BEING COGNITION 1 (B-COGNITION)
in humanistic psychology, a new type of cognition which leads to fully experiencing and realizing one's self (self-actualization, B-cognition) in contrast to a mere perception of every day reality (D-cognition). Its two forms include that of an awareness of the universe along with the interrelatedness of everything and that of complete focus on the object of one's attention. First described by American psychologist Abaham Maslow (1908-1970). See peak experience.
Abraham Maslow: Toward a Psychology of Being
University of Tennessee-Knoxville
Psychology 4103: Independent Study
In Toward a Psychology of Being (New York: D. Van Nostrand Co., Second Edition, 1968), Abraham Maslow proposes a new, empirical, naturalistic, descriptive science of man that will provide a definition of humanity helpful normatively in producing better, more human humans and thus a better world – the "One Good World" (v). This new science, variously known as Humanistic Psychology, Growth or Self-Actualizing Psychology, is, Maslow claims, a part of an intellectual revolution of the Copernican sort, implying as it does a new view of man and his potentialities (iii). The new concept is not a static one, but views man as both Being and Becoming, both actuality and potentiality. (10). Maslow emphasizes Being in order to get away from both the means-orientation of the mentality of "preparing to live" rather than living (44), and the Deficiency-psychologies that emphasize sickness and pathology rather than health and positive growth. In this book, Maslow makes use of empirical evidence provided by the altered states of consciousness that he calls "peak-experiences" and states of Being-cognition in composing his new concept of man and of mental health.
The basic assumption which Maslow makes is that man is not totally self-defining or essentially free, but has a nature that is in part given and is thus to be uncovered and a actualized. This nature, furthermore, is not intrinsically evil, but either "neutral" or positively good (3). Part of this nature is what Maslow terms a "will to health" which urges one to grow, to develop one's potential, to actualize one's unique inner nature and thus to realize one's identity (193). If one represses this urge or denies growth, one will experience an "intrinsic guilt" that is a natural feeling of self-betrayal and distinct from the guilt of a Freudian conscience (195). However, there is also an opposing urge, which is the basic (physical) need for safety and security operating on a psychological level as a fear of growth and a defensive regression to the safety of the familiar past. This fear of going forward into new situations prevents growth (46).
Maslow's rather Greek definition of man is as a being whose nature it is to realize, to live according to, its own nature. But to move toward ever-higher self-actualization first requires fulfillment of basic needs and thus transcending one's environment. The basic needs are: life, safety and security, belongingness and love, respect, and self-esteem (3, 25). These lower needs must be satisfied from interaction with the environment and with others, Maslow claims, and as long as they are deficient one is dependent on the environment and others and thus incapable of higher actualization (34). The basic needs are related to each other hierarchically, so that the fulfillment of one leads to and allows work toward fulfillment of the next-higher one (30). Once fulfilled in these needs, the individual can turn to higher realization in a state of independence from the environment – realization that involves self-direction (34)
The satisfaction of the higher need (self-actualization) is not just another level, but the purpose of one's whole life (33). Therefore, it is important to be oriented to the present, and no only toward the future, since growth is not goal-oriented (as the goal of full realization cannot be achieved) but is an intrinsic value and end in itself.
Until one has satisfied the basic needs, one's outer- and other-dependence can potentially become an anxious dependence ultimately producing hostility (34). Other effects of need-deficits include limited awareness and perception, and in general the frustration of all higher needs than the ones that have been fulfilled. If one needs love, for example, one will relate to others as potential "need-gratifiers" to be used, and so one does not appreciate the uniqueness of the other or perceive and relate to the other as a person (36).
An achievement of self-actualizing persons is the ability to more fully experience reality as it is in itself, not just as a reflection of one's unfulfilled wishes (40-1). But this "choiceless awareness" or "disinterested perception," which is growth-motivated and not deficiency-motivated, is not achieved through effort, but comes as a natural aesthetic sensitivity (41). Such awareness is part of what Maslow generally calls Being-cognition.
Being-cognition is a higher need, a need to know both oneself and the world. But restraining such knowledge is the fear to know, a restraint that prevents us from seeing unpleasant truths about ourselves that would endanger our necessary self-esteem (60). Growth, including increased knowledge, must therefore advance carefully, balancing the fear to know with the need to know, the urge for higher growth through new experience with the anxiety of leaving too suddenly the safety of the familiar. Thus a certain amount of "regression" or stasis ("coasting" (172)) is advisable. With the satisfaction of the need for love, a new kind of Being-love is possible through which enhanced cognition takes place – Being-cognition (73).
Sometimes a special state of higher consciousness is possible, or happens, which is called a "peak-experience." Maslow characterizes such experiences as some length. For example, the experience (which is basically he same as the mystical experience and also shares certain qualities with aesthetic experience) is self-validating through its intrinsic; is always good and never evil or fearful; involves a distortion or cessation of the sense of space and time; sometimes involves an experience of the world as a unity and as a living entity, etc. (79, 80, 81, 88, 94). Being-cognition, in the peak-experience and in the daily lives of the progressively self-actualizing, involves a dialectic awareness that sees both concretely and abstractly at the same time, and which is able to see beyond normal polarities and contradictions (89, 91). Further, the barrier between the inner and outer breaks down, and, in a peak-experience, there is sometimes an egolessness in which one is totally aware without being self-aware (95, 79). One of the more positive results of such experiences is a greater intrapsychic integration in the direction of an acceptance of those aspects of one's inner nature that had previously been repressed – specifically, there is a union of the ego, id, super-ego and ego-ideal, of conscious and unconscious, of the primary and secondary process (96). Peak-experiences are, then, "acute identity-experiences" (Chapter 7) in which one has insight into one's own nature and, isomorphically, into the nature of existence.
Maslow gives special attention to another aspect of the self-actualizing person: creativity. This creativity is not a conscious development but is a natural and spontaneous overflow. As such, he calls it primary (process) creativity, or Dionysian creativity, to distinguish it form secondary (process) creativity of the Apollonian, consciously created type (143-4). The creativity of artists is an "integrative" creativity that is a dialectic of the Apollonian and Dionysian (144). But these terms apply to the psyche more generally than just to the creative aspects; or, rather, creativity is a more far-reaching quality than one of just artistic activity. For in one's psychic development one is usually split into cognitive (Apollonian and conative (Dionysian) halves of the personality. This split is caused and widened in the child by any double-bind situation in which he is forced to choose between the fulfillment of his own wishes and the obedience of the wishes or demands of others (on whom he is dependent)(51-2). The result of this split is the repression of the conative or impulsive, which naturally leads to anxiety or frustration. The goal of psychoanalysis is to heal this split through insight, and so therapy is integrative (142). The healing f the internal spit is isomorphically the integration of the person with the perceived world, resulting in greater health, wholeness, and well-being. The self-acceptance that this involves, greater wholeness and integration within, will naturally lead to increased creativity and spontaneity (141).
Creativity, as "a special kind of perceptiveness" (137), is, in general, an aesthetic sense of what is right or appropriate in terms of action in accordance with the external situation and internal impulse (191). This sense of the aesthetic or artistic in life is very close to that of Aristotle. (In Greek, art means "to fit.") For the Greeks, of course, the good was identical with the true and the beautiful, and Maslow likewise places faith in man's natural ability to make right decisions in response to true perceptions.
I have no real criticism of Maslow. His optimism, of course, is refreshing after the bleak morbidity in which Ernest Becker was trapped (in The Denial of Death) and the tedious anality of Norman Brown's sublime edifice (in Life Against Death). My only misgiving about Maslow is with his scientific orientation and his insistence that such characteristics of health as "democratic character structure" and "ability to love" are "objectively describable and measurable" (157). He also holds that to be without a system of values (not just an aesthetic or moral sense of what is right, but a cognitive framework) and/or a religion or religion-surrogate is to be psychopathogenic (a point of agreement with Becker)(206). This I question, although I grant that ordinary (deficient or non-being) cognition is sometimes necessary (203) though best guided by the intuitive insights of Being-cognition. Krishnamurti and other mystics would deny having a system of values or beliefs, much less a religion-surrogate. But this is a minor point in Maslow's psychology.
A look at Being-Cognition and Deficiency Cognition-Theatrical Smoke
Abraham Maslow studied self-actualized people–highly evolved people, you might say, advanced in their thinking, sophisticated in their humanity, expressive, expansive, generous, loving, confident, healthy, gifted, alert–and what made them special. In particular he focused on the way they perceived.
He thought they knew things in a different way, which he called B-Cognition, short for Being-Cognition. In B-Cognition, the individual perceives the object as if the individual were part of the object. A loving, universalizing, interrelated way of knowing. Knowing the object so well that you discover in it yourself, or links to yourself, and through those links, you intuit more links–to everything.
A way of looking or knowing that encompasses the object’s existence and your own existence and so is also a kind of being, hence the name. A way of knowing that radiates love, joy, contentedness, acceptance, appreciation, forgiveness to those in contact with the individual.
The great people manage to exist in B-Cognition; the rest of us get in there now and then: in the process of artistic creation, listening to music, in meditation or in mindful moments, walking in the woods, in a moment of “flow,” or generally, in moments of being teased out of routine cares by things.
Maslow distinguishes B-Cognition from D-Cognition, which we all use all the time, to my everlasting chagrin. This is Deficit-Cognition, perceiving in a way that separates the looker from the looked-at. Judging, categorizing, assigning relative value, assessing relevance, bracketing off, determining usefulness or beauty, investigating logical truth, etc.
D-Cognition is the lens through which we see each other and the world: “To what extent is this thing useful to me?” we are asking at some level every time we perceive anything. Or perhaps the question we ask ourselves has another form, too, coming from a position of anxiety: “Will this thing impede or injure me? Expose a vulnerability?”
If you pay attention to the flicker of thought in your mind and in the faces of others as you meet them in the street or in the office (imagine doing this!), you’ll see D-Cognition at work. Instantaneous judgements and rankings and assessments and associated thoughts and anxieties well up with every glance, no matter how fleeting.
I think D-Cognition is basically the only perceptory apparatus of the workplace, which is logical, I suppose, because the prevailing idea at work is that we are practical, efficient, and attuned to the bottom line, and we need to judge, judge, judge, judge. Or be judged.
In aesthetic and academic circles I think there might be a little more room for B-Cognition. A scholar writing about Wordsworth, for instance (I picked him on purpose!), I hope, is (or was at some point) motivated by a B-Cognition-like experience of (or with) the text. Of course she then writes about it and has to defend her writing against other scholars and other interpretations and in creeps D-Cognition.
Maslow’s study of perception connects with other similarly-oriented ways of thinking. My personal saint and philosopher, Henri Bergson, always sought “pure perception,” for instance, which was to be achieved by intuition, a penetrative, organic, knowing-from-within, like B-Cognition. I remember writing in my Master’s thesis decades back about the experience of using intuition on a text and hypothesizing that at some point down in the trenches of that perception you were seeing yourself or seeing an interplay between yourself and the text that changed both. Some kind of quantum effect.
B-Cognition is also a good way to describe the goal of mindfulness and meditation, very popular now (and deservedly so) in our frazzled, overloaded, hyper-material, people-argue-with-each-other-on-TV, tabloid-y culture. These activities, coming out of the Buddhist tradition, focus your attention to your inner experience of life in the moment; and one of the key points, as you come to know yourself, is to come to know yourself as existing in a kind of suspension of selves, one big oneness. Mindfulness chips away at the unhealthy personal and interpersonal effects of D-Cognition and aims to get you to the place where you can radiate in all directions the kind of contentedness and love that Maslow’s modern Buddhas did.
B-Cognition and mindfulness also align with Constructive Developmental Psychology, which I’ve mentioned a few times, and in particular with the fabulous 5th stage of Robert Kegan’s hierarchy of epistemological sophistication. This is the stage where your interest in being a “self” fades and you begin to take very seriously other selves and relations between selves. You laugh happily at your own fallibilities, which you would never do if you were trying to keep your you-ness intact. And of course they align with all those wonderful, inscrutable, contradictory, healing messages from thinkers and artists working along the same lines. Walt Whitman, of course. Maybe something in the Cubists. Etc.
I like the path Maslow took — starting with a psychological investigation more or less according to the way of Western science (although feeling perhaps more like archaeology than psychology?), he ended up confirming what he was seeing by drawing similar connections to thought in non-western-scientific containers: religion, philosophy, aesthetics, literature.
One last point that I think is key. In B-Cognition, we have the data of D-Cognition, plus much more. It is not that we suddenly lose our ability to discern or to think; B is not intellectually inferior to D. Those D-data are all there, but contextualized, re-membered, put back together, held together with contradictory information, resolved, understood in a different way by an epistemology at a higher order of complexity. A small piece replaced in a big puzzle.
For myself I’m about getting more B-Cognition to the people. At work, in life. On a personal level, on a local level, on a national level. B-Cognition of others, and maybe more importantly, of themselves. Appreciation of B-Cognition. Restitution of wholeness and relatedness in the deconstructed and compartmentalized lives of people.-wedaman.wordpress.com
Toward a Psychology of Being says that being-cognition is when a person perceives from a context of being, not neediness, not clouded by deficiency-cognition. And deficiency-cognition is when a person perceives from a context of neediness, not being. Maslow says that if a kid gets really secure, he'll be ripe to take the risks of exploring and learning, and he'll want to "find out for himself" (i.e., adventuring). If a kid is insecure, he'll stay right there with his caregiver, shy and afraid, as the risk of exploration would be too scary. Maslovian deficiency-cognition has people seeing according to their needs until their needs are filled, at which point there can be seeing from their beings rather than their needs—at which point they can see what is: truth. Self-actualization depends upon growth and maturity, which in turn depends upon security, which in turn depends upon needs being met, which in turn depends upon a combination of parenting strategy viability, adequate human resources, adequate choices being given to our young, and the availability of good examples to emulate.
Maslow says that "Man's instincts towards growth are weak rather than strong, and thus growth tendencies can be easily stifled by bad habits, a poor cultural environment, or inadequate—even erroneous—education. . . . There has been a strong tendency in Western cultures to fear instincts, to believe they are all animalistic and bad. Freud and many Christian theorists have stressed the negative aspects of human instincts, and, as a result, we have a culture emphasizing controls and negative motivation rather than positive motivation. . . . For the healthy children in the healthy environment, growth seems to be encouraged by giving the children freedom to explore and freedom to learn through trial and error. The same applies to the adult. Overprotection and coddling can easily become growth-inhibiting; people need to learn to make their own choices; when the choices are constantly being made by others, growth will certainly be inhibited. . . . If the entire human species has the same basic needs, then it follows that self-understanding leads to understanding of the entire human species."
Maslow says the autonomous do not often find other autonomous beings, even though they desire to and would strengthen their own autonomy by such a discovery. (David Riesman says the same in Individualism Reconsidered.) He also bewails the fact that some nearly autonomous people get “leveled” by the masses—the forces of indirect self-acceptance (as found in The Adjusted American: Normal Neurosis in the Individual and Society) and other-direction (as in other-directeds in The Lonely Crowd) pull them back into the realm of the conformists who no longer choose but go along to get along. Facebook is a classic force of other-direction for the vast majority of its users.
He characterizes the autonomous as brave, high-quality people who are very much needed to guide society’s path, since others will simply follow the dictates of the masses and the “authorities.” He goes on: “By showing how life can be lived with vitality and happiness even in a time of troubles, the autonomous people can become a social force, indeed a ‘saving remnant.’ By converting present helplessness into a condition of advance, they lay the groundwork for a new society . . .”
Only MCs (microcommunities) can get anywhere near a total solution to the optimal childcare that we need to strengthen beings, and promote self-actualization and autonomy. If Maslow were alive still, he'd be busy supporting MCs, without the slightest doubt. He was a man who walked the walk, not just talked the talk. See Why Register for an MC?. MCs' autonomous people will indeed become a social force that will "lay the groundwork for a new society," as Maslow dreamed about. - thebiganswer.info