Today is the fourth day in a week long exploration of our Human Needs as defined by Maslow. If you haven’t already you can find out more about this exploration in my introductory post, “Why I think Maslow is Wrong“.
You can also read:
Wednesday – Exploring Maslow and Human Needs: Esteem
A friend of mine said to me that she is a person who was catapulted into self awareness at a young age. I would argue that as swaddling babes born naked into the world, we are all catapulted from the womb into self awareness.
The difference between my friend and others, the difference between self-actualization and the lack thereof is the refusal to capitulate to enculturation.
Enculturation is the process by which a person learns the requirements of the culture by which he or she is surrounded, and acquires values and behaviours that are appropriate or necessary in that culture. [source]
As we run through the gauntlet of society the pressure to conform, to capitulate and to become enculturated is enormous. It starts astonishingly young with the advent of daycare and it never ever lets up. Society as a system has evolved in such a way that it discourages Self-Actualization by way of enculturation. From a very early age we’re subject to input, with Baby einstein and Sesame Street, daycare teachers, early childhood schooling, TV and everything else around us, from nearly the moment existence begins there is a crushing amount of input.
With this massive, unrelenting wave of input we are taught, trained and encouraged to focus our attention outside of the self. Everybody, every message, every thing out there is begging and demanding our attention. If we take a look and sift through all of this, we will find very little out there that encourages us to take the time to stop and instead pay attention to the self.
And if we pause to think about it, we find that the distinct and dramatic difference between a person expressing and fulfilling their self-actualization needs and one who is not is one thing:
“You can’t wake a person who is pretending to sleep” -Navajo proverb
Most of us are pretending to sleep.
We don’t have to pretend anymore. Maslow put Self-Actualization needs at the top of his hierarchy because he believed that in order to become actualized a person needed to satisfy all other human needs first. Maslow also believed that only about 1% of people achieve self-actualization, and though I don’t have any empirical evidence, I think if Maslow had the time and wherewithal to study people globally, across all continents, cultures and societies he would have found a much higher percentage of Self-Actualized people.
This is because Self-Actualization isn’t any more or less dependent on the other needs in the circle than the rest of them.
IN FACT, GENUINE EXPRESSION OF OTHER NEEDS IN THE CIRCLE IS AS DEPENDENT ON ACHIEVING SELF-ACTUALIZATION AS ACHIEVING SELF-ACTUALIZATION IS ON GENUINE EXPRESSION OF THE OTHER NEEDS.
See, the awareness and awakening that comes with expressing Self-Actualization is in effect de-culturation. It is the willingness to stop pretending to sleep and pay attention to the self.
Part of the reason so few people achieve Self-Actualization is that we don’t know what we want. Because we don’t know what we want we pursue to excess the fulfillment of our other needs. The hoarding of stuff that permeates the consumer culture, society’s voracious appetite for sex, ridiculous expectations and demands for un-deserved respect and esteem, amassing gross amounts of wealth into the tiniest segment of society.
THESE MANIFESTATIONS OF EXCESS IN SOCIETY ARE SYMPTOMS OF A LACK OF AWARENESS OF WHAT WE REALLY NEED
We don’t know what we need because we’re not aware, and we’re not aware because
WE ARE NOT LISTENING TO OURSELVES
Because we’re not listening to ourselves we’re fulfilling other needs to excess, which is a false expression that does not lead to genuine satisfaction. The trap is that we feel the excess we are achieving to fulfill these needs will grant us Self-Actualization, which will somehow make us happy and free.
We’re trapped in a negative feedback loop of enculturation.
This loop is overwhelmed by noise generated by culture and society.
In a properly balanced enculturation feedback loop the system (society) would produce output that the self would return in part (genuine expression of our needs) back to the system. This genuinely expressed reflection of output would then help society improve and further refine and produce more output, creating a system of enculturation that is based on the genuine expression of our needs.
Instead what is happening is society is producing output (overconsumption, mass consumerism, materialism, vanity, entitlement, etc..) which is pure noise. The noise is being reflected back into the system nearly wholly intact and unmodified, which amplifies the false output, creating our negative feedback loop.
THE PROBLEM IS THAT WE AS THE SELF ARE BOTH THE SYSTEM AND THE REFLECTION OF THAT SYSTEM
We have unactualized selves producing output and that output combined together becomes society’s output which is reflected right back us, producing nothing but noise.
That noise is nearly every tweet, phone call, television show, Facebook poke, book, magazine, newspaper, website and other bit of input.
There is almost no signal.
In fact my website here could be construed as noise.
I am going to go so far as to say that what I am sharing here is not noise, but signal. I am a Self-Actualized human being, and what I have to offer is both a genuine expression of my needs and a genuine effort to help others express their needs.
I know for a fact that achieving genuine expression of Physiological, Safety/Security, Love/Belonging and Esteem needs is not a prerequisite for Self-Actualization because when I achieved Self-Actualization, when I stopped pretending to sleep, I was not meeting all of my other needs.
WHEN I STOPPED PRETENDING TO SLEEP WAS WHEN I FINALLY UNDERSTOOD WHAT MY OTHER NEEDS REALLY WERE
HOW DO YOU STOP PRETENDING TO SLEEP?
Part of the problem is that when you’re pretending to sleep you aren’t fooling us, you’re only fooling yourself, and you’re not fooling yourself, you just aren’t aware of what it is you really need. What you have to do is
LISTEN TO YOURSELF
Think about this for a moment. When was the last time you were completely alone, with only your self.
By alone I mean there was NO input. No books, no television, no computers or cellphones or regular phones, no gaming systems, no music, no other people, no animals, just you, and silence.
When was the last time?
I bet it’s been a long time, and I bet you can’t remember the last time. If you can remember the last time I bet you were antsy and fidgety, and I bet you tried to find yourself some input as soon as possible.
That input you chase is the noise of society that keeps you from hearing yourself and understanding what your true needs are.
YOU HAVE TO TAKE TIME TO LISTEN TO YOURSELF
This can be done many ways, through meditation, yoga, journaling, or simply sitting and thinking. You just have to take time to be completely alone.
We’ve somehow gotten this idea in our society that we always have to be connected, we always have to be with someone, we always have to have the latest information, we always have to be in the know, but that’s just not true.
IT IS IMPERATIVE THAT WE TAKE THE TIME TO HEAR WHAT OUR SELF IS SAYING TO US
Your actualized self is inside of you. It’s not like you have to undergo some kind of transformation and become a different person to be Self-Actualized. It’s quite the opposite. You just have to listen.
When you listen, you will find out what it is you need, and when you find out what it is you need, you have to follow it.
YOU HAVE TO PURSUE YOUR PASSIONS
Have you ever been sitting on the couch watching TV thinking, “I wish I could do that”. That being anything whether it be golf or painting, playing guitar, baseball, football or any other sport for that matter, poker, writing, building a motorcycle or fixing up your house, making a book case, anything at all..
That thought, that voice, that was your actualized self trying to get you to stop pretending to sleep.
See, Self-Actualized people get off the couch and do these things, whatever they are.
TIGER WOODS DIDN’T GET TO BE THE BEST BY WISHING FOR IT. HE GOT OFF THE COUCH AND PURSUED HIS PASSION
When that idle thought passes through your head, listen to it and start following it.
Try things! By pursuing your passions you’ll find out what they are. You might listen to your voice and go out and pursue something for awhile, and then find it’s not for you. That’s okay, that’s perfectly fine. Not everything is for everyone. Many people try many things before finding their passions, and some people just know.
There is no right or wrong, as long as you keep listening to yourself because the more you listen the more you’ll actually understand what it is you need.
And as you start to pursue these things,
If I had a nickel for every time I heard someone say, “I’m not creative” or “Wow I wish I could do that” or “I just don’t have any creativity” or “creative people are so amazing, I wish I was like that”,
I WOULD BE FUCKING RICH
It drives me batshit crazy when I hear people say that because without exception,
WE ARE ALL CREATIVE BEINGS
Maslow wrote that one of the universal characteristics of Self-Actualized people was creativity.
Maslow also wrote
The creativeness of the self-actualized man seems rather to be kin to the naive and universal creativeness of unspoiled [unculturated] children. It seems to be a characteristic of common human nature – a potentiality given to all human beings at birth. [Abraham Maslow, Motivation and Personality, p170, 1954]
In case you didn’t get that, let me simplify it for you
WE ARE ALL CREATIVE BEINGS
Too often people think of creativity as being able to paint, draw, write, people associate creativity with Art, and rightly so, as art is often a genuine expression of creativity, however
ART IS ONLY ONE FORM OF EXPRESSING CREATIVITY
Every moment of every day is a chance to express creativity.
Choosing an outfit is an expression of creativity
Solving a problem at work is an expression of creativity
Making dinner is an expression of creativity
Arranging the furniture and decor in a room is an expression of creativity
Playing with a child is an expression of creativity
Writing a note is an expression of creativity
Smiling is an expression of creativity
Telling a joke is an expression of creativity
LIFE IS AN EXPRESSION OF CREATIVITY
Self-Actualization is the ability to accept life for what it is and be happy within that. We have the choice and the power to make life as good or as bad as we want it to be, and Self-Actualization is the realization that all we need to be happy, is ourselves. Everything else in life, good, bad or indifferent is extra icing on the cake of existence.
This week’s exploration is a lead up to the release of my free ebook, Flipping Your Switch: A meditation on awareness and defining your own freedom.
Tomorrow is our final day of examination, and we’ll be looking at Safety and Security needs. (And my ebook will be available for free download!)
If you’ve woken up from pretending to sleep, pass this along to your family and friends via the tweet and like buttons below.