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Actualizing Tendency

Kennon M. Sheldon

Subject Psychology

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405161251.2009.x


Actualizing tendency refers to an innate growth drive or impulse that is said to exist within all human beings. Proponents of the concept make the optimistic assumption that people have an inherent tendency to become more elaborated, integrated, and internally coordinated over time – that is, to grow and develop as personalities. Although not everyone grows throughout the lifespan, the potential remains throughout. The challenge for teachers, therapists, and service providers, then, is to help people “unlock” these sometimes-hidden capacities. The idea that humans have inherent growth potentials can be traced back at least to Aristotle, and his proposal that all people are born with certain virtues whose recognition and cultivation leads to happiness. The idea reappears in the enlightenment era proposal that people naturally seek greater self-determination and happiness, and also in the romantic era proposal that people are naturally good and will develop into virtuous citizens unless the socialization process goes awry. Such assumptions became unpopular during the early twentieth century, as operant behaviorism and Freudian psychoanalysis dominated mainstream thinking. However, even at that time some theorists, such as Jackson, Smuts, Dewey Piaget, Angyal, and Goldstein, began to make use of the actualizing concept. These originators of the organismic theoretical perspective shared ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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