Human Potential Movement

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The Human Potential Movement (HPM) arose out of the counterculture milieu of the 1960s[1] and formed around the concept of cultivating extraordinary potential that its advocates believe to lie largely untapped in all people. The movement took as its premise the belief that through the development of "human potential", humans can experience an exceptional quality of life filled with happiness, creativity, and fulfillment. As a corollary, those who begin to unleash this assumed potential often find themselves directing their actions within society towards assisting others to release their potential. Adherents believe that the net effect of individuals cultivating their potential will bring about positive social change at large.

Roots[edit]

The emergence of HPM is linked to humanistic psychology. The movement is strongly influenced by Abraham Maslow's theory of self-actualization as the supreme expression of a human's life.

In the middle of the 1960s, George Leonard did research across the United States on the subject of human potential for the magazine Look. In his research, he interviewed 37 psychiatrists, brain researchers, and philosophers on the subject of human potential. He found that "Not one of them said we were using more than 10% of our capacity",[2] which should not be misconstrued as an endorsement of the ten percent of the brain myth but which is a more general claim.[citation needed] During the course of this research, Leonard met Michael Murphy, the founder of the nascent Esalen Institute that at the time was running educational programs for adults on the topic of "human potentialities". Leonard and Murphy became close friends and together put forth the idea that there should be a human potential movement.[2]

Social influence[edit]

HPM was regarded by some as being related to Psychedelic culture such as hippies and Summer of Love.[3] It had not been defined what was "human potentialities", but LGAT (large-group awareness training) such as Lifespring and "est" taught self-awareness and consciousness expansion under HPM.[4] They themselves came to be called not only "New Age" but also "new religion".[5] The concept of HPM was also used in multi-level marketing through Mind Dynamics, precursor to LGAT.[6]

As Elizabeth Puttick writes in the Encyclopedia of New Religions:

"The human potential movement (HPM) originated in the 1960s as a counter-cultural rebellion against mainstream psychology and organised religion. It is not in itself a religion, new or otherwise, but a psychological philosophy and framework, including a set of values that have made it one of the most significant and influential forces in modern Western society."[7]

Authors and essayists[edit]

Abraham Maslow published his concept of a hierarchy of needs in a paper in 1943. He argued that as people's basic survival needs are met, so their desire to grow in mental and emotional dimensions increases. He also coined the term 'metamotivation' to describe the motivation of people who go beyond the scope of the basic needs and strive for constant betterment.[citation needed]

Michael Murphy and Dick Price founded the Esalen Institute in 1962, primarily as a center for the study and development of human potential, and some people continue to regard Esalen as the geographical center of the movement today.

In 1964, Virginia Satir became Esalen's first Director of Training, which required her to oversee the Human Potential Development Program. At the time, Satir was well established as an author, trainer and consultant.[8] Twenty years later, Satir actively encouraged therapists to shift their focus to relationship education to help clients discover "more joy, more reality, more connectedness, more accomplishment and more opportunities for people to grow."[9]

Aldous Huxley gave lectures on the "Human Potential" at Esalen in the early 1960s. His writings and lectures on the mystical dimensions of psychedelics and on what he called "the perennial philosophy" were foundational. Moreover, his call for an institution that could teach the 'nonverbal humanities' and the development of the 'human potentialities' functioned as the working mission statement of early Esalen.[10]

Christopher Lasch notes the impact of the human potential movement via the therapeutic sector: "The new therapies spawned by the human potential movement, according to Peter Marin, teach that "the individual will is all powerful and totally determines one's fate"; thus they intensify the "isolation of the self".[11]

George Leonard, a magazine writer and editor who conducted research for an article on human potential, became an important early influence on Esalen. Leonard claims that he coined the phrase "Human Potential Movement" during a brainstorming session with Michael Murphy, and popularized it in his 1972 book The Transformation: A Guide to the Inevitable Changes in Mankind. Leonard worked closely with the Esalen Institute afterwards, and in 2005 served as its president.[citation needed]

Human Potential in Europe[edit]

Human Potential concepts found in Europe a growing interest thanks to training courses aimed at managers, graduate students, and unemployed, mainly funded by the European Union in public development courses in the 80's and 90's.[12] In these courses, modules such as communication skills, marketing, leadership and others in the "soft skills" area were embedded in the programs, and enabled the familiarization of most of the Human Potential concepts. A key role was played by "EU Strategic objective 3, 4, and 5" that explicitly included transversal key competences such learning to learn, a sense of initiative and entrepreneurship, and cultural awareness".[13]

These training programs, lasting as much as 900 to 1200 hours, aimed at enhancing creativity and innovation, including entrepreneurship, and contained at all levels of education and training Human Potential concepts. One of the core concepts, Maslow's hierarchy of needs, a theory of psychological health predicated on fulfilling innate human needs, became popular in Europe in the 80s mainly as a support to understanding consumer's needs, and only after its use as key marketing concept. Philip Kotler's book "Marketing Management" was particularly influential in the 80's in popularizing several human potential concepts that where "embedded" in the book[14] and entered in the working and management community.

Specifically targeted book on Human Potential have emerged in Europe and can be found in the work of specific authors. For the "Anglo" cultural area, the work of John Whitmore [15] that contains a harsh critique to mainstream approaches to human potential as a fast cures for self-improvement: "Contrary to the appealing claims of The One Minute Manager, there are no quick fixes in business, Whitmore, 2010".[16]

For the "Latin" cultural area, an early approach to Human Potential can be found in the work of Maria Montessori. Montessori's theory and philosophy of education were influenced by the work of Jean Marc Gaspard Itard, Édouard Séguin, Friedrich Fröbel, Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi, and her model emphasized autonomous learning, sensory exploration and training children in physical activities, empowering their senses and thoughts by exposure to sights, smells, and tactile experiences, and later, problem solving. The work of the Italian author Daniele Trevisani contributed to the diffusion of the research on Human Potential with a specific and a dedicate book on "holistic approach" to human potential.[17] This holistic approach is centered around (1) merging Human Potential basic concepts in "Humanistic Psychology" with different fields, such as Neuroscience and Semiotics, (2) removing the "clinical barrier" between human potential as a "treatment" and human potential as a discipline for performance and training, in sports, management, and social fields, (3) searching for "role models" not in rich people proposed by mainstream media, but in historical archetypes as Leonardo da Vinci, the Roman Empire Leadership methods, martial artists and generally an "active" view of human potential. Attempts to create a scientific and cultural bridge between the American mainstream approach and the European approach where conducted in the 9th International and Intercultural Communication Conference.[18] Current examples of applications in Europe for Human Potential can be found in the divulgative conferences of the European Space Agency and its work on "human dependability".[19] An ESA conference-hosted paper brought out the issue of the need of a more specific work on human potential holistic training, especially in training for the unexpected and developing human potential skills that can generate autonomous people able to operate in remote environments and without contacts with ground control for prolonged period of times.[20]

Notable proponents[edit]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Martin, Douglas (2010-01-18). "George Leonard, Voice of '60s Counterculture, Dies at 86". nytimes.com. The New York Times Co. Retrieved 2014-05-20. 
  2. ^ a b Author quoting George Leonard in Quantum Integral Medicine: Towards a New Science of Healing and Human Potential, by Michael Wayne. pp. 22
  3. ^ 20 Years After Hippie Invasion : The Summer of Love That Left Its Imprint on S.F. June 21, 1987. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 16, 2015.
  4. ^ Spiritual Quest or Mind Control? April 26, 1997. Archives of WashingtonPost.com. Retrieved February 5, 2016.
  5. ^ James R. Lewis (2004). The Encyclopedic Sourcebook of New Age Religions. Prometheus Books. p.187. ISBN 1591020409.
  6. ^ Mind Dynamics (precursor to LGAT). Cult Awareness and Information Centre. Retrieved February 5, 2016.
  7. ^ Puttick, Elizabeth (2004). "Human Potential Movement". In Partridge, Christopher Hugh. Encyclopedia of New Religions. Oxford: Lion. p.399. ISBN 9780745950730.
  8. ^ Woolf, Linda. "Women's Intellectual Contributions to the Study of Mind and Society". Webster University. Retrieved November 28, 2012. 
  9. ^ Eisenberg, Seth (February 21, 2011). "Revolutions of a Lifetime at Home and Abroad". Fatherhood Channel. 
  10. ^ Kripal, Jeffrey (2007). Esalen America and the Religion of No Religion. University of Chicago Press. 
  11. ^ Lasch, Christopher (1979). The Culture of Narcissism: American Life in an Age of Diminishing Expectations. New York: Norton. p. 9. ISBN 0393011771.  Quoting Marin, Peter (October 1975). "The New Narcissism". Harper's. p. 48. 
  12. ^ Phillips, D., Ertl, H. (Eds.) (2003), Implementing European Union Education and Training Policy. A Comparative Study of Issues in Four Member States. Springer
  13. ^ Official Journal of the European Union, Council conclusions of 12 May 2009 on a strategic framework for European cooperation in education and training, 2009/C 119/02
  14. ^ Kotler, Philip (1984), Marketing Management: Analysis, Planning, and Control. Published by Prentice-Hall, Inc., first edition 1984. ISBN 9780135579275
  15. ^ Whitmore, John (1992), Coaching for Performance: Growing Human Potential and Purpose: The Principles and Practice of Coaching and Leadership, Brealey Publishing (first edition)
  16. ^ Whitmore, John (2010), Coaching for Performance: Growing Human Potential and Purpose: The Principles and Practice of Coaching and Leadership, Brealey Publishing (fourth edition), Introduction, p.2
  17. ^ Trevisani, Daniele (2009), Il potenziale umano. (Translated title: "Human Potential"). Milano, Franco Angeli. ISBN 9788846498625
  18. ^ Daniele Trevisani (1992), "A Semiotic Models Approach to the Analysis of International/Intercultural Communication", in Proceedings of the 9th International and Intercultural Communication Conference, University of Miami, 19–21 May
  19. ^ despite not centered on "Human Potential", the HUDEP center at ESA takes extensive advantage of Human Potential Concepts, for further and specific references see here http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Space_Engineering_Technology/Human_dependability_how_to_deal_with_human_error
  20. ^ Stene, Trine Marie; Trevisani, Daniele; Danielsen, Brit-Eli (Dec 16, 2015). "Preparing for the unexpected.". European Space Agency (ESA) Moon 2020-2030 Conference Proceedings. doi:10.13140/RG.2.1.4260.9529.

References[edit]

  • Grogan, Jessica (2013). Il Encountering America: Humanistic Psychology, Sixties Culture, and the Shaping of the Modern Self = Harper Prennial. 
  • Salerno, Steve (2005). SHAM: How the Self-Help Movement Made America Helpless. New York: Random House. ISBN 1400054095. 
  • Trevisani, Daniele (2009). Il Potenziale Umano. Franco Angeli Editore. ISBN 9788846498625. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Bendeck Sotillos, Samuel "Prometheus and Narcissus in the Shadows of the Human Potential Movement" AHP Perspective, December 2012/January 2013, pp. 6–12.
  • Enablers, T.C., 2014. 'Realising Human Potential'. Internet Source cited Jan, 2015. Available: http://www.laceweb.org.au/rhp.htm
  • Enablers, T.C., 2014. 'The Fastest Growing New Social Movement on the Planet'Internet Source cited Nov. 2014. Available: http://www.laceweb.org.au/fgn.htm

External links[edit]