The Dangerous Idea of Self-actualization

Mass murderer Anders Breivik, Oslo, wanted to reach the top of Maslow’s famous hierarchy of needs. The pyramid shape creates the impression that the top is most worth pursuing, because it is hardest to get there. Top step of the pyramid is self-actualization.

Self-actualization is a vague idea that leads people to become self-centered. The idea tells us to aspire to something we already have. Like other mammals, we slowly becomes self-actualized during pregnancy. You, who can read this, are as actual as one can be. You are alive, that’s all.


The idea of ​​self-actualization is based on a confusion between people and ideas. Ideas can be potential or actual. The only thing we can actualize is a idea – by realizing it – but we are no ideas. Ideas can be communicated, but people cannot. We have symbols that represent us – name and PIN – but we are not these symbols. We are living matter, flesh and blood.

Anders Breivik wanted to become a politician because media elevates our politicians into ideological stars. They let the political leader’s personify the ideas, thereby creating a confusion of person and ideas that leads to emotional polarization – love, hate and populism. Social media increases this tension even more.

Breivik was inspired on the Internet. He wanted to be a modern Templar fighting Islam. On YouTube, he learned to make explosives. The target was the immigrant-friendly Norwegian Labour Party, which he believed had betrayed the country. Anders Breivik killed 93 persons and his name will be spread across the world. But it doesn’t mean he has reached a higher self-actualization.

Self-actualization is a dangerous idea, making us focus on agents instead of their actions. Anders Breivik believed that self-actualization was to have his name rewritten a million times. But a terrorist who creates political history at the same moment as he carries out his mass murder has not actualized himself, he has just realized a massacre.

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