Thursday, 9 April 2015

Musings on Maslow

Maslow's hierarchy of needs is a theory in psychology proposed by Abraham Maslow in his 1943 paper "A Theory of Human Motivation" in Psychological Review. It shows the different sections a person must transgress in order to reach "self-actualization", an individual's full potential. Expressing one's creativity, quest for spiritual enlightenment, pursuit of knowledge, and the desire to give to society are examples of self-actualization.

According to Maslow's hierarchy, we must have all the preceeding levels in place before self-actualization can be achieved. On the surface this seems perfectly common sense. A person cannot achieve one's true potential if they cannot find enough food to eat or are threatened by war and disease. The controlling elites, I believe, have recognised this. I believe that is why our world is plagued by problems. I believe that these "problems" are targetted directly to preventing us from achieving the goal of reaching the top of pyramid. All the wars, famines, terrorism, racism, discrimination, but to name a few, have all been created and encouraged to attack us at these various levels and keep as low on the pyramid as possible.

If Maslow's hierachy is true, this also poses a problem in the structure of the pyramid, in terms of its impact on society. If self-actualization is the goal then it is essential for people wanting to achieve it that they have all levels in place first. Therefore, their first priority is themselves achieving the necessary levels and themselves alone. This creates a very selfish "rat race" to the top to not only make sure you get there, but that you remain there also. With the top level being esteem, this poses the question how can one achieve maximum esteem, as that is surely the goal? And if esteem is a judgement, then what basis are we using the criteria? Is it that we are higher than most on the pyramid? Is it from recognition and praise from others? Or is it based on our criteria that we derive from our own beliefs? Do some people confuse self-esteem with narcissism? Because the answer to that question is fundamental on what sort of society you create when self-esteem is considered the highest spiritual commodity, especially when Dante stated that pride was the worst of the seven deadly sins.

What would happen, though, if the top of the pyramid was inverted and self-actualization was actually at the bottom and not at the top as Maslow proposes? I agree with Dutch psychologist Geert Hofstede that this could be the case. I believe that self-actualization is reached when all those things are stripped away. When you lose esteem and the care of being judged by others. It occurs when you don't belong to society because it has different values to you or does not care for its citizens and ceases to function properly. The road to enlightenment begins when you lose the fear of safety and realise that you can't control the world to make you safe. Most of all, it is when you strip away the need for material goods and the need for attachment to things and people, that true self-actualization can be achieved and your true potential can be unleashed.


"It's only after you've lost everything that you're free to do anything." - Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt)

I was perusing youtube one evening and I came across a video of the Dalai Lama holding a Buddhist conference. In it he stated his belief that there is an increase in people becoming enlightened because more and more people are being cast into poverty due to the inequality gap. So, perhaps the money and power grab of the elites is actually waking more people up from their mental self-imprisonment than ever before.

Before the Dalai Lama began talking, the camera panned around the room of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people that came to hear him talk. I was taken aback by what I saw. The diversity amongst the crowd was staggering. Men, women, old, young, black, white, every other shade of colour you can think of. They were not sitting in little clumps of each ethnicity or age group but interspersed between each other. It was the picture of true diversity, not the buzz words used in the media, but true acceptance.

There were a few minutes of complete silence before the Dalai Lama spoke. As waves of peace and tranquility washed gently over the congregation, I noticed there was not just peace and tranquility in that room. There was love. There was respect. There was an unbelievable power that no money, wealth and individual fame will ever come close to reaching. The power of coming together with no prejudice or agenda. The people in that room had no fragile ego to maintain. No one to clamber over to get ahead of on the structure. No need to attack someone to maintain their safety. No need to steal to climb the social ladder.

Because the irony is that by first losing the need to achieve all those levels in the pyramid, you realise that by coming together to help each other achieve these things, we get the whole lot anyway. Together, where nobody gets left behind.

And it's a far, far nicer experience along the way.

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