Desperation, transcendence and Maslow’s Pyramid

“Modern-day presentations of Maslow’s theory often leave out this critical notion of an integrated hierarchy and instead focus on the stage-like pyramid—even though in his published writings Maslow never actually created a pyramid to represent his hierarchy of needs.

Todd Bridgman and his colleagues examined in detail how the pyramid came to be and concluded that “Maslow’s Pyramid” was actually created by a management consultant in the sixties. From there, it quickly became popular in the emerging field of organization behavior.”

Transcend: The New Science of Self-Actualization
by Scott Barry Kaufman

That makes sense to me! I’ve long felt that the highest level of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is often precipitated at the lowest levels.

What I mean by this: Our worst moments are often the catalyst for our highest aspirations.

Maslow of course referred to his system as a hierarchy of needs, so the fact he didn’t use a pyramid shape himself doesn’t negate the tiered effect — that you step up from one level of need to the next as you satisfy each level.

Still —

From my own experience and from those of acquaintances, it was often at our lowest darkest moments that we found something transcendent. Something that altered our organism so completely we resembled a new being.

I’m sure there are a number of people who do move up the needs chain, securing sleep and food and security then abundance then greater meaning and actualization.

But it’s also uncanny how many have have found transcendence at their lowest points.

Moments fraught with financial freefall or physical crisis or relationship splintering have tormented us even as they’ve lifted us.

Purgatorial suckholes of personal devastation have produced moments of high clarity. Moments that gave mission to our misery.

It was precisely those trough experiences that catapulted us into greater spiritual maturity.

For me it was looking at the sky in a time of financial ruin and pleading to have my fear taken from me.

And it was. Immediately. For three days I was in a bliss cloud, floating like a demigod of joy through my days.

I know a mother who had a young son with severe dietary issues, who overhauled how her family secured and ate food. This son is a healthy and wildly successful developer now. Once shy, this mother found her way into activism. All because rather than succumb to despair she tapped into a greater mission at a moment of peril for her child.

A college friend of mine lost in a drug and alcohol slide reached out in his greatest moment of torment to a God he didn’t believe in. There lying in his bed late at night feeling existential helplessness, he underwent a spiritual experience so profound it changed his worldview and propelled him to health and wealth and vitality for decades.

Transcendence can come at the bottom.

Or in the middle.

Or at the top.

It’s a beatific thing, the flexibility reality has.

All I’m saying is this: Don’t get caught up in someone else’s paradigm.

Greater meaning abounds if you ask for it.

Seemingly, only two things are required from us.

  1. Great intensity, great need

. . . and . . .

2. Giving up what we think we know

A hyper-focused yearning will satisfy the first part.

The harder part is surrendering our established viewpoint.

Once we can do that — ahhhhhhh — resplendent living light can slip in through the cracks.

Note: The wrong way
Note: Summoning the muse