Major life changes are an inevitable part of any human existence – things that can cause us undue stress can also be perceived as a choice for happiness, or a choice for misery. I once heard a wise person say that “pain in life is inevitable. Suffering is optional.” That concept is hard to forget when you’re changing life’s lanes from adulthood to that elusive state of “emotional maturity.”
I had the opportunity over the weekend to focus on spiritual and mental health with an extraordinary grouping of people from all walks of life, who came across the country to form a temporary community of seekers. In a marathon setting we learned from a therapist/life coach so many of the facets of human emotionality and communication that I begin now to endeavor a ten series article on what I have come to learn that I may pass along that knowledge.Still, there is one point to start with, and that is the concept of self actualization or self esteem. Let’s begin by giving some generalizations about esteem ego combination’s, and the basics of human needs.
What You Need
In 1943, a psychologist by the name of Abraham Maslow introduced a revolutionary hierarchy of human needs to the world in the form of a pyramid, addressing those internal driving forces that touch every single human life throughout the world and time. We all need basic physiological security – air, water, relative temperature, food. These are basic to human survival. The most fundamental and basic four layers of the pyramid contain what Maslow called “deficiency needs.” First comes those stay alive impulses for food and shelter, basic to human existence. Next, a person will seek security, such as funding through a job or significant other to ensure the continuity of food and shelter; protection against illness, violence, etc. Once suitably safe in their chosen environment, a person will seek significance through a relationship or connection to a mate, family, community and/or faith group. Finally, in the basic needs of life comes self esteem and actualization, which includes the human desire for variety, growth and “becoming” as the individual deems important or appropriate to themselves.
With the exception of the physiological needs that result in actual death, when a person is exposed to a continuing deficiency of needs, that individual will live life feeling anxious and tense. If the needs remain unmet for long periods of time due to internalized or social rules, the individual may begin to unconsciously act against the perceived circumstance or individual that prevents fulfillment. Does that mean that if you’re feeling stifled and bored doing the “same old” every day you’re experiencing a lack of variety? Yes, that is possible. Can you change it? Pretty simply, given that this is the only need not being met. If you’re not fulfilled in your love relationship through lack of authentic connection, and you’re experience no variety, you will most likely feel a lack of significance even if you’re the primary “security” for the family. Linking them as separate parts of a whole really helps understand that you must first decide what it is that you truly need (desire) within the context of your life and seek to fulfill those goals in a way that best shows love and support to you and those around you.
Here are some beginning questions for becoming unstuck in the needs category. Notice that they are not “why questions” but “how or what.” What are you selling yourself, how are you/can you be accountable…not “why am I failing?”
- What about my life am I truly satisfied with and why? How does it make me feel when I close my eyes and consider that situation or person?
- What about my life am I feeling a deficit in? What need is being met (or not) in this scenario, and why am I feeling less satisfaction here?
- What steps can I take to increase or change how I feel about this deficit?
- What challenges or opportunities present in considering the situation?
- What rules (beliefs about life) am I applying to the situation that might need to be changed in order to increase my level of competency or satisfaction? Do I need to revise my rules, or revise my role?
- What do I really want? What is my driving desire? Try to write a life mission statement in a simple sentence. Here is mine: “Authentically, lovingly bring a meaningful contribution of peace and grace to everyone I interact and engage with, from a place of abundance in personal balance and happiness.”
Sounds relatively simple, yet hundreds of thousands of people are in strained or ending relationships, have overwhelming stress and anxiety or live lives of suffering because of a lack of met needs. What might stop a person from meeting their own needs? Self defeating behaviors is a first thought, including self doubt and an expectation of failure. Focusing to much on details and less of outcomes also causes a person to go “without” instead of “within.” If you have a major values conflict (e.g. you truly do not love a spouse but your social rules prohibit divorce), live in in unsupportive environment or engage in negative self talk – all of these things can really drastically change the quality of your life. A great book that I recommend to everyone is from Tim Shurr, who is my life coach and mentor. His book “Get Out Of Your Own Way” is an excellent resource that we used in our coaching time to improve on my own life circumstances. I recommend it because I have used it, own a copy and trust the guy – he’s genuine.
In closing, we’ll be looking more at the facets of human needs, self esteem and understanding in weeks to come through the entire series. But first, know this. Until you authentically consider and address the basic needs that you have as a human being in any culture; what your social beliefs and rules tell you about those needs; and what changes you might consider to effect change, there is little chance of progressing into the higher realms of self actualization or understanding.