Archives for posts with tag: Maslow’s Pyramid

This Covid thing is an excellent opportunity.
For us to reconsider.

Everything.
Our past. Our meaning/role in this world… our future…
We have the time, some of us also have the means.

The means to socially distance ourselves from the fray.
Hence increasing our likelihood to survive. Increasing our confidence that tomorrow will actually happen.
Increasing the need to ‘actualize’ ourselves. To be able to cope with what tomorrow might bring.

This whole thing reminds me of the fact that Maslow’s Pyramid is nothing but a succession of steps which might be climbed. Might be climbed….
There’s no one there forcing us to step up once we’ve ‘fulfilled’ the one we’re standing on. And no one to tell us what to do once we’ve ‘upgraded’ ourselves.

And another thing.
Covid also taught us, the hard way, that our planet is limited.
That it’s hard to live apart and that everything which happens anywhere eventually influences all of us.

Thank you for reading this.

Later Edit
Some use ‘physical distancing’ instead of ‘social distancing’.
The rationale being that the distance is only physical and not social.
The way I see it, ‘social distancing’ makes a lot more sense.

‘I keep my distance because I care about you, not because I fear I might catch something from you. We are together in this!’

All outcome depends on inputs.
When humans are involved, ‘intent’ can be found among inputs.

What do we want, in the present situation?

Basically, to survive! Right?

For as long as possible… as individuals…

The fact that the sum of our individual survivals results in the survival of our species/cultures is a truism. And, maybe, not so important for some of those struggling to survive as individuals.

The point I’m trying to make here being that how we attempt to survive will decisively influence the general outcome.

We might try to survive against the others.
Or we might try to survive with the others. In close – even if ‘distant’, cooperation with the other members of our community/culture/species.

And while surviving we might try to amass whatever we want. Of whatever we’ve always wanted. Doesn’t matter what ‘that’ is. Money, power, prestige… you name it.

Or we might learn something. We might turn Maslow’s Pyramid on its head.
We might use this crises as an opportunity to understand that we’re stronger together.
That cooperation among autonomous individuals generates a lot more chances of survival than attempting to pass through as individuals.
As a lonely individual or as an individual hiding in the middle of a crowd, doesn’t matter.

And we should bear in mind that surviving the crises will be only the first step.
How we do it will shape the stepping stone for how we’ll rebuild our livelihoods.

Most commentators treat Maslow’s as if it were a pyramid. A succession of five receding floors constituting a structure in the three dimensional space.

Something which can exist, and function, on its own.

I see it as a mere triangle. Drawn on a two dimensional surface by Maslow’s imagination and imperfectly reproduced – according to our individual manner of seeing things, on the surface of our consciences.

My point being that each of those levels are nothing more than a set of opportunities.

The first two, which are described as ‘basic needs’ are the stages where we have the opportunity to learn how to drink, eat, manage our immediate environment and our own strength.

And so on.

Basically, it’s what we choose to do in each of those stages which determines whether we graduate to the next one.

OK, sometimes we are dealt with an ’empty set’ situation. There is no food available. Or no water. Use your own imagination.
But since in that situation there is nothing to be done except waiting for something to change – death is a form of change, that situation is of no interest for me. There’s noting to be decided so…

What we choose to do…

All that Maslow is trying to teach us is that our freedom of will might be free but will always be influenced by the situation in which we find ourselves.

When hungry, our attention – hence freedom of thought, will be necessarily drawn to finding food. We will still be relatively free to choose our individual manner of gathering/cooking it but much of our ‘bandwidth’ will be spent trying to fulfill that task.

And so on.

The really interesting stage/floor being, of course, the last one.
Where we’ll continue to feel hungry – from time to time, at least, were we’ll continue to be vulnerable to various potential aggressors, where we’ll continue to depend on friends and associates, were we’ll continue to pay attention to what other people say about us.
But where all those needs will be modulated by our manner of relating to them.
Ascending through the first four floors meant that our understanding of things was modulated by our needs. Reaching the top means that our conscience has finally learned to ‘turn the tables’. To peek on the other side. To trans-cede.

To whatever stage our precedent choices have set for us.
For us to play our freedom.

Abraham Maslow, the initiator of ‘humanistic psychology’, has been described as being “concerned with questions such as, “Why don’t more people self-actualize if their basic needs are met?” and basically why don’t people try to reach their full potential.”

“To over simplify the matter somewhat it is as if Freud supplied to us the sick half of psychology and we must now fill it out with the healthy half. Perhaps this health psychology will give us more possibility for controlling and improving our lives and for making ourselves better people. Perhaps this will be more fruitful than asking “how to get unsick”. (A. Maslow, Toward a Psychology of Being,)

In a sense Maslow follows in the footsteps of J.J. Rousseau.

“Although, in this state [civil society], he deprives himself of some advantages which he got from nature, he gains in return others so great, his faculties are so stimulated and developed, his ideas so extended, his feelings so ennobled, and his whole soul so uplifted, that, did not the abuses of this new condition often degrade him below that which he left, he would be bound to bless continually the happy moment which took him from it for ever, and, instead of a stupid and unimaginative animal, made him an intelligent being and a man” (J.J. Rousseau, The Social Contract)

In more than one sense.

Both consider that society presents its members with almost endless opportunities for self em-betterment, both wonder how come so few make good use of those opportunities and both have been accused of things they have never done.

Rousseau has been falsely accused of being the father of the ‘Noble Sauvage’ – and the quote above proves his complete innocence, ‘stupid and unimaginative animals’ can be mistaken for ‘noble savages’ only by those ‘abused’ by their ‘new condition’ – while Maslow’s detractors – who have failed to scientifically validate all aspects of ‘the hierarchy of needs’ – are questioning the scientific nature of Maslow’s ideas instead of reconsidering their own positions. (The truth being that Maslow had stated upfront that “I yield to the temptation to present it (his notion of a ‘Psychology of Health’, which includes the concept of ‘self-actualization’) publicly even before it is checked and confirmed, and before it can be called reliable scientific knowledge“)

Unfortunately it is rather obvious that while Maslow has successfully detailed what it takes for an individual to ‘ripen’ into the situation of being able to ‘reconsider its own self’, he failed to reach as far as Rousseau was able to. While the latter deplored the fact that ‘the abuses of his new condition often degrade him below that which he left’ the first blindly entertained the notion that self-actualization is necessarily a positive process.

I’ll use only two examples to illustrate my theory, even if by doing so I’m presenting myself as a target for the ‘science-nazi’.
First take a glance at those who founded/were involved in running LTCM. All of them had very respectable careers behind them at that moment. Why did they feel the need to get involved in such a risky business? For those of you unfamiliar with the financial world LTCM was a hedge fund which had to be bailed out in 1998 after losing $4.6 billion, a huge amount of money for those times.
Then tell me what drove Bernard Madoff, an already very successful ‘operator’ in the financial market  to transform the wealth management branch of his company into a huge Ponzi scheme that eventually lost some $18 billion of actual money ($65  billion if the fabricated gains are added to the total)? Not to mention the fact that he involved his family into the daily operation of his company, leading to his brother being sentenced to 10 years in prison and one of his sons committing suicide… – the other one died of lymphoma a few years after Madoff had been incarcerated.

Could it be that this ‘self-actualization’ business depends on two things, the character of the individual involved and the kind of interaction that exists between him and the community of which he is a member? Meaning that if the ties are weak the character of the individual becomes the dominant factor?

And since nobody’s perfect…

“It is not power that corrupts but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it.” (Aung San Suu Kyi, Freedom from Fear)

But also

All governments suffer a recurring problem: Power attracts pathological personalities. It is not that power corrupts but that it is magnetic to the corruptible.” Frank Herbert, Chapterhouse: Dune

I’ll end up saying that it’s not the governments that have a ‘recurring problem’ but the peoples themselves. By definition governments come and go, it’s the peoples that stay behind and must suffer the consequences of ‘self-actualizations’ went wrong.

row your boat

While discussing with a FB friend the last video posted by Price Ea – you can watch it by clicking on the picture above – something hit me.

We were exchanging ideas about how much control each of us has over his own life when I realized that our very insistence on using precisely this term is what causes a lot of trouble.

The notion of control divides the world in two.
The controller and the controlled.

And since we are social animals, things become very quickly very complicated.

Being ‘animals’ means we that we have ‘animalic’ needs. Air to breathe, water to drink, food to eat, shelter from the elements… The first floors of Maslow’s pyramid, as you surely remember.
Being ‘social animals’ means that we not only depend on having access to enough physical space and resources but also on the cooperation of the people who happen to be in our vicinity.

The control hypothesis ‘leads’ us into a competition for both space and authority above those around us.
Our world becomes divided into what ever space we already control and the rest. Meaning the (yet) uncontrolled areas from where it is very possible that a challenger might spring up anytime so that the controller must somehow extent his control over those areas as well, as soon as possible.
Our neighbors become divided into our ‘slaves’ and our direct competitors. Who have to be, sooner or later, subdued into slaves – lest they do the same thing unto us.

In conclusion, the ‘control hypothesis’ sees the world as a constantly busy battlefield where each of the dwellers is in constant conflict with everybody else.

Luckily, even the most perfunctory  glance down the history teaches us that human success is more about cooperation than about conflict.

Only the conspiracy theorists believe that most wars are started by business people trying to sell their wares to the warring parties. The reasonable business people know that while a certain amount of tension is good for their business – tension sells guns, among other things – an actual war exhausts both parties and destroys solvent demand.
While it is possible that some callous business people or political actors might try to foment war, for various reasons, that doesn’t mean they are behaving reasonably.

Which brings us to the alternate hypothesis.

How about we replace the concept of ‘control’ with the idea of ‘autonomy’?

How about we give up the ‘tiresome’ notion of control and replace it with the peaceful concept of cooperation?

Since we have already figured out that we depend on both those around us and on whatever resources we can identify, how about we enroll the cooperation of as many of the like minded that surround us as possible and search together for those resources?
Instead of each of us simultaneously trying to run faster than everybody else and to hold back as many as possible – the true meaning of generalized conflict?

Which brings me to the notion of ‘autonomy’.
Being autonomous means being engaged in a special kind of relationship. It means being part of a flexible structure. One that is strong enough to resist but flexible enough to allow a variable amount of leeway for each of its components.
The very concept of autonomy recognizes the mutual dependency that exists between the autonomous members of the said structure and also the fact that the very strength of the structure comes from each of the members being able to solve problems on his own.

Autonomously, that is.
Drawing resources from the structure, sometimes enrolling the negotiated cooperation of some other members but, on the whole, most of the problems get to be resolved ‘under the radar’. To the great benefit of the entire structure.
The vast majority of the structure not even noticing the huge numbers of situations that get solved this way.

Compare this situation to the one described in the first scenario, the one where everybody fights, openly or covertly, with every body else and tell me what you prefer.

“Control” or “Autonomy”?

An all out incessant war for ultimate control or a continuous process of negotiation?

Let me elaborate on some concepts first.

We have religion and we also have religions.

Regardless of whether religion comes from the Latin ‘religare’ or not it is obvious for the concerned observer that inside what is commonly known as ‘culture’ there is a tightly knit set of traditions which constitutes the common ground where all members of the community that share those convictions come to meet and ‘find the time of the day’.
Emile Durkheim, one of the founding fathers of sociology, has written a whole book on this subject – The Elementary Forms of Religious Lifeand John Faithful Hamer, one of his disciples, has summed up brilliantly the whole idea: “Religion is largely a function of sociology, not theology.”

Only each community has evolved in its own distinct environment. Hence, even if for each community ‘religion’ plays the same role, there are no two religions that are similar. Simply because each of them consists, as I’ve said before, of a certain set of traditions whose main goal is to help the community make the most of the environment into which it has to make do. And since each environment is different from the next one…

And now we have arrived at the second role played by religion. To offer a certain degree of solace and certitude to the individual believer. Just as nobody can make it out by himself – regardless of whatever the anarchist libertarians might think/preach – all of us need some assurance about the world having some kind of congruence. Some of us find it in science, some others in stories which involve a God or a team of Gods and yet others in a godless narrative about how to behave in order to find, eventually, a way out of this Earthly ‘Valley of Tears’.
In order to offer that solace each individual religion has developed a certain ritual. Just as rigorous performance of calisthenics provides a certain physical well being by performing a religious ritual individuals forge a strong connection with the same minded people belonging to the same flock. That’s why some people believe that ‘religion’ comes from ‘religare’ – the Latin word for ‘binding’.

Let me now put two and two together.

We have religion as a set of guiding traditions and we also have religion as a ritual which is performed in order to bind people together so that they no longer feel alone and helpless.
Putting things this way it’s easy to observe that there are some people who are firm believers in those guiding traditions but who, for various reasons, do not feel the need to constantly reenact the ritual; others who are more or less skeptic about the traditions but who are convinced that their world would come apart if the ritual would no longer be performed and still others who are both firm believers in ‘their’ traditions and staunch performers of the ritual attached to those traditions.

From a more practical point of view the non ritualistic ‘firm believers’ will live and let live even if they are convinced the others will rot in hell while those who attach great importance to the proper performance of the ritual will try to impose it as widely as they (even im)possibly can.
So, if we need to reduce their militancy it would be easier to reduce their perceived insecurity/helplessness than to try to change their ‘religious’ convictions. Maslow taught us that it’s relatively easy to lift an individual from the base of his famous pyramid to a more comfortable level while history has taught us that it takes a lot of time to change a time-honored tradition.
Also, by helping them to overcome their perceived helplessness we’ll also help them notice the fact that each religion offers a great degree of autonomy to its followers.
BTW, that’s why many would be dictators insist on religious-like values (nationalism is also a religion), on the corresponding rituals being faithfully respected AND simultaneously do their worst in order to reduce their followers – the ordinary members of the community they intend to dominate – to a state of abject dependency. The most poignant example being Pol Pot’s Cambodia but this has happened, to various degrees, in all communist states. But not exclusively.

girls chose ISIS

mothers of ISIS

black driver pulled from job

The Root reports that a customer “asked that no black delivery driver be sent to her home” and that a manager decided to “honor” that request.

As most of you already know Maslow’s five leveled pyramid can be simplified into a three three tiered one: Physiological needs, Relational needs (safety, emotion and esteem) and Self Actualization. Maslow said that you cannot skip any one of this levels, for instance you can not deal with your emotional needs on an empty stomach. And who cares about self actualization if he doesn’t know where he’s going to sleep tonight?

Well…intuitively we have to admit that Maslow’s words do make some sense…

Studying this example we can draw some interesting conclusions on this subject.

For instance simply climbing to a certain level doesn’t mean one is mature enough for it.

The customer had certainly satisfied her basic needs yet she has some deep emotional problems.
OK, I can imagine that a person can be so ‘dense’ as to be able to make such a demand but no second thoughts after you produced such a frack-ass?
“”I got a right to have whatever I want and that’s it,” the woman said. “No, I don’t feel bad about nothing.””

But the most interesting examples here are the manager and the driver.

Lowe’s is not at all a small operation. Rising to management level is not a simple thing and should provide some security and self esteem to an individual. Enough for that individual to start thinking with his own head. After all that’s what managers are supposed to do, right? That would also help that individual bring himself up to date – ‘self actualization’, that is…
Was that particular manager capable of fulfilling his duty? Lowe’s didn’t think so… Me neither, on different grounds though.

Let’s see what the driver has to say:
“”To me, it just ain’t right for a business that we work at to go on with the woman’s wishes,” Brooks told the news station.
“It was one of those things like, ‘These guys will get over it, they’re tough guys, they’re delivery guys,’ ” Brooks said. “And that’s kind of where I just had to put my foot down and say I couldn’t do it with them.””
So a “mere” driver has more guts than a manager…
No matter if the manager shared the customer’s racist feelings. He had to have the wisdom to understand that catering for such kind of wishes – specially in this manner,  is extremely bad for the company. And for himself as an employee of that company.
So he should have solved that situation properly, not botchedly – he was a manager, remember?

“Despite the letdown, Bradley added that he won’t be missing any time at work.
“I mean, I gotta work,” he said. “I’m going to keep going to work like I’ve always done. But I would think Lowe’s would take it into consideration to think about what they’re doing next time.””

So the driver has a clearer view of the situation – including his own standing – than the manager…

What’s going on here? Did Maslow got his pyramid upside down or the whole world has turned over and is now standing on its head?

Maybe that is the whole ‘self-actualization’ thing. Being able to use wisely the amount of autonomy one happens to have at his disposal.

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