Self-Transcendence is the title of Chapter 4 in Victor Strecher’s Book, “Life on Purpose.” The Japanese have a word for “Life on Purpose” and that is ikigai, which is used in these posts because it has an earlier appearance in this blog and is shorter. It begins with two quotes.
The first is from Viktor Frankl, the psychiatrist who survived Auschwitz and helped fellow prisoners through the horror.
“Only to the extent that someone is living out this self-transcendence of human existence is he truly human or does he become his true self. He becomes so, not by concerning himself with his self’s actualization, but by forgetting himself and giving himself, overlooking himself and focusing outward.”
The second is from band member Chrissie Hyde.
“Make the other band members look and sound good. Bring out the best in them; that’s your job.”
Dr. Strecher writes, “This emphasis on individual’s own actualization heralded the “me generation”—baby boomers intent on jogging, dieting, and meditating (or navel-gazing, in the words of their detractors) to reach “self-realization” and “self-fulfillment.”
Viktor found this self-focus was narcissistic and ultimately detrimental to the self. He suggested that valid fulfillment in life occurs only when a person transcends the self. As was noted in an earlier blog, psychologist Abraham Maslow understood in the latter part of his career the importance of Frankl’s words. In 1969 he wrote, “The fully developed (and very fortunate) human being working under the best conditions tends to be motivated by values which transcend his self. They are not selfish anymore in the old sense of that term.”
Maslow found the “transcenders” were better able to see connections between disparate ideas, which make them better innovators and discoverers. He discovered that transcending scientists exhibited “humility, a sense of ignorance, a feeling of smallness, awe before the tremendousness of the universe.”
Dr. Strecher finds it remarkable that Abraham Maslow, at the pinnacle of his field, would change his hugely popular model, saying essentially, I was wrong.” Dr Strecher asks , “Who does that?”
Dr Stretcher notes that “It’s commonly believed that people are naturally selfish and need to be taught—by parents, schools, churches—to become transcending, altruistic, and empathic.” Isn’t being selfish most beneficial. If self-transcended is part of the nature of living things, wouldn’t animals act this way.
Dr. Strecher writes that the biologist Frans de Waal has shown altruistic behavior among dolphins, whales, elephants, chimpanzees, and bonobos and has concluded that “there is increasing evidence that the brain is hardwired for social connection, and that the same empathy mechanism propose to underlie human altruism may underlie the altruism of other animals.