Can we learn to be critically self-conscious?

In his book “The Assault on Reason” Al Gore informs me that he concluded after talking to many candidates of both parties in the 2006 election cycle that they had spent two thirds of their campaign funds on thirty second TV ads.

If that is not an indication of a shallow minded irresponsible citizenry I do not know what is. The political candidates recognize that the way to get votes is to follow the Madison Avenue advertising approach of bombarding the citizens with sound bite.

Al goes on to explain that part of the problem rests in an early childhood syndrome called “attachment theory”. Attachment theory is a relatively new theory of development psychology, which states that infants develop very early in their lives an attitude toward their relationship to the world resulting from their relationship in the first year of life with their parents.

Children take on three general attitudes:
The child learns that s/he has significant control of the world because the parents responded consistently and quickly to the child’s needs.
The child develops “anxious resistant attachment” when the parents respond inconsistently to the child’s pleas.
In the worst case the child receives no emotional response to its pleas.

The point I wish to make is that we were all raised in various manners and as a result of that raising we develop deep seated attitudes toward the world that significantly affect the rest of our lives is not recognized by us and then dealt with.

Must we journey through life handicapped by these early attachments developed in the first few years of life? It seems reasonable to me that if we learned to be self-critical we can, probably with difficulty, make significant changes in our life. I think that this process might be what Maslow was talking about when he developed the hierarchy of need.

Abraham Maslow defined a hierarchy of needs to be:
1) Biological and Physiological (water, food, shelter, air, sex, etc.)
2) Safety (security, law and order, stability,
3) Belonging and love (family, affection, community, etc.)
4) Esteem (self-esteem, independence, prestige, achievement, etc.)
5) Self-Actualization (self-fulfillment, personal growth, realizing personal potential, etc.)

This hierarchy made us conscious of the obvious fact that we did not fret about the absence of self-esteem if we did not already have security nor did we worry about security if we did not have water to drink or air to breath.

The pinnacle of needs Maslow labeled S-A (Self-Actualization). In “The Farther Reaches of Human Nature” 1971, Maslow speaks of these needs and he apparently (as far as I know) introduced this new concept S-A as in “mid-stream rather than ready for formulation into a final version”.

Maslow said “The people I selected for my investigation were older people…When you select out for careful study very fine and healthy people…you are asking how tall can people grow, what can a human being become?”

What do you think about self-actualization?