Tag Archives: maslow’s hierarchy of needs

Poisonous Choice

In every circumstance there is a choice, whether it’s personal or societal.

From a societal aspect, it seems many of our choices boil down to choosing either a punitive or compassionate approach to solutions that challenge our communities. In the US, we seem to take a punitive approach to most of our societal issues.

An examination of our overall response to homelessness exemplifies the point. Instead of looking beneath the surface of the problem to discover solutions, we vilify the homeless as lazy and moochers instead. We think they should just pull themselves up and get a job and realize the American Dream, but we don’t want to help them do it. We cry ‘socialism’ and ‘entitlement’ and ‘dependence,’ and blame them for their own undoing. As Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs demonstrates, when one is focused on merely surviving day to day, anything else takes second place. But we refuse to offer the one thing that will help them, a means to have a roof over their head. In some cities like mine, we kick it up a notch by forcing the homeless out of public spaces and booking them like criminals. A blatantly punitive, not compassionate approach that only exacerbates the situation.

Norway provides an example of a compassionate approach. It dropped its homeless rate by a third in four years simply by getting to the root of the problem and providing housing.

“This means that homelessness is understood as a housing problem, not primarily or solely as a social problem, and the provision of housing with or without follow-up is considered essential to prevent and reduce homelessness,” says researcher and project manager Evelyn Dyb at the NIBR City and Regional Research Institute at Oslo and Akershus University of Applied Sciences.

The US obviously takes a punitive approach to drug addiction as well. Instead of applying compassion and the understanding that we’re dealing with a disease, we criminalize drug abuse. It’s my personal contention that by taking this approach, we actually enable their thievery and other violence. We keep our prison industry alive with drug offenders, with almost half of its occupants convicted on drug related charges. (rarely do the drug companies or doctors who push the pills suffer any consequences).

The nation of Portugal decided to approach drug addiction from a compassionate angle with robust positive results. But their society first made a conscious effort to adjust their perspectives:

Portugal’s remarkable recovery, and the fact that it has held steady through several changes in government – including conservative leaders who would have preferred to return to the US-style war on drugs – could not have happened without an enormous cultural shift, and a change in how the country viewed drugs, addiction – and itself. 

As a last example, I’ll utilize the current US border issue and the choice this administration is making by acting punitively instead of compassionately. Prior to the Zero tolerance policy, and at the behest of the Obama administration, migrants were released to relatives with ankle monitors to ensure their accountability to appear to court cases, etc.. There were social workers and agents involved to act as liaisons to help them through that process. Our nation does not act compassionately in this regard any longer.

Detention centers have morphed into concentration camps as they’ve become overcrowded and unsanitary due to defying the Flores Settlement as well as scrapping the prior administration’s more compassionate program of release with the ability to monitor.

I’ve observed a couple of compelling reasons behind the US’ consistent punitive approach to most social issues. The first is hard to miss: greed. The private prison industry takes millions in taxpayer money every year to house non violent drug criminals. GEO and CoreCivic are currently earning a whopping $775 a day to house migrants instead of releasing them to relatives. Drug manufacturers have raked in billions thanks to Oxycontin. Quite a few people became much wealthier by creating the housing bubble, which helped create the homeless crisis.

From another stance, there’s a healthy contingency in our midst that infuses a religious flavor to the idea of punity, choosing to draw from the notion of an authoritarian god instead of the example of a compassionate savior.

In each example, the compassionate approach is more humane and overall healthier for the society who employs it. The punitive approach only seems to poison a nation by reinforcing greed and authoritarianism. Would that the US could have a paradigm shift along the lines of Portugal and Jesus’ teachings.

In Peace,

Frankie


Presidential Robbery

There’s a fleecing going on – our tax dollars pay the bill to Trump Org. for the room and board of our national security detail that goes with protecting the president, at his own  properties. There’s a grifting going on – the corporate elite pay higher membership prices at Mar-a-Lago, where they have exclusive access to the president and his high ranking aides.  While these material slights are by no means benign and even have profound impact upon the way our government is currently functioning, they are far from the biggest robbery our president is committing: that is the robbery of our emotional security.

Emotional security, and a sense of belonging, are the second most important needs to be met in order for us to become fully actualized, or operating at our full human potential according to the wisdom of Abraham Maslow. Most of us get this first as infants and children, by parents who are attentive to our needs and provide us at least a constant roof and food and familial support. As adults we seek out partners, social groups, or strong friendships to provide a sense of belonging and emotional support.

There’s a similar sense of security we obtain as citizens and it’s as intangible and immeasurable as belonging to a family. Under the guises of the idea of the social contract, we pay our taxes to the government and it provides national defense as well as a functioning infrastructure. This relationship has allowed a majority of people to feel safe about the future and its ability to provide opportunities. It has enabled us to take personal risks in art, science, education, politics, and economics. We know the infrastructure, or scaffolding, is sustained by our tax dollars through the government and historically, that scaffolding has been steady, mostly secure, and highly profitable overall.

We’ve been robbed of that by Donald Trump.

Instead of worrying about overspending on Christmas, several hundred thousand federal workers are right now worried about how they’ll make their mortgage or rent in three days. Instead of the comfort of a plump 401k account, many baby boomers are wringing their hands over lost money, because of capricious Trump tweets. Instead of knowing that federal agencies will pick up the pieces after a natural disaster, he threatens to shutdown the government. Rather than assuring his audience that our nation is safe, he stokes fear by creating an immigrant caravan crisis that is nonexistent.

As we progress in years we learn that money is one thing but peace of mind and health are priceless. It’s the most astonishing thing, then, to realize our president is robbing us of our national peace of mind and security. It’s even more maddening because it’s a deliberate choice he’s making. it’s deliberate pain he’s inflicting upon his citizens, it’s a deliberate robbery of our sense of security.

Maybe there’s a German word that describes this kind of poor, selfish leadership. I can’t seem to fish the right adjectives from the English language.

Here’s to turning this ship around…

Frankie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chief (in name only, he


Maslow’s Triangle and Religion: How The Psychology of Belonging Keeps Us Trapped in Church

It is  my personal opinion, based on quite informal observations, that perhaps the biggest reason so many fear leaving religion is because they fear losing their sense of belonging.

Abraham Maslow observed that all humans have a specific set of needs and they must be met in a specific order for us to reach our full potential, or self-actualization as he termed it.

maslowpic

At the bottom of the Hierarchy of Needs are the absolute minimum necessities for us to survive:  food, shelter, and safety.  Ask any homeless person (I’ve been there myself), its difficult to focus on creating the next big thing or writing the next big novel when you are worried about where you’re going to sleep that night or if you’ll have food tomorrow.   We are stuck at the bottom of the Maslow’s gig until we consistently have full bellies and safe shelter.   Once these are obtained, we can then focus on the next level of needs which is having a sense of belonging and being loved.   We must achieve at least some self-esteem and knowing that we are part of a group, then we can move on to the next and final level of Maslow’s Hierarchy, which is reaching our full potential, being successful, and helping others meet their goals.

I often wonder if many people stay in the church simply because it is their only source of belonging and sense of community.

It is a powerful feeling to know you are wanted and even needed by others.  I think this is especially true in the church setting where typically small congregations provide acute environments that affirm feelings of importance.  If a person began to question the indoctrinated principles their particular denomination espouses, if there are no alternatives to take the place of this sense of belonging, it is highly likely they will stay within the confines of religion – trapped – because the psychological need to belong and feel loved is real and strong.   It is not necessarily a conscious choice I suspect.

confession bear

From another angle, there is the ‘big fish in a small pond’ dynamic that I believe keeps some trapped within the walls of religion.   Its a mighty big world out there, and if I venture into it, I am just another part of the school.  Inside a church or mosque or temple though, I have some import.   I might be a children’s church director, or imam, or rabbi to a small community – I am a big fish in a small pond.   Any human would have a rough time giving that up.

I write about these psychological dynamics because it seems to me that as atheists, we should be sensitive to this issue. I think that sometimes when we hear so much cyclical arguing about ‘the bible says therefore it is’ that its only an argument fought from the corner of fear.   I think what many are really saying is “I know my place in here, I know I belong, I know I am needed, I know I am important and I am too afraid to give it up.”

Statistics show that more and more people are questioning their faiths, some of them may turn to us who have already trod the path for answers.  We should be aware of the power of the need to belong.  We need to offer support where there might not be any.  We need to form bonds within our communities so that we exemplify the idea that belonging is also achieved outside the four walls of a building.

It’s not easy to leave the confines of religion for many many reasons.  I suspect the psychological need to belong presents one of the greatest challenges to leaving the four walls of the church.   I am confident that we atheists can rise to the occasion and be sensitive to the issue, provide support, and form bonds to help our brothers and sisters.

Peace kids –

Frankie


Here’s the Real Challenge, Gweneth, but Thanks for the Effort! #FoodBankNYCChallenge

One of the big headlines this past week in celebrity news was Gweneth Paltrow’s pledge to survive on $29 of food in a week.  Here is the instagram snap she shared of all the food that amount of money can buy.

gwennie

Ms. Paltrow is taking part in a sort of ice bucket challenge gig to bring awareness to the issue of SNAP assistance (food stamps), or more to the point, how small an effect SNAP assistance really has on helping a person to survive, .  I mean just look at the picture.

LOOK                   AT                          IT.

Contained within that one picture is not just a week’s worth of food.  It’s an entire lifestyle.

You see, there’s a psychological framework that we all work within and an astute man by the name of Abraham Maslow put it in a tangible illustration called Maslow’s Triangle, or Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

maslowpic

At the base of the Triangle, as the very very very very foundation of our needs, we must be safe and fed and have a roof over our heads.    Maslow observed that until our physical needs are met, we are trapped at the first level of Need. We cannot meet our social needs of feeling loved and having a sense of belonging until we reach a point where we consistently have full tummies, safe sleeping quarters, and clothes on our backs.

Here’s what we miss:   Statistically, if a person is utilizing SNAP to meet their basic needs, chances are their entire life is stuck at the first level of Maslow’s Triangle.

It’s not just the food you see, its the lifestyle that goes with the food.  It’s knowing I have food at the beginning of the month, but I’ll be eating ramen noodles the last week of the month – for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  It’s wondering if I can find a job this month, or if I’ll be able to keep the one I have, or maybe trying to deal with my work hours being cut.  It’s wondering if my babies will be safe in the neighborhood playground because I can only afford certain housing.  It’s working with a damnable toothache because I cannot afford dental insurance let alone the trip to the dentist.   It’s sharing a bed in the winter because I can’t afford the heating  bill.  It’s going without nail polish, using the same mascara for a year, and wearing torn underwear – the kids need clothes you see. It’s excruciating pain when my child comes home crying because he was teased for having holes in his shoes.  It’s fighting with my husband over steak or beans for dinner again.  It’s laying in bed, in the early morning hours, worrying, anxious, trying to figure out how I can come up with ten measly bucks so my daughter can go on the school field trip.

It’s the day in and day out grind, just barely surviving, just making ends meet (or learning to live with yourself if you can’t – a silent surrender to your circumstances, a compromise you never thought you’d make), its scratching out even a meager existence any way possible  –  THAT’S what this picture really represents:

gwennie

Education is the key to understanding.  I am grateful that some attention is given to the issue, but we must realize that it’s not just the food, or lack of it, that our brothers and sisters deal with.   They deal with the mere act of surviving on a daily basis, without physical safety, without choices, and without understanding. They cannot contribute to society in a meaningful way since all their attention is focused on meeting their basic needs one day at a time, they have no energy left over for anything else   I would challenge Gweneth, and any others, to look beyond the picture in order to comprehend the lifestyle.   THEN we might be able to effect some real change.

Here’s to making a difference.  Here’s to awareness.  Here’s to less of us struggling to merely survive.

Frankie