Category Archives: Psychology

Darrow from Red Rising

Darrow (“Red Rising”) and self-actualization

In an interview featured on the HowlerPod podcast, Red Rising trilogy author Pierce Brown noted main character Darrow’s trait of not caring about what other characters think.

By the end of the trilogy (and still after fourth installment Iron Gold), it is undeniable that Darrow has earned almost unanimous respect of the universe’s various inhabitants. For the pioneering theorist of self-actualization Abraham H. Maslow, esteem follows from love as a universal human need.

If Darrow has achieved love by the end of the trilogy and respect after Iron Gold, has his character in fifth Red Rising novel Dark Age moved on to fulfilling his self-actualization needs (which come immediately after esteem in Maslow’s hierarchy)?

Whether Darrow is in the process of self-actualizing by Dark Age or not would require analysis of his actions and comparison with the traits of self-actualizing figures. Some of the latter’s traits include having a non-hostile, philosophical sense of humor as well as superior perceptions of reality.

Probably the easiest self-actualizing trait to relate Darrow with is autonomy. In his efforts to preserve “the Rising” of his “Red” social class (primarily made up of miners), Darrow has come to develop a highly independent conscience. He has become the kind of hero who sees what must be done for the cause he and his team have fought for over more than a decade–even when certain members of said team might not understand themselves.

It doesn’t matter for the Rising if a few of its proponents have strayed from the core of its project, which is to break the chains of slaves everywhere. Darrow is the heart of the revolution, and to keep its flame lit, it may be that he must self-actualize in certain ways.

Maslow and Scott Pilgrim

Scott Pilgrim fights Gideon for love (Ramona Flowers), then for self-respect.

How does he reach the next level on Maslow’s pyramid and attain self-actualization?

After conquering Gideon, Scott must fight Nega Scott. This is the battle to confront and overcome his shadow.

Ultimately, Scott is successful in befriending his dark self. Having done so, he achieves Jungian individuation, integrating the two sides of his being.

Able to move forward with the woman of his dreams, Scott becomes a self-actualized pilgrim!

A middle way psychology

What would this look like? To start, it would transcend psychology’s various dichotomies. These include individualism-collectivism.

Individualism is about “me” or “you”, while collectivism is about “we”/”us”. A prized value for individualism is independence; for collectivism, dependence and interdependence.

We might look to the example of assertiveness for inspiration. Assertiveness is the middle trait between passivity and aggression. Assertiveness is the ideal balance of passiveness and aggression: the assertive person is confident yet respectful.

To resolve individualism-collectivism, their middle must be clarified. What lies between these two is our desired cultural style: “indivectivism” or “collectividualism”. The question, then, is what is between you or I and we/us!

Maslow on humanity and the environment

Self-actualizing people resist enculturation and are independent of their environments.

Taking Maslow’s theory further requires acknowledging the inherent limits of independence. Generally, we are born dependent on caretakers. As we grow older, we become more dependent on society for things like money (to fulfill children’s security needs), respect, and prestige. This comes with independence from our caretakers but dependence on a broader network.

Perhaps curiously, love is prior to self-esteem in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. This suggests that while our need for love is more fundamental, it is also less fulfilling than the need or want for self-esteem.

Love is the bedrock of interdependence. Interdependence follows from independence–independence stems from dependence. Dependence is the root of our needs!

Being independent of the environment does involve transcending it. However–once we have done so–how do we treat the environment? Do we honor it as the substrate for all animals’, including our, existence? Or do we soil the soil we arose from?

The interdependent person accepts their place in our broader ecology. He and she trade strength with the environment equitably.

Self-actualizing collectives form from such individuals. Only these collectives can save Earth…so that they themselves can become worthy of salvation.

 

Character-strengthening

In yesterday’s post, I laid out positive psychology’s six virtues. Each virtue (wisdom; courage; humanity; justice; temperance; and transcendence) consists of three to five character strengths.

Each of these character strengths can technically be considered a “sub-virtue”. Let’s assume that maximizing at least half of each virtue’s sub-components–or achieving medium competence in each sub-virtue–leads to attainment of the higher virtue(s).

Wisdom’s character strengths are: creativity; curiosity; open-mindedness; love of learning; and perspective.

Courage’s sub-virtues are bravery; persistence; integrity; and vitality.

Humanity’s are love, kindness, and social intelligence.

Justice’s are citizenry, fairness, and leadership.

Temperance’s sub-virtues are forgiveness/mercy; humility/modesty; prudence; and self-regulation.

Finally, transcendence’s character strengths are: appreciation; gratitude; hope; humor and playfulness; and spirituality.

Building on each of these 24 aspects of one’s character leads to its ultimate strengthening! How does one build on them–all the way from creativity to spirituality? And: Is it better to focus on a few sub-virtues…or to balance them all equally?

Existential-humanistic psychology

Existential-humanistic (E-H) psychology is the study of human existence.

Psychology in general is the science of mental processes (mind) and behavior.

Thus, E-H psychology enlarged is the science of mind and behavior within human existence.

But what is human existence with no mind? Mind is a necessary feature; for without it, we’d have no room to consider human existence to begin with.

Behavior may be said to pervade all levels of reality. In physics, we speak of the behavior of particles. Social science considers the situational behavior of persons as human beings.

Mind and behavior are thus part-and-parcel of human existence. Our science of the former two topics must serve to bolster our understanding–and, ultimately, experience–of the latter.

As minded human persons who behave situationally, how do we experience our existence?

Sartre and Maslow on romance

Warning: Mature content ahead.

Had a nice idea!

Sartre and Maslow both favor non-possessiveness. Sartre’s point is more philosophical: We cannot, as a matter of ontological fact, “possess” the Other. The prime example is in romantic love–particularly, in the consensual sexual (“consexual”) act.

During “consex” (obviously, consensual sex…), we might gaze upon the other with desire for their flesh. Uh…

…let’s desexualize this. “Deconsexualize”?

Maslow believed self-actualizing people do not seek to possess their romantic Other*.

When we put Sartre and Maslow together in this constext, we neither can nor should possess another whose presence we enjoy and desire.

*My subjective interpretation of Maslow’s actual view.