Optimal Performance and Self-Actualization:

TREATMENTS / LENS Neurofeedback / Optimal Performance and Self-Actualization / Depth/Transpersonal Psychotherapy / Treatment for Animals / Gandalf the Dog

Optimal Performance and Self-Actualization:

For many years Dr. Stephen Larsen has had opportunity to study both optimal performance and self-actualization, related but different concepts. Optimal performance usually is thought of in the realm of athletics and the performing arts. Self Actualization is a more sedate, perhaps even lifelong process of harnessing one’s inner potentials, and unfolding creatively according to one’s own unique formula. Maslow’s concept of Self Actualization is not so different from Jung’s concept of Individuation, evolving along the unique path intrinsic to one’s being and selfhood.

Recently he has presented at the First Annual LENS conference and the ISNR (International Society for Neuronal Regulation) about these topics as connected to long-term or advanced use of the LENS. We consider both topics below, and summarize the presentations.

Optimal Performance:

Conventional biofeedback and neurofeedback have both contributed to the understanding and furtherance of optimal performance in sports and in the performing arts. In this theater, one’s physical performance, poise, focus, and even emotional communication, as in music or acting, are vital. While conventional biofeedback stresses muscular relaxation, and a relatively clear and balanced autonomic nervous system (ANS) poised between high activation and resting-mode is indispensible.

As British researcher, Dr. John Gruzelier’s work has shown–in published, controlled studies, neurofeedback can beneficially effect both concentration (beta training), and “empathic communication (theta training) in conservatory-based classical musicians. The LENS work seems to offer similar bi-modal improvements–that is, allowing for both sharper concentration and the emotional communication, by opening flexibility portals both to high and low frequency brain activity as the situation requires.

Dr. Stephen Larsen relates his own experience of combining the LENS with optimal performance:

I cannot pretend to be immensely accomplished in any one field, the one advantage I have is that I throw myself into a lot of different areas of learning, with a “beginner’s mind”, and a background of intense psychological and psychophysical self-observation. (Also I have been privileged to coach other people who were “at the top of their game.” ) My own areas of interest are the martial arts (2nd degree black belt in Shoto-Kan karate), downhill skiing, technical rock climbing, flying trapeze (after the age of 60), classical and jazz piano, tabla, sleight of hand magic, choral singing, poetry writing, storytelling, along with memorization and public performances, with my wife, Robin.

What I have noticed in each of these areas (requiring somewhat different subsets of skills), is that the LENS has facilitated almost everything. Perhaps the most noticable thing is reduction of performance anxiety, and an ability to jump into things easily and see what is required. Routines and subroutines are acquired relatively easily, and I notice myself less and less stuck on self-criticism or negative witness of my own performance.

Self Actualization:

Is a term used by Abraham Maslow, to discuss the lengthy unfoldment, over a lifetime, of a person’s creative potential. The movement which he co-founded in the 1950’s with Carl Rogers, was thus called The Human Potential Movement. What this movement, and Maslow and Rogers confirmed, is that there is an innate goodness and wholesomeness in people, and that when you remove obstacles to their functioning, a kind of unfolding or “flowering” of the personality and the creative potential ensues. The principle is not so different from Carl Jung’s idea of individuation, that is, not measured against some abstract measuring stick of accomplishments, or the accomplishments of others, but within the laws of your own unique potential.


From his original training in both humanistic and depth psychol0gy, Stephen Larsen has studied the process of personality growth and unfoldment. Rather naturally, perhaps, as he has aged, he has looked at the more complete spectrum of life unfoldment:

In my experience the LENS is a positive aid to people “getting out of their own way”. When people are not locked in a struggle between parts of themselves, self-critical or self-defeating, or obsessive or anxious in some way, then energy is released, and this energy is usually creative and self-expressive. Under treatment I have watched people finishing dissertations, writing books, screenplays, music, poetry. Dreams and the imagination seem to be enhanced along with a general flow of good energy. People become more, well, like themselves.

The two cases I presented at conferences last year were a fifty year old and a sixty year old woman, each in a professional sphere, one a youth-camp director, the other a drama teacher. Both were to find, as their depression and anxiety decreased, immense creative potential was released. The first wrote a screenplay, submitted to a contest, and won an award. The second noticed increased charisma and command of the university classroom, and the undertaking of new programs (see summaries of powerpoint presentations.)