Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Checking in with Abe Maslow

In the 1980s, all levels Air Force professional military education included some instruction on, discussion of, or reference to Abraham Maslow and his Hierarchy of Needs. I know this because I spent 20 years and 6 days in the Air Force before I retired in 1993, and I instructed three of the then five levels of Professional Military Education during the 1980s. Here's what I looked like in those days:


(Oops! Right timeframe -- wrong picture. This was taken at the Armed Forces Chili Cook-Off in 1981. My team took first place for Showmanship with our "Best Little Whorehouse In Texas." My future husband had known me about nine months, and was somewhat stunned by my appearance. My girlfriends, not so much. Hey! Whatever works!)


(Sigh! We were so young and gorgeous then!)

Anyway, back to Maslow. The short version for those that don't know who or what I am talking about and didn't take advantage of the link above (from Wikipedia because it was convenient and concise):


Maslow's hierarchy of needs is often portrayed in the shape of a pyramid, with the largest and lowest levels of needs at the bottom, and the need for self-actualization at the top.

The lower four layers of the pyramid contain what Maslow called "deficiency needs" or "d-needs": esteem , friendship and love, security, and physical needs. With the exception of the lowest (physiological) needs, if these "deficiency needs" are not met, the body gives no physical indication but the individual feels anxious and tense.

We would discuss Maslow's theory endlessly. Some arguing whether or not physical ailments were directly related to unfulfilled deficiency needs that were not of a physiological nature. Of course, the past 30 years of medical science has pretty much made this a moot argument. The fact that Maslow concentrated his studies on healthy and fully functional people, in fact exceptional people (e.g., Albert Einstein), begs the question whether his was a guide to healthy psychosocial development or a snapshot of the exceptional case. But, I digress, again.

One effect of my continuing recovery from the effects of the past few years has been a better understanding of my relationship to these deficiency needs and  a clearer awareness of what is ringing my bell or pulling my chain.

In the immediate aftermath of Bill's death in July, my focus went to those physiological needs that we take for granted. I felt like I had to think about breathing or I would just stop doing so. I had to coax myself into eating and drinking even though I had no sense of taste or smell. I was sleeping very little and sleep walking a lot. It may have looked like I had it all together, but it takes years of practice to make it look that way!

The safety and security needs had been making themselves heard since April of 2009 when our family underwent a brutal breakup; the difference being that after Bill died, I no longer had my steadying hand at the wheel of our ship.

Now it's all jumbled up. I can't tell my self-esteem needs from my love-belonging needs from my self-actualization needs. It feels like one big knot of neediness taking over everything. The need for a hug becomes an existential identity crisis. The only thing I am sure of is eating, sleeping, breathing, and all those other bodily functions that seem, for the moment to be working all right on their own without a lot of input from me or my head.

But, the fears that I thought had been chased off for good are whispering in my ear again. The ones that cackle about me not being good enough or smart enough or lovable enough. I had to shout at them this morning to send them away so that I could get myself dressed and out of the house and into the world. They promised they would be back, but I am going to be ready for them. I am getting too old for this shit!

3 comments:

Mary H said...

OK, now I'm having flashbacks to Maslow and NCOLS/NCOA/SNCOA!

Seriously, though, keep reaching out for the hugs, real or cyber. We'll do our best to hold you up from this distance.

The wisest words anyone ever said that fit all occasions: This too shall pass.
Love ya!
Mary Lou

Sharon G. Frizzell said...

That truth that "This too shall pass" is the one thing that keeps me going some days, Mary Lou. Thank you for the psychic hug, my friend. Each one brings a little healing. Now kiss that birfday boy!

Anonymous said...

Nice pix Sharon...have seen them both before. The memory of white vs black coats is often of terror at the thought of showing up with the wrong one! Also...have to smile at the fact that Sherwood has high water pants! Smile. Take all the Maslow stuff and put it in little stacks of A - B - C stuff...you know which ones to work on first! Hugs from the both of us...lets get together on Friday or Saturday right after Thanksgiving if that works for you. We will come that way and also prefer to avoid late night driving.