• Jeff Proctor

What is a "Eupsychia"?

Updated: Sep 18

Think for a moment about the groups of people who help you feel the most alive.

Where do you feel like the best version of yourself?

With whom do you really grow?

I’m thinking of my best friends, a few clients I’m honored to support, and my team at work. Each is a small, meaningful community in which I’m fortunate to participate. They are supportive, growth-oriented groups in which we all help each other be our best.

What do members of your groups do to help you grow?

How do you contribute to their growth?

Famed psychologist Abraham Maslow proposed a thought experiment in which he asked readers to compare the potential of a hypothetical deserted island society full of highly self-actualizing people with a randomly-populated society. Maslow called the former society a Eupsychia (pronounced you-sigh-key-uh), a term he coined to describe a “psychologically healthy culture.” In a Eupsychia, the way people felt about themselves–and the ways they would treat each other–would create conditions for ever-increasing individual growth and societal progress. It would be a place of mutual benefit and support; where the prevailing values and norms of behavior would elevate each contributor to the culture. If “hurt people hurt people,” Maslow suggests healthy people help heal each other and propel one another toward ever-increasing growth.

In addition to serving as a platform for individual growth, Eupsychias might well be free and prosperous societies. Maslow believed that our tendency to restrict freedom is the result of our own lack of self-actualization. It is what we do when we fail to transcend our own deficiencies. The norms and behaviors in Maslow’s psychologically healthy (ie. “eupsychian”) cultures, however, create the conditions for self-actualization, freedom, and prosperity. Maslow scholar Scott Barry Kaufman explains: “Instead of being driven by fears, anxieties, suspicions, and the constant need to make demands on reality, [the self-actualizer] is more accepting and loving of oneself and others.” When people are part of these accepting and supportive communities, they create more freedom and progress.

Do such eupsychian places actually exist? While Maslow’s thought experiment proposed a perhaps unreachable ideal, I’ve been fortunate to get a glimpse into several “near-Eupsychias”, and I’m compelled to believe that many more are possible. I’ve worked with a “sober active community” that welcomes anyone with 48 hours of sobriety to join a fitness-based group of peers in recovery. I have met over 200 convicted felons who work together to develop entrepreneurial skills and mindsets inside prisons. And I’ve dined at–and professionally supported–a restaurant almost entirely run by young people coming out of the juvenile justice system. In these, and many more cases, I’ve watched people who much of society has given up on create and enjoy micro-cultures of which I am legitimately envious.

After years of such experiences, I became obsessed with understanding the key ingredients that make up these communities. I began researching emergent order theory alongside positive and humanistic psychology (the latter being Maslow’s effort to focus the field of psychology on such questions). I studied historic and present day scholars on a variety of topics related to emergent communities, self-actualization, and human potential. As a result, I compiled a list of mindsets, beliefs, and behaviors that appear to help create eupsychian communities and cultures (see Becoming Eupsychian–a “living document” designed to serve as a launch pad for community development).

I want each and every person to have the opportunity to truly belong to a community that helps lift them up (and through which they lift up others). I hope that random trips to the grocery store might someday be as beneficial as participation in the communities I’ve mentioned here in this article. So, I’m building a company dedicated to understanding how these communities work and applying that knowledge to help existing communities transform and build new, powerful communities throughout the world. We are already in the early stage of creating several new communities in the entertainment and fashion industries. Each of the communities seeks to inject a healthy dose of eupsychian principles into cultures where they are often difficult to find.

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