Growth of self-actualisation after adolescence happens rarely; yet it spontaneously occurs among TM practitioners
In Transcending = being yourself we describe that the extent to which someone is successful in life depends largely on how much one is able to remain oneself. This can be measured objectively.
How much someone is able to remain oneself can be measured through a psychological benchmark called self-actualisation. This benchmark was developed by the American psychologist Abraham Maslow after having studied a large group of personally and professionally successful individuals. He discovered that successful people all had one thing in common—they were much better able to remain themselves, regardless of the situation they found themselves in.
Maslow estimated that only about 1% of the population scored in the highest 2 categories of his scale. These are the people that are truly “self-actualised”. Later research showed that self-actualisation and ego-development tend to freeze around early adolescence. Similar to intelligence, the level that you’re at around the age of 18 to 20 is what will remain for the rest of your life.
Maslow: “peak-experiences” make self-actualisation grow
TM research has shown that this vision on self-actualisation is completely outdated. Just like intelligence can continue to grow after adolescence when we continue to develop our brain potential, so can self-actualisation continue to grow when we continuously come back to that experience of our true selves. Transcending does both. This was something explained by Maslow himself. He said that the experience of so-called “peak experiences” can lead to systematic growth of higher self-actualisation, independent of age. These peak experiences occur occasionally for some people, but there was no method for reaching these experiences in a systematic way. But descriptions of these “peak experiences” show a clear correlation with descriptions of the experience of transcending.
With Maharishi’s simple rediscovery of what we call real meditation, the method to culture these experiences at will does exist. It comes therefore as no surprise that Transcendental Meditation has an obvious effect on the growth of self-actualisation.
The effect of TM on self-actualisation: Scientific research
TM is 3 to 4 times more effective than any other meditation ever researched
If you compare Transcendental Meditation to other meditation or relaxation techniques, you will soon discover that the differences are so vast that these techniques really cannot be compared. The study shown here is a meta-analysis of all scientific studies ever carried out to date on the effects of different meditation techniques on self-actualisation. (42 studies in total, 18 of which were TM studies) The average effect of all other techniques ever researched showed only a small effect. The average effect of the TM studies is 3 to 4 times as great. (effect=.08 p=.0002). Ref. Journal of Social Behaviour and Personality, vol. 6, 1991, pp 189-247.
But what do these theoretical measures really tell us in practice? Another interesting study looked at the long-term effects on self-actualisation for TM practitioners. It studied groups of students from Maharishi University of Management (MUM) and 3 other top universities (as control groups) and tested them before they started their studies and again 10 years later.
Normally, only 1% of the population scores in the highest scales of self-actualization; but 38% of long-term TM practitioners score in the highest scale of self-actualization
Although according to Maslow’s research, only about 1% of society scores in the highest two categories of his self-actualization scale. This percentage for beginning Maharishi University of Management students was already at 6%. This can be explained by the fact that most first-year students will already have been practicing TM for some time before coming to the university. However, for the test 10 years later this percentage increased to 38%. This result was so exceptional that it had a chance of 1 in 5 million (p=.0000002 what is a p-value?) of happening randomly. In the three control universities no significant improvement was found, and the score even decreased for one university. Ref. Journal of Social Behavior and Personality 17: 93–121, 2005
Details of the self-actualisation scale, and the effect of TM on it.
Here we will discuss in more detail what exactly self-actualisation entails, (according to Shostrom’s Personal Orientation Inventory, the most widely used self-actualisation test) and how the TM technique influences these points. With a better understanding of what exactly self-actualisation entails it will be easier to understand how self-actualised individuals have better chances of success in all areas of life. There are 12 points on the self-actualisation scale; they can be divided into 3 main groups:
1. Strong self-identity (self-confidence)
• Inner Directedness (ID) – If a person is focused inwards, then her own beliefs and self-motivation will be the driving force behind decisions and actions in life. Individuals focused outwards, on the contrary, are mostly led by external circumstances or people in their environment. This can lead to over-sensitivity and worries about the opinion of others.
• Time-competence (TC) – The extent to which someone lives in the now, not in the past or the future. Self-actualised individuals have a high time competence, and therefore are able to focus on their current experience, without unnecessarily being held back by occurrences of the past or by fantasizing about the future. They are less affected by feelings of guilt or regret of the past, and their future is mostly tied in with their current goals.
• Self Acceptance (SA) – The degree of self-acceptance despite flaws.
• Existentiality (Ex) – The extent to which one is able to respond to any situation without tightly gripping onto principles, flexibility.
These indicate that a person has a stable internal reference frame, with a focus on the “here and now” and an ability to respond well to both internal and external circumstances.
2. Affective maturity
• Feeling Reactivity (FR) – How well one is able to be in tune with one’s own feelings and needs.
• Spontaneity (S) – The extent to which one is able to act spontaneously and be herself.
• Capacity for Intimate Contact (C) – The extent to which one is able to develop intimate relationships with others; not held back by expectations and obligations.
• Acceptance of Aggression (A) – The extent to which an individual is able to accept her own aggression as natural.
These are all indications of an individual open to her own feelings and able to build a warm relationship with others; and whose emotional expressions are led by a stable, inner reference point.
3. Integrated perspective on self and the world.
• Self Actualising Values (SAV) – Appreciation of primary values typical for self-actualised individuals (autonomy and independence, self-fulfilment).
• Self Regard (SR) – Appreciation of self value and one’s own talents.
• Nature of Man Constructive (Na) – The degree to which one has a constructive perspective on the human nature of others, and to which one is able to view humanity as fundamentally good.
• Synergy (Sy) – measures how much one is able to integrate contradictions.
These are indications of a person with a positive opinion of both herself and the world around her, embracing higher values such as the stimulation of the good in herself and others. This is a person fulfilled in her relations with herself and the world.
The graph below indicates how the Transcendental Meditation technique influences all these factors individually. The scores are given in percentile scores. A percentile scores indicate how much of the population is below the value of TM practitioners. So, if someone is on the 70th percentile, this indicates that 70% of the population performs less, and 30% performs better.
These scores are the average scores taken from 18 different TM studies among a total of 563 test persons. The average duration of the studies was 3 to 6 months and the average increase is 20 percentile points, from the 53rd percentile to the 73rd percentile. (click on the graph to enlarge). This is a very exceptional result, considering self-actualisation normally doesn’t develop more after early adolescence. (Almost all test persons were over 18 years of age). The meta-analysis of these 18 studies also showed that the longer the TM technique was being practiced, the greater the effect. If the effect was due to the expectation (placebo), prejudice held by the researcher, or other motivational factors, the effects would always decrease over time. The p-value of the general improvement over these 18 studies is p<.000001.Ref. Journal of Social Behaviour and Personality, vol. 6, 1991, pp 189-247.
For more studies on self-actualisation and personal development, see research.