John Suler's Photographic Psychology: Image and Psyche

- Self Actualization -

self actualization

In humanistic psychology, self-actualization is the ability to strive for the possibilities of what you can become. How can you develop your personal qualities, talents, and creativity to make life more enriching? Might you have potentials that you don’t yet even realize? Exploring these questions can be a lifelong process.

With much enthusiasm my daughter and I set out in the canoe to explore the other side of the lake. The sky was gray with a heavy layer of clouds, which meant possible rain, but we felt optimistic. We rowed energetically, pausing midway across the lake so I could take some shots. Literally just a few seconds later, a cloudburst released sheets of water that poured down onto us as we vigorously headed back to the dock. Even if a bit concerned about lightning, my daughter and I laughed about our predicament. I would have been more concerned about my camera, if not for the fact that I had quickly stashed it into the bag after the downpour started, and had been smart enough to bring my old inexpensive digicam, rather than my new Canon SLR.

To capture the spirit of self actualization, I used Photoshop to enhance the colors of the otherwise dull gray tones of a cloudy day. In some cases like this, I'd just boost the subtle hues provided by nature. In this image, I also added some color that was never there. Colors signify emotion, so eye-catching colors can convey the excitement and joy for life that self-actualizing people feel. We could even say that the post-processing strategy of transforming the gray tones of that ominous moment to bountiful colors captures how self-actualization can arise from dull lives and even unexpected adversity.

The receding lines and the balanced symmetry of the composition enhance the feeling of moving forward while remaining centered. Water symbolizing rebirth and rejuvenation, and crossing a lake symbolizing the adventure of traveling to new shores, help round out the expression of the self actualization concept.

Proud of my daughter's self-actualizing tendencies, I also like this view from the back that keeps her identity anonymous, allowing the viewer to identify with this process of traveling to a new place. That identification is magnified by our sitting in the canoe behind her, moving towards that promising horizon of who we can become.


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hierarchy of needs maslow

Hierarchy of Needs: A Theory of Human Motivation - Abraham Maslow

"When Abraham H. Maslow introduced the world to Humanistic Theory, a 'third force' in psychology was born (Behaviorism & Psychoanalytical theory being the first and second). As the name suggests, humanistic theory concerns itself with characteristics which are distinctly human.

Arguably the best known example of such a characteristic is Self-Actualization, an innate motivating force unique to the human species. It was in this landmark publication that Maslow provided the first published representation of Self-Actualization at the pinnicle of a hierarchy of human needs. According to Maslow Self-Actualization refers to the desire for self-fulfillment, in essence to become everything that one is capable of becoming.

This classic publication is essential reading for psychology students, educators and professionals." (available on Amazon)

Photographic Psychology: Image and Psyche