A New System of Dream Classification
©1999 Linda Lane Magallón
Chapter 1: Maslow the Man
Back of the Job–The Dreamer
Who’s making the dream come true.
There are several dreamwork techniques that purport to interpret a dream
without knowing anything about the dreamer. To me, this is nuts. It's like
trying to figure out what a person is like by dissecting his brain. Or by
wrapping his head in the tapestries of ancient history. A dream is not a thing,
it's the creative product of an organic being who lives in a particular
environment, a nest, if you will. I contend that you can't fully appreciate the
dream egg unless you know something about the context in which it appears. It
makes a difference whether the parents of the embryo are bird or snake, whether
the nest is located on the ground or in the tree tops.
So, before I present Abraham Maslow's scale of health, I'd like to tell you
something about the man behind the theory of human potential.
Abraham Maslow was an April Fool baby. Born 1908 in Brooklyn, NY, he was the
first of 7 children. Maslow considered his childhood terrible and unhappy. His
parent divorced when he was in college. After graduating from high school,
Maslow started law school because his father wanted him to become a lawyer. One
day a class was discussing how people should behave towards one another, from a
legal point of view. The discussion offended Maslow so much that he walked out,
leaving his books behind. He marched straight home and announced to the family
that he was quitting law school. When his father asked him what he *did* want to
study, Maslow replied, "Everything!"
Which, it seems, is exactly what he did. His checkered college experience
included study at several institutions and courses in agriculture, humanities,
social sciences and the sciences. At the University of Wisconsin, he discovered
behaviorist psychology and that set his career path. That same year, he went
home for Christmas and married his first cousin Bertha, over almost everyone's
objections. Eventually, they had two healthy daughters, Ann and Ellen.
Maslow completed education through his doctorate at Wisconsin. He was of
Jewish heritage, which made it very difficult to get a job. He applied for a
dozen teaching positions throughout the country with no success despite stellar
credentials and letters of recommendation. Desperate, the young husband enrolled
in med school and taught Introductory Psychology under a teaching fellowship.
But he hated learning the parts of the body by rote and he found it hard to
dissociate from the pain and distress of his patients in the medical clinic.
Instead, his heart was in experimental research. So most of his life he did that
and teach at the college level.
Eventually Maslow became chair of the Department of Psychology at Brandeis
University and was elected President of the American Psychological Association
(1967-68). He was a founder of both Humanistic Psychology and Transpersonal
Maslow suffered from an undiagnosed life-long physical weakness (he got a "D"
in ROTC). At one point he had to take a sabbatical and work for his family, who
owned a cooperage in Pleasanton, CA. (A cooperage makes the barrels for wine).
This is where he got first hand experience in business management. During his
last years he had a fellowship for research here in the Bay Area from the SAGA
Corporation. (SAGA is a food service company that manages college cafeterias).
Maslow died at home in Menlo Park on June 8, 1970 at age 62 from massive heart
failure while jogging in the California sun.
Maslow wasn't a militant, but his essential humanistic values showed up
early. During college, he walked off a summer job, with the entire staff this
time, because the boss was a liar and a rip-off artist.
At the time he studied psychology, the emphasis was on hard science. Maslow
took courses in physiology, chemistry, physics, statistics, zoology and animal
behavior. In the lab he learned to perform animal dissections and he did a good
job of it. He observed the behavior of apes and monkeys...not in deepest Africa,
I doubt he could have survived the physical rigor required...but at the best
local substitute, the Bronx Zoo. These innovative and well-respected studies in
animal sex and dominance brought him to the attention of the scientific
community and led him to human research on the same subjects.
But the birth of his first child changed him. "I'd say that anyone who had a
baby couldn't be a Behaviorist," he mused. "I looked at this tiny, mysterious
thing and felt...stunned by the mystery and by the sense of not really being in
control." Maslow realized that human beings couldn't be studied as scientists
study chemical reactions, stars and galaxies. The study of people required a
study of values.
Maslow was advocating quality over quantity, a very original perspective for
the time. His proposed master thesis had been on the psychology of music, a
subject he loved. But it was rejected as being too "soft-minded." Instead he had
to do traditional research, ringing bells and flashing cards in front of
students to test their memory and learning. Later, when he could, he shifted to
Whereas Freud had relied on case histories of a small sample of affluent
Viennese women psychiatric patients, Maslow first interviewed mid-class college
educated men and women. Like Freud, like Jung, he preferred the women! In fact,
since his study of female sexuality and dominance, he had been an advocate of
the rights of women to assert themselves in many areas of life, including the
intellectual. He thought raising children well came from emotional maturity, not
just from maternal instinct.
Maslow created the Social Personality Inventory. Stanford published it and it
became widely used in psychological research. But Maslow became very aware of
its limitations when he did fieldwork with the Blackfoot Indians in Canada. He
concluded that his list of personality traits "was ridiculously useless when
used to measure secure people."
Compared to the Blackfoot, Americans were very insecure, a finding recently
corroborated by Patricia Garfield when she compared the dreams of American
children with East Indian children. In her study, the older American children
reported almost no purely pleasant dreams, whereas the Indian children did not
stop having them as they grew up. She wondered, what happened to the Americans?
And she affirmed, as I do, that something could be done about it.
Maslow's second research tool, a test of whether people actually were secure
or insecure, did work across cultures. He became convinced that an insecure
person, no matter what the tradition, would tend to show the same general
characteristics of insecurity, such as the need to be empowered and a feeling of
uncertainty about the feelings of the people around him. Note that this second
approach relies less on outer behavior and more on inner perception and
feelings, just the sort of things that are reflected by dreams.
Because of his cross-cultural research, which extended well beyond the
Blackfoot, Maslow became friendly with anthropologists Ruth Benedict, Gregory
Bateson and Margaret Mead. Actually, his colleague and friendship network reads
like a "Who's Who" of the greatest thinkers of the time. Erich Fromm, Carl
Rogers, Victor Frankl, Rollo May, Ashley Montagu, Lewis Mumford, Paul Tillich,
Willis Harman, Arnold Mitchell, Robert Hartman, S. I Hayakawa. Although he
dearly treasured his privacy, clearly Maslow was not an recluse. He lived in
society, not just in his head.
His relationship with Esalen's Michael Murphy was like father and son.
Political activist Abbie Hoffman was his student. His daughter Ellen went to
work for Timothy Leary as an assistant in psychedelic research. She also joined
the Freedom Riders to fight for black voter registration in the Deep South. He
made friends with Betty Friedan, whose devoted nearly a chapter to Maslow's
humanistic approach as an alternative to Freud's demeaning view of women in her
book "The Feminine Mystique."
Maslow had studied under Max Wertheimer and Kurt Koffka, two of the
co-founders of Gestalt psychology. It was Wertheimer who argued that people
learn through insight, the "aha!" experience, so favored as a measure of
completion by dreamworkers today. Wertheimer also described what Maslow would
later come to call "peak experiences." These are moments when the individual
feels at his very best: moments of great awe, happiness, rapture, bliss or
Maslow also knew and studied with psychoanalyst Alfred Adler. In contrast to
Freud's gloom about the human condition, Adler taught that social institutions
could be reformed and revitalized for human betterment. Maslow took this lesson
But Maslow based his view most heavily on Karen Horney's neo-Freudian
outlook. Human beings have basic needs that must be fulfilled in order to be
healthy. He argued that early deprivation and frustration of any basic need
almost inevitably damages or emotionally cripples adult life.
He drew an analogy to vitamins. "At its core," he said, "a deficiency disease
(arises from) being deprived of certain satisfactions which I call needs in the
same sense that water and animo acids and calcium are needs, namely that their
absence produces illness." Whereas psychotherapy may help satisfy current and
future needs, it can't restore what was lost. It can't bring back the missed
opportunity to experience a normal life during that early period.
At one point Maslow identified with the child in the *Emperor's New Clothes.*
It was the child in that folk tale who alerted people to the fact that they were
living a delusion. "Never underestimate the power of a single individual to
affect the world," he said. "Remember, one candle in a cave lights everything."
Maslow had a pretty big candle. His most popular book, *Towards a Psychology
of Being,* was passed from hand to hand. From his work, many people were led to
careers in psychiatry. But Maslow said that the theory "needs a life situation
of the total human being" to confirm it.
Actually, it was the industrial situation. The job situation, rather than the
laboratory or the couch, served as verification and validation of his theory.
Maslow was sought after by corporations and government agencies interested in
fostering creativity in their employees, especially in such fields as
engineering and research and development.
Besides business management and marketing, his theory of motivation has
impacted nursing and health care, marriage counseling and education,
psychotherapy and theology. People in general have begun to form a more positive
view of human motivation and potential.
Maslow The Counselor
Despite his serious dedication to the cause of human actualization, Maslow
wasn't a cold intellect. He had a sense of humor and he could poke fun at
himself. Because of his essential warmth, Maslow made a good counselor to
college students. The students didn't have the time to devote to in-depth
analysis, but there was no proven alternative. So Maslow had to rely on reading,
on conversations with his analyst-friends and on his intuition to develop his
own techniques. Instead of lengthy Freudian free association, he used an
approach he called "lifting the lid off the repression."
Maslow described to the students many case studies in order to establish the
naturalness of their thoughts, feelings and behavior. Through his comments, he
created an environment of acceptance and reassurance. He pointed out that it
takes courage to recognize and deal with one's troublesome impulses and
But, true to his profession, he didn't just provide a safe place to talk.
Maslow gave out homework. He often gave students an outline to use so that they
could write out their problems, then bring the installment to him once a week
for his analysis and suggestions. "I also ask them...to keep a dream diary," he
Furthermore, Maslow urged students to go beyond reflection to action. He
suggested creative activities like art or music that could be uplifting or
calming: whatever was warranted.
Maslow was keenly aware that the source of much conflict came from selecting
a vocation that was a mismatch with personality. Or a course of study that
repressed talent, calling and potential development. In part, he developed his
theory of self-actualization from these encounters with the students.
Maslow The Teacher
As a teacher, Maslow was innovative. He invited students to his home to
discuss psychological issues. Because he believed that the best way to make
psychological theory come alive was to relate it to our own experiences, he had
each student write in advance something autobiographical, something about their
sexual history or dreams, and be prepared to share those comments with the
group. He believed that honest self-disclosure does much to remove anxiety and
awkwardness about such topics. (Sounds to me like he'd make a good community
Maslow's Own Dreams
Did Maslow pay attention to his own dreams? Yes. For one thing, he went
through psychoanalysis. Then there was the episode at Brandeis. Maslow co-taught
there with historian Frank Manuel. Maslow respected Manuel enormously, but the
team-teaching heightened the differences in their temperament and outlook.
Finally, Manuel left for New York University and Maslow was crushed. He reported
that he had frequent dreams of rejection for months after the bad news.
Maslow and ESP
Did Maslow pay attention to ESP? Yes. At Cornell he and his college buddies
conducted an ESP experiment in which he was the receiver. Much later in life
Maslow wrote a letter to famous parapsychologist J. B. Rhine suggesting that,
rather than to attempt fostering psychic communication between people who were
virtual strangers, it might be more advantageous to hold a telepathic experiment
between people who knew each other well.
Maslow and Groups
Yes, Maslow was not a hermit. He said that we should avoid making the "stupid
mistake of defining self as nothing but our reflections in an awful lot of
mirrors." For Maslow, the determinants of behavior were both interpersonal and
intrapersonal. Both private and social.
At Lake Arrowhead he observed T-groups (therapy groups/encounter groups)
experiencing from within and without. He concluded that feedback from others
leads to the experience of inner happenings in a form less chaotic or
frightening than a private experience might be.
Then he experimented in groups with interview and feedback techniques. Each
group member was a listener to one other member and a speaker to yet another.
Each played the part of patient and therapist. Like peer dreamwork groups. Or
the exercises I did in business management courses. Intimacy, exposure,
listening, expression were part of the mix of what he came to call "personal
development groups." He especially emphasized less structured communications. He
said, "...we need to be more poetic, more mythical, more metaphoric, more
archaic in the Jungian sense."
Maslow At Esalen
I've already mentioned that Maslow studied under 2 co-founders of Gestalt
psychology and he incorporated some of that theory into his own. I've already
told you that he treated Michael Murphy of Esalen like a son. He presented many
times at Esalen, the prime haven of encounter group therapy. He was pro-group
therapy and pro-Gestalt. I mention this again so you can appreciate the context
in which this next incident occurred.
One day Maslow came to Esalen to discuss peak experiences. He thought that by
bringing together a group of congenial people personally familiar with such
experiences and his own psychological theory, he could help build a meaningful,
shared language of transcendence. Rather like the lucid dreamers hashing out the
definition of lucid dreaming in their group meetings. At the time Gestalt
therapist Fritz Perls resided at Esalen, so reluctantly, Murphy invited him,
too. Talk about a recipe for disaster. Perls once called Maslow a "sugar-coated
After presenting his theory and its implications, Maslow started his
discussion of language with a simple example. "Take 'duty,' he began, "Now, how
would you define duty in a non-traditional way, a psychological meaning that
conveys self-actualization or health?" Silence. Then one person suggested that
duty can be thought of as fulfilling one's personal destiny, one's innate
potential; that is, the duty to yourself to be the best or truest you can be.
"Right," replied Maslow, "that's a good example."
"This is just like school," Perls exclaimed in a loud, sarcastic voice. "Here
is the teacher, and there is the pupil, giving the right answer." Maslow ignored
the jab and those Perls would level that evening and the next day. By nature,
Maslow avoided confrontation as much as possible. Nor did Murphy want to
challenge Perls, nor did anyone else. But that didn't stop Fritz Perls.
Next night, the atmosphere grew more and more strained as Maslow doggedly
continued his effort to develop transcendent language. Suddenly, Perls dropped
to the floor and began to make whining, infant-like sounds. Before the
astonished gathering, he slowly wrapped himself around Maslow's knees. Maslow
stared down in disbelief. Tersely, he told Murphy, "This begins to look like
The gathering broke up in confusion. Seething with unexpressed feelings,
Maslow stayed up into the late hours of the night. Writing down his angry
thoughts calmed him and eventually he fell asleep. Next day, he delivered an
impassioned speech in which he pointed out some of the problems at Esalen....like
putting up with delinquent behavior in the name of spontaneity.
This did not earn him any new friends. Some of those in attendance found
Maslow's passionate speech well-intentioned but annoying and paternalistic.
Others, like Murphy, respected Maslow for accurately diagnosing Esalen's chief
weakness: its lack of intellectual vitality. "Why is there no library at Esalen?"
Maslow had asked.
Perhaps his method was a mismatch with the touchy-feelie Esalen crowd, but
personally, I appreciate how Maslow instinctively zeroed in on the crux of a
recurring problem in psychology. Imbalance. Polarization and dichotomy. The
scientists versus the mystics. Right brain against left brain. Feeling and
thinking as enemies instead of collaborators in self-actualization.
*Garfield, P. *Your Child’s Dreams* (New York: Ballentine Books, 1984).
*Hoffman, E. *The Right to be Human* (Los Angeles, CA: Jeremy P. Tarcher, 1988).
*Maslow, A. H. *The Farther Reaches of Human Nature* (New York: Penguin Books,
*Maslow, A. H. *Future Visions: The unpublished papers of Abraham Maslow/editor,
Edward Hoffman* (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 1996).
*Maslow, A. H. *Motivation and Personality* (New York: Harper & Row, 1970).
*Maslow, A. H. *Towards a Psychology of Being,* (New York: Van Nostrand
*Maslow, A. H. with D. C. Stephens and G. Heil. *Maslow on Management* (New
York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1998).
*Stephens, A. *Private Myths: Dreams and Dreaming* (Cambridge, MA: Harvard
University Press, 1995).