IV_ The organism has one basic tendency and striving — to

					IV) The organism has one basic tendency and striving — to actualize, maintain, and enhance the
experiencing organism.
  Rather than many needs and motives, it seems entirely possible that all organic and
psychological needs may be described as partial aspects of this one fundamental need. It is
difficult to find satisfactory words for this proposition. The particular phrasing is from
Snygg and Combs. The words used are an attempt to describe the observed directional
force in organic life — a force which has been regarded as basic by many scientists, but
which has not been too well described in testable or operational terms.
   We are talking here about the tendency of the organism maintain itself—to assimilate
food, to behave defensively in face of threat, to achieve the goal of self-maintenance even
when the usual pathway to that goal is blocked. We are speaking of the tendency of the
organism to move in the direction of maturation, as maturation is defined for each species.
This involves self-actualization, though it should be understood that this too is a directional
term. The organism does not develop to the full its capacity for suffering pain, nor does the
human individual develop or actualize his capacity for terror or, on the physiological level, his
capacity for vomiting. The organism actualizes itself in the direction of greater
differentiation of organs and of function. It moves in the direction of limited expansion
through growth, expansion through extending itself by means of its tools, and expansion
through reproduction. It moves in the direction of greater independence or self-
responsibility. Its movement, 25 Angyal has pointed out (9, pp. 32-50), is in the direction of
an increasing self-government, self-regulation, and autonomy, and away from
heteronymous control, or control by external force. This is true whether we are speaking of
entirely unconscious organic processes, such as the regulation of body heat, or such
uniquely human and intellectual functions as the choice of life goals. Finally, the self-
actualization of the organism appears TO be in the direction of socialization, broadly defined.
    The directional trend we are endeavoring to describe is evident in the life of the individual
organism from conception to maturity, at whatever level of organic complexity. It is also
evident in the process of evolution, the direction being defined by a comparison of life low
on the evolutionary scale with types of organisms which have developed later, or are
regarded as farther along in the process of evolution. Thus the directional tendency which
we are discussing will be defined most adequately by comparing the undeveloped with the
developed organism, the simple organism with the complex, the organism early or low on the
evolutionary scale with the organism which has developed later and is regarded as higher.
Whatever generalized differences are found constitute the direction of the basic tendency
we are postulating.
    Ideas similar to this proposition are being increasingly advanced and accepted by psychologists and
others. The term self-actualization is used by Goldstein (69) to describe this one basic striving. Mowrer
and Kluckhohn stress the “basic propensity of living things to function in such a way as to preserve and
increase integration” (137, p.74). This is a slightly different concept, but directional in nature. Sullivan
points out that “the basic direction of the organism is forward” (205, p.48). Horney gives a vivid
description of the force as it is experienced in therapy: “The ultimate driving force is the person’s
unrelenting will to come to grips with himself, a wish to grow and to leave nothing untouched that
prevents growth” (90, p.175). Angyal sums up his thinking on this point in the following statement.
Life is an autonomous dynamic event which takes place between the organism and the environment.
Life processes do not merely tend to preserve life but transcend the momentary status quo of the
organism, expanding itself continually and imposing its autonomous determination upon an ever
increasing realm of events”. (9, p.48)
    It is our experience in therapy which has brought us to the point of giving this
proposition a central place. The therapist becomes very much aware that the forward-moving
tendency of the human organism is the basis upon which he relies most deeply and fundamentally.
It is evident not only in the general tendency of clients to move in the direction of growth when
the factors in the situation are clear, but is most dramatically shown in very serious cases
where the individual is on the brink of psychosis or suicide. Here the therapist is very keenly
aware that the only force upon which he can basically rely is the organic tendency toward
ongoing growth and enhancement. Something of oar experience has been summarized by
the writer in an earlier paper.
   As I study, as deeply as I am able, the recorded clinical cases which have been so revealing of
personal dynamics, I find what seems to me to be a very significant thing. I find that the urge for a
greater degree of independence, the desire for a self-determined integration, the tendency to strive,
even through much pain, toward a specified maturity, is as strong as — no, is stronger than — die
desire for comfortable dependence, the need to rely upon external ; authority for assurance.. ..
Clinically [find it to be true that though an individual may remain dependent because he has always
been so. or may drift into dependence without realizing what he is doing, or may temporarily wish to
be dependent because his situation, appears desperate, I have yet to find the individual who, when he
examines his situation deeply, and feels that he perceives it clearly, deliberately chooses dependence,
deliberately chooses to have the integrated direction of himself undertaken by another. When all the
elements are clearly perceived, the balance seems invariably in the direction of die painful but ultimately
rewarding path of self-actualization or growth. (168, p. 218)
It would be grossly inaccurate to suppose that the organism operates smoothly in the
direction of self-enhancement and growth. It would be perhaps more correct to say that the
organism moves through struggle and pain toward enhancement and growth. The whole
process may be symbolized and illustrated by the child's learning to walk. The first steps
involve struggle, and usually pain. Often it is true that the immediate reward involved in
taking a few steps is in no way commensurate with the pain of falls and bumps. The child
may, because of the pain, revert to crawling for a time. Yet, in the overwhelming majority of
individuals, the forward direction of growth is more powerful than the satisfactions of
remaining infantile. The child will actualize himself, in spite of the painful experiences in
so doing. In the same way, he will become independent, responsible, self-governing,
socialized, in spite of the pain which is often involved in these steps. Even where he does not,
because of a variety of circumstances, exhibit growth of these more complex sorts, one may
still rely on the fact that the tendency is present. Given the opportunity for clear-cut choice
between forward-moving and regressive behavior, the tendency will operate.
   One puzzle that is not adequately solved by this proposition is the question, "Why must the
factors of choice be clearly perceived in order for this forward-moving tendency to operate?"
It would seem that unless experience is adequately symbolized, unless suitably accurate
differentiations are made, the individual mistakes regressive behavior for self-enhancing
behavior. This aspect will be more fully discussed in Proposition XI and following.

				
DOCUMENT INFO