How is self-realization characterized

Self-actualization: "Just in doing we experience ourselves"

ZEIT ONLINE: You coined the term “adventure society” in the nineties. Sounds like fun and adventure, a lot of free time and little work ...

Gerhard Schulze: In the 1980s, the need to care about more than just survival became widespread in society. Since the end of the war, people had experienced a continuous increase in the standard of living. Gradually they discovered in themselves what Schiller had already formulated: that they find their fulfillment when they play. More and more they became an adventure society.

ZEIT ONLINE: The term quickly had a negative connotation, critics spoke of a collective amusement park, of a fun society with little sense of responsibility. Wrongly?

Theme week Perfect Life

Theme week Perfect Life

Life has become a competitive sport. The desire to realize oneself has never been so great. We want to become faster, more efficient, more productive, better, we are constantly struggling to balance work and leisure, partnership and family. And we should still be healthy and happy.

For this theme week, seven authors have tried to clear away the rubble of therapists, sociologists and psychologists that dominates the debate. Behind them they found a bundle of ideals that shape our society: leisure, frugality, vocation, sense of duty, self-optimization, romantic love, ideal childhood.

The lyrics of the week

Schulze: The German hostility to joke is long-lasting. After National Socialism came decades of repressed guilt and an undisguised hostility to happiness. In the USA or France, for example, people deal with life issues of pleasure, joy and sensuality freely and in a relaxed manner. But we Germans are learning. The question of what we want in our life besides work is dominating the media today.

ZEIT ONLINE: Has the attitude towards work also changed?

Schulze: It is very clear that people expect meaning, fulfillment and joy from their job. They no longer just want to live for their work, it should be a rewarding experience.

ZEIT ONLINE: Isn't that a contradiction?

Schulze: There is no contradiction between wanting to realize oneself and at the same time seeing work as a valuable part of life. More and more people are making the claim to be able to develop themselves in their job. Work is seen as an expression of one's own personality, one's own wishes and dreams.



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ZEIT ONLINE: What if I like my job but don't necessarily want to have a career? What if I just want to do something that I'm good at without it having to be my purpose in life?

Schulze: There you are really sitting on a very classic and historically outdated distinction: namely that work is compulsory and that true joy can only be experienced in leisure time, for example when fishing, flirting or strolling. Unfortunately, many people still experience their work negatively, but the acceptance for it is much lower than in the past.

ZEIT ONLINE: How does social research define self-actualization?

Schulze: Social research should observe people and take up their terms instead of judging them with a ready-made scheme. Otherwise it would be a philosophy that presupposes an inner core that has to be realized. This idea can also be found here and there in psychotherapy and in everyday thinking as the final greeting of the medieval theory of the soul. But modern social research sees people very differently: not as someone who is something specific, but who does something specific, often opposing and unexpected things. In doing this, self-awareness arises.


The adventure society

The social researcher Gerhard Schulze developed the term adventure society in the nineties. It is a deliberately simplified characterization of society. Accordingly, a major change has taken place: life is no longer just about securing existence, but can be enjoyed. Decades after the Second World War, the German population can enjoy the city in which they live, do sports and experience themselves.

Three schemes

Schulze divides the adventure society into three everyday aesthetic schemes: the high culture, trivial and tension scheme.

At the High culture scheme it is about the qualities of psychological experience. The more you get involved in the experience - such as a play or a visit to a museum - the greater the enjoyment.

in the Trivial scheme it's about simplicity. According to the University of Linz, the aim is to satisfy the longing for security, security and habit.

At the Voltage scheme on the other hand, people experience the pleasure in activities such as sport, the body plays a central role.

Five milieus

For orientation, Schulze divides the adventure society into five social milieus. The scheme according to which people live also depends on their level of education, age and income:

· The Level environment is based on the high culture scheme. Essential factors for this are higher education and older age.

· In the Integration environment on the other hand, older people with a medium level of education are more likely to be found. They live according to both the high culture and the trivial scheme.

· Schulze includes older people with less education in the Harmonious environment together. They are primarily concerned with security, which is why the trivial scheme can be observed in their lives.

· The Self-realization milieu is characterized by higher education and young age. It lives according to both the high culture and the tension scheme.

· Young people with little education belong to the Entertainment environmentThey draw satisfaction from the tension scheme.

ZEIT ONLINE: What does that mean for you personally?

Schulze: I see myself as a hiker who tries different paths, meets new landscapes and people and in these encounters finds what makes life meaningful.

ZEIT ONLINE: So self-realization as reflection.

Schulze: You can't get rid of the term, huh?

ZEIT ONLINE: No, because it comes up in so many fundamental questions: Who am I? How can I be myself despite the tasks that I have to master every day? I'm supposed to do so much, but what do I actually want?

Schulze: I am not unfamiliar with such frustration. I would just not describe the problem in terms of self-actualization, but rather view it in terms of activity and situation. There are situations in my life in which I have no way of doing anything other than what I have to do. And there are situations that I don't know beforehand what they will do to me. Simple example: playing the piano. I am currently practicing a sonata. It's hard work. I have the work, there is the instrument, me and my limited abilities, as well as the plan for how to approach the perfect game. Something inside of me does not finally come to light, but I enter into a relationship with something. For me, that is what makes it worthwhile.

ZEIT ONLINE: What would you call it if not self-actualization?

Schulze: I call it an encounter. In situations in which I face the world - be it other people, nature, a work of art or a task - and concentrate on what is currently in my focus. Encounter is the moment when a spark leaps between me and the world. I don't need or want more when I'm looking for fulfillment. And that is what has taken the place of the classic, misconceived self-realization for me.