Toward a Psychology of Being by Abraham H. Maslow [Summary]

This is a comprehensive summary of the book Toward a Psychology of Being, 3rd Edition by Abraham H. Maslow. Covering the key ideas and proposing practical ways for achieving what’s mentioned in the text. Written by book fanatic and online librarian Ivaylo Durmonski. Supporting Members get full access.


A collection of lectures and scientific papers organized to answer a simple question: How does one achieve self-fulfillment? How can you satisfy your higher inner needs and reach the ultimate, final, state of affairs? In this book, professor Abraham Maslow shares in a relatively understandable language his study of human behavior and achieving psychological freedom.

The Core Idea:

Here, in Toward a Psychology of Being, Professor Maslow argues that most of us are preparing to live instead of actually living. Therefore, rather than Being a person who solely desires to reach his true “call” in life, you should enter a state of Becoming. Always trying to achieve your full potential and living in accordance with your natural needs.


  • The sum of the negative and the positive things you hear about yourself molds the story you feed your mind with.
  • After years of suppression, we create pseudo-selves that are designed to please others.
  • To find who you are, to figure out what you’re good at, you need to confront yourself. To focus on doing uncomfortable things.

5 Key Lessons from Toward a Psychology of Being:

Lesson #1: The Net Results Of What You Register Becomes Your Reality

How to encourage your inner nature?

We need to learn more about our natural tendencies and desires. To learn what kind of person we are deep down.

This type of knowing what we are like, inside, will help us live to our ideal state.

Of course, this is not as easy as it sounds.

There are obstacles along the way. Boulders that are preventing us from becoming our most virtuous selves.

Most of these come from our surroundings and it happens subconsciously. When people correct us, highlight mostly our shortcomings from an early age, or we simply do things we’re ashamed of, we start to believe that we’re unworthy and unable to do virtuous things.

Karen Horney, a German psychoanalyst mentioned in the book, describes this unconscious gathering of outside comments with the word “registers.”

When we receive positive feedback and when we do something good, this “registers” to our credit.

If we do something bad though, something we’re ashamed of or simply others are calling us names, it “registers” to our discredit.

The net results become the story we tell ourselves. We either respect ourselves and we like who we are, or we despise our being and we feel worthless.

Lesson #2: Fulfilling Your Basic Needs Will Motivate You To Achieve Even More

Ever wondered what makes people neurotic?

This is the short answer after grabbing the dictionary to translate some of the words inside the book: being deprived of certain needs.

The author calls this deficiency disease.

If you are continuously denied love, if safety is unstable, and relationships are scarce, you’re most probably mentally damaged.

The solution to this troublesome psychological state comes when these deficiencies are eliminated.

Or in other words, if your most basic needs are satisfied, you’ll be a healthy person. If they are always absent, this will lead to illness.

These seemingly unnotable desires have huge consequences on people. The author categorizes them as deficiency-needs versus growth-needs.

The difference between the two heavily influences how people do stuff. Especially how they act when they achieve goals, tasks, consume stuff, etc.

A person whose needs are not completely satisfied will be motivated to achieve something, or consume something, but his excitement will immediately plateau in the peak moment of success (a lot of times minor success) or consummation.

In contrast, a person who is rather satisfied won’t be bothered after a task is done. His motivation will continue to grow. Or as the author writes, “there is no climax or consummation, no orgasmic moment, no end-state, even no goal if this be defined climactically.”

His desire to keep on doing things will thrive. The more he gets, the more he will want. He is not so interested in achieving a specific goal, his main desire is to behave towards continuous growth.

“The behaving is itself the goal, and to differentiate the goal of growth from the instigation to growth is impossible. They too are the same.” Abraham H. Maslow

Hey there, sorry to interrupt…

Since you’ve come this far, it seems that you are really passionate about books and learning. I’m too! And while what I’m about to say next probably won’t quite excite you, I have to say it…

Look, this is members-only content.

(Already a member? You can log-in using this link, here.)

See, I digest acres of complex ideas from various books and morph my findings into straight-to-the-point book summaries. The main goal is not only to help you understand the underlying ideas from famous, and not-so-famous, titles. But, also, to help you stay curious, inspired, and well-informed. Above all, though, I want to help you transition from a passive online consumer to an active mindful go-getter with a sense of purpose.

By becoming a supporting member, you’ll unlock a well-curated online selection of book summaries that aim to move you in the right direction.

You can join as a MONTHLY ($29.95 USD), or QUARTERLY ($59.95 USD) member. Read more about the membership, here.

Share with others: