The Adequate Person


Psychologist B. Von Haller Gilmer identifies four characteristics of the fully functioning personality or what he calls ‘the adequate person’.

  1. He thinks well of himself.  He knows his capacities as well as limitations. 
  2. He thinks well of others.  He understands their limitations.  He also sees them as opportunities for the building of himself.   It does not mean he uses them for his selfish purposes.  Rather he practises the principles of cooperative life.  [More about cooperative life below]
  3. He lives according to his values and principles.
  4. He plays a creative role in the society.  He gives much to the society and receives much from it.

The adequate person lives a genuinely good life and helps others to live it too.  Gilmer says that the genuinely good life is the cooperative life.  He defines it thus: “The cooperative life, where everyone from the outset receives the respect due to a human being and, as far as he is able, becomes involved in and responsible for what goes on.”

Obviously this is not easy to achieve.  It is an idealistic situation.  Yet it is what most sensible people would desire.  Why is it difficult to achieve?  Gilmer says that the cooperative life depends on the quality of the people in a society. 

You will understand this easily if you have ever lived in a relatively closed society like a residential school, hostel, seminary, convent, etc.   The people in such a society know one another pretty well and are expected to cooperate with one another in accordance with the objectives of the society (the school, seminary, or whatever).  Yet one finds so much conflict and discord even in such a closed society. 

People who have not reached a certain level of adequacy in their personal life are the causes of such conflict and discord.  Such people have tremendous ego demands to fulfil.  For example, someone may want to be the boss and hence the existing boss has to be jettisoned. Manipulative moves will start and they are sure to find a lot of supporters too.  Such moves are likely to divide the society into two or more groups: those who are with the manipulator (who will be the new boss and it’s beneficial to be in the good books of the boss); those who are opposed to such manipulations; those who are indifferent; and so on.  The objectives of the institution are likely to suffer serious setbacks when such manipulative games take place. 

Even the most adequate person will find himself in difficult positions when such manipulative games are going on around him.  He may be forced to take sides against the interests of the institution, or be sidelined altogether.  He may even be victimised by some group or the other.

Even in the best of societies the worst things happen due to the ego demands of certain individuals. 

Greed for power or wealth (or both as in the case of many Indian politicians) is a very common ego demand that scuttles the progress of many a society or institution.

It would be a good exercise for the mind to think of the fortunes of the Commonwealth Games 2010 (and of the country in a broader perspective) had Dr E.  Sreedharan (of Delhi Metro Rail Corporation) was at the helm of affairs instead of Suresh Kalmadi. 

But the sad reality is that Kalmadis far outnumber Sreedharans in this world. 

And the adequate person has a creative role to play.  In the words of Gilmer, the adequate person “sees not the end of the river but the beginning of the ocean.”


About matheikal

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3 Responses to The Adequate Person

  1. dawnanddew says:

    A very insightful blog, sir. It is timely and useful. To talk personally, I have been sidelined from the entire family circle these days after the death of my dear sister-in-law. Reason: The power has passed to the hands of, in Gilmer’s words, an inadequate egoist whom I severely oppose. No, I’m not at all happy about going to my native place. At least till I read your blog or when I met you near the school gate. My inner self has been full of inferno against this corrupt inadequate personality. But the last lines quoted by you gives me some inner strength. Hope I would be decent enough to hide my fury at least till the happy event is over. Thanks for the timely blog which of course reflected your pains. I don’t know where you put me, but sir, I’d like to remain indifferent to all these things. When fairness and reason are at stake, I rather choose to give up. I do share your pangs.

  2. Matheikal says:

    Best wishes, Dawn. Have a nice holiday.

  3. kamal kapoor says:

    Very appropriate. Finding our mean will help us in understanding and celebrating life better.

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