Nautilus

Are You Yoda or Darth Vader?

You might think that to become a better person, you should squelch your inner demons, suppress your darker impulses. That’s not quite right, according to Columbia University psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman. The Notorious S.B.K., as some like to call him on Twitter, has a jovial, earnest presence. He’s open and curious about others’ views on a number of things, mostly on topics touching his areas of expertise—intelligence, creativity, and human personality. He can be firm in his convictions while making a counter-argument gently. He doesn’t avoid the social media platform’s vitriol but defuses and transcends it. On The Psychology Podcast, he thoughtfully interviews scientists studying the nature of mind, and how to improve people’s lives to realize their potential. He’s trying to bring back the idea of a “humanistic” psychologist. It’s how he identifies himself. This is someone who, he said, seeks to “understand what it means to be a fully vital human who is experientially alive and trying to deal with the paradoxes of human existence.”

One of those paradoxes is the way we should relate to the dark side. Last week, Kaufman tweeted, “Integrate your dark side; it may be your greatest creative power when harmonious with the rest of you.” In his new book, , Kaufman movingly explains the spiritual and intellectual debt he owes to Abraham Maslow, the American psychologist widely known for the idea that to live a psychologically rich life, humans must satisfy a “hierarchy of needs” like survival, social connection, and self-esteem. Kaufman dedicated to Maslow (“a dear friend I’ve never met”), bringing his mentor’s views up to date. “To me,” Kaufman said, “Maslow represents a human who was deeply wrestling with issues that I feel like I’m wrestling with, trying to understand how we can integrate ourselves

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