something to do with this ability to become timeless, selfless, outside of space, of society, of history.” (59)
“[Self-actualization] is always described as a loss of self or of ego, or sometimes as a transcendence of self. There is a fusion with the reality being observed (with the matter-in-hand), a oneness where there was a twoness, an integration of some sort of self with the non-self. . . . Little wonder that this shaking experience has so often been considered to be
superhuman, supernatural, so much greater and grander than anything conceivable as human that it could only be attributed to trans-human sources.” “One main characteristic of the peak experience is just this total fascination with the matter-
in-hand, this getting lost in the present, this detachment from time and place. And it seems to me now that much of what we have learned from the study of these peak experiences can be transferred quite directly to the enriched understanding of the here-now experience, of the creative attitude.” (60)
1) Focus and absolute absorption.
“Self-actualization means experiencing fully, vividly, selflessly, with full concentration and total absorption. It means experiencing without the self-consciousness of the adolescent.
At this moment of experiencing, the person is wholly and fully human.” (44) At such moments of absorption something else happens, something that actually facilitates the healing that we usually attribute to therapy. What? We forget our poses, defenses, shyness and simply “go for it.” The insight that Maslow discovered from this is incredible, “Absorption casts out fear.”
2) Choosing growth in small acts.
If we think about life as a process of choices, as choices between progression and regression, between defense and growth, then— “Self-actualization is an ongoing process; it means making each of the many single choices about wether to lie or to be honest, wether to steal or not to steal, and it means to make each of these choices as a growth choice.”
In Neuro-Semantics, we speak about meta-stating ourselves to a place above and beyond any and every experience until we step back from ourselves. It is at that point we have moved to the choice point. Whether we are running a quality control on our frames, an ecology check on the inter-relationships of ourselves holistically, or stepping up to our executive mind to create a pathway for our future, we are at the place of choice.
3) Discovering your own true likes and dislikes.
Self-actualization also involves discovering our inner self and letting that highest self emerge. How does this occur? We do this, in part, as we learn to listen to our own inner voice and not only to the voice of family, culture, tradition, authority, etc. When tasting wine we look not at the label or what others think, but savor the wine on our tongue and look
to “the Supreme Court” inside ourselves to see if we like it or not. “Do I like this?” “Do I dislike this?” “What do I think and feel?” This describes the growth from positing authority and evaluation externally and bringing it inside and owning it for ourselves.
4) Taking responsibility for oneself and one’s life.
The process of actualizing by looking within ourselves for answers implies taking responsibility. This “is in itself a great step toward actualization . . . Each time one takes responsibility, this is an actualizing of the self.”
“We have talked of experiencing without self-awareness, of making the growth choice rather than the fear choice, of listening to the impulse voices, and of being honest and taking responsibility. All these are steps toward self-actualization, and
all of them guarantee better life choices.” (45)
In Meta-State training we begin here by accessing our innate powers for responding to the world, then bringing awareness, acceptance, and ownership to those response-powers. Doing this creates the gestalt of responsibility—a step toward self-actualization.
5) Courageously learning to be oneself.
To listen to our own voice and tastes takes courage. To be honest with ourselves and with others takes courage.
“Making an honest statement involves daring to be different, unpopular, non-conformist. . . . To be courageous rather than afraid is another version of the samething.” (46)
This describes the part of self-actualizing that involves embracing change and challenge.
So the courage to be oneself is the courage to grow, to keep on learning, and to develop. We do this as we acknowledge our uniqueness and look within for what we have to give to the world.
6) Expending effort in an ongoing process.
Self-actualization is not only an end state, it is also the process of actualizing one’s potentialities at any time, in any amount. It may mean going through an arduous and demanding period of preparation in order to realize one’s possibilities. Self-actualization can consist of finger exercises at a piano keyboard. It’s about seeking to be as first-rate as
one can be. In this, the work and effort of discipline is part of self-actualizing.
7) Setting up conditions that make peak experiences more likely.
Because peak experiences are transient moments of self-actualization, they cannot be bought or guaranteed. What we can do is set up the conditions that make them more likely or eliminate the conditions that prevent them. Hence typically peak experiences are only transient moments of self-actualization. They are moments that we experience from time to time. The first step in making these peak experiences more likely is learning to recognize them. Once we have done that, then to acknowledge and honor them. The problem is that often they are such “small” things, a glorious sunset, a human touch of compassion, an act of
thoughtfulness, a rush of emotion of joy in playing with a dog. And in the adult world of schedules and paychecks, it is so easy to discount these things.
Using the meta-state process of the genius pattern, we learn to identify the internal conditions that make these states more likely to occur and re-occur. We also learn how to step in and out of them at will. After all, it is just a state. And so as with any state, there is a dynamic structure that makes it happen. This is what Neuro-Semantics has contributed to
flow—the ability to choose it.
8) Opening oneself up to self-discovery and knowledge.
So as we open ourselves up to ourselves—to our innate powers, to our unique gifts and talents, to our right to be ourselves and to be unique, it takes courage to both identify our typical defenses and to give up these defenses. And yet that courage is the pathway to self-actualization. Therefore it is repression, rejection, judgment, fear, avoidance, etc. that holds us back and that blocks becoming fully all that we can become. Conversely, it is the willingness to risk and to discover our full humanity, however fallible it is, that enables us to step into authenticity, into being more fully an authentic self.
In revisiting these writings from Maslow, I am amazed that it is upon Maslow’s shoulders and the Human Potential Movement that he, Carl Rogers, Rollo May and many, many others initiated that we stand on. Hence Maslow described what we today call the genius state and he even identified so many of the prerequisites:
oneself be attracted by mystery, by the unfamiliar, by the novel, by the ambiguous
The genius state is at the same time so very special and yet so common. We were born for it and naturally experienced it as children when we would get so lost in experiences. And what seemed to come to natural during childhood later becomes one of the most ecstatic and longed-for experiences in adulthood. Furthermore, as a state of engagement and absorption, the genius state becomes more and more demanding of us as we grow—demanding that we take the courage to let go of other things of importance (time, self, others, etc.) as we are “surprised by the joy”of the fascination that captures our attention and fits with our highest values and intentions.
Peak Experiences And The Flow State
What Maslow described as the peak experiences of self-actualizers and others later described as the flow state, we can now more precisely work with and predict. After all, when we can take charge of our own mind-body-emotion processes and access states and meta-states and build up the components and variables that make for a genius state, then we can access the state—stepping into it and out of it at will—at choice. We can also trust that it is our state, and that we can trust ourselves
that we won’t lose it or have to wait for it to magically appear.
Finally, this reflects the next step in human development, the ability to protect and re-access a genius state at will. And that, of course, is what Accessing Personal Genius is all about.
Interested in accessing your personal genius? contact us here