How to Be a Self-Transcender

Individuals who consistently replace previous insights with fresh learning often find themselves entering profoundly transformative realms of Being that are perpetually in motion.

monarch butterfly on violet asters

Nature or Nurture?

I am convinced that mystics and others who persist in transcending their life circumstances are born with that soul urge—at least latently within them. We do not enter this life as a tabula rasa (a blank tablet).


From the time Maslow was four years old he was testing the validity of his mothers superstitions. His siblings showed no such proclivity, which was one reason why he felt like an oddball in his family.


Later, when he was intensely involved in various fields of psychology, he persistently transcended the conventional thinking to which many in those fields were committed. Instead, he synthesized new approaches to existing ideas and formulated entirely original theories.


Maslow was convinced that individuals could become more transcendent when they were made aware of their own peak experiences. He did have some success in moving people out of Deficiency-needs into clearer contact with the values and awareness of Being-cognition.

Always in Process

Actualizing our innate potential is a lifelong, evolutionary adventure. Although we may attain stages of personal development that are profoundly fulfilling and where we may abide for a period of time, Maslow observed that even healthy self-actualizers who show little or no preference for peak experiences still continue to learn and grow.


Individuals who consistently replace previous insights with fresh learning often find themselves entering profoundly transformative realms of Being that are perpetually in motion.

Shadow Work Is Essential
An important point to be made here is that even though many people seek and achieve peak experiences, they may not be functioning at a level of psychological health that supports true self-actualization or lasting self-transcendence.


We see this in what Maslows contemporary, Clare Graves, calls the green meme”—in which pluralism and post-modernism can actually delay or abort self-actualization when individuals become fixated on causes without continuing psychological development.


What is missing is shadow work” in which an individual learns to observe his or her conditioned responses and behaviors. A lot of deep psychological growth involves catching ones self in the act of behaving mechanically. As we become more conscious of our authentic self and increasingly attuned to the tricks of the false self, we can step back and observe even our deepest motivations.


This process can lead to the resolution of Deficiency needs. One important change can be the development of self-esteem that is not dependent upon the opinions of others.

The Difficulty of Metapathologies

Maslow observed that once we have tasted of the Being-realms sublime atmosphere, any subsequent thwarting of our higher-order needs can result in the psychological response he called metapathologies.


These conditions can be thought of as a soul sickness that is different from mental illness. When observed from the outside, metapathologies may appear to be the source of blocks to transcendence, but they are not. They are symptoms—the effects of denying our ability to embody the values of Being that function like needs. When those needs are not satisfied, we suffer.


Blocks to our communion with our Wise Inner Counselor may also result in metapathologies. These conditions can make us feel as if we are all alone in an alien universe, dying of thirst for a different kind of water than what everyone else is drinking.


Here is a short list of metapathologies taken from Maslows extensive observations:

•        Apathy

•        Boredom

•        Cynicism

•        Despair – discontent – disillusionment

•        Frustrated idealism

•        Hopelessness

•        Loss of zest for life

•        Nihilism

•        Sense of powerlessness

•        Wondering why you cannot seem to find the kindred souls who are your fellow travelers in life

Knowledge Can Liberate Us

Sometimes just learning about the existence of metapathologies can make all the difference in how we perceive ourselves. Sometimes the perspective of a counselor, mentor, life coach, or friend who has seen it all can alleviate the anxiety of feeling as if you are the only person in the world dealing with your issues.


One reason Maslow developed transpersonal psychology is that self-transcenders who are in the midst of metapathologies require the understanding of a therapist who is familiar with the intrinsic mysticism and metaneeds of Being-cognition. This approach is quite different from traditional psychoanalysis or other modalities that tend to medicate transpersonal burdens of the soul and spirit.

Finding Our Kindred Transcenders
Because not all self-actualizers are self-transcenders and not all individuals having peak experiences have attained the psychological development level of self-actualization, real self-transcenders can find it difficult to locate others who share the same intrinsic values.


In addition to being meta motivated by values of truth, goodness, and beauty, Maslow observed that self-transcenders tend to speak what he called “the language of Being” which he identified as being spoken by poets, mystics, and those who strongly identify as spiritual.


The good news is that once self-transcenders become aware of what makes them different from their self-actualizing family, friends, and colleagues, they are more likely to relax, champion their own unique values, and seek out others of like mind without feeling guilty for wanting more in terms of their psycho-social development.