Levelling the Pyramid

1 Jun 2012
Author: Lindsay Johnson
Read time: 7 min
Category: Archive
The need pyramid

Abraham Maslow, a great pioneer of humanistic psychology in the ‘60’s, came up with this chart to illustrate the hierarchy of human needs. Like a pyramid, he said, the baseline, foundational needs must to be met before the higher needs can even be addressed. “Being Needs” sit on top of “Deficit Needs. “ In this model, the body comes first, social needs come second and self-actualization last. That means if you have a physical ailment, you must address it before you can actualize your ability to be socially fulfilled, or fully live out your capacity to be creative or self-reflective.

At Hippocrates, we challenge this model

Although we believe in laying a foundation of good physical health and correcting physical ailments with super-nutrition and the right lifestyle, we don’t believe in starting from the ground up ONLY. We also believe that fulfilling the Being Needs at the top of Maslow’s pyramid translates into physical well-being. Hippocrates doesn’t just work from the bottom up.

We help guests rally at the level of Being (substitute the word personhood, or self-esteem, or acceptance, or empowerment) in the face of illness. We witness that invisible realm boosting physical health every day. We help guests heal their lives, their relationships, their abilities to make healthy boundaries, their beliefs about worth and deservedness, and, oh, yeah, we help them eat well too.

The body follows what is in the heart and mind. Leading with your heart and mind is the best way to put your body’s well-being first. Wholeness combats disease because of its integrative nature. Wholeness rejects fragmentation. Disease thrives in it. Healing is to make whole. Wholeness is a feeling available at any stage of physical healing, and is one that furthers itself. Feeling good physically clearly invites a person to feel good otherwise, and feeling good inside invites the body to follow suit.

Needs not met

What happens when needs are not met? One thing is for sure:they don’t just go away. If I’m thirsty and go to a well that has no water, my thirst doesn’t disappear because I can’t get any water from this well. My need turns to pain. Thirst with no water is not pleasant, but dehydration hurts and damages the body. Social and emotional needs not met also lead to pain and trauma, and both manifest themselves in the body. Social psychologist Erik Erikson elucidated a timeline of universal, human developmental needs. As we grow in stages from infancy to adulthood, we are faced with certain tasks that must be met in each stage along the way. We either successfully accomplish these tasks, or biologically get stuck in time, in some past developmental need. Unmet needs at any age cry out to be fulfilled. The body uses its resources to either act out or repress unmet needs. Both can be draining. Both can result in stressful living andunconscious strategiesof struggle.

Needs and the need for therapy

Erik Erikson would have us believe that unless our early childhood needs are met in a timely manner, we cannot truly mature, and therefore never be fully well. At Hippocrates we challenge that model as well. Although biology dictates that needs be met along a definitive developmental timeline, and they don’t go away when they aren’t fulfilled, we believe in healing. Rivers certainly don’t travel in straight lines, nor does the flow of human development. We believe therapy can restore wholeness in the present, no matter what the past. We believe that proper therapy cleverly helps the consciousness emerge to make whole those aspects of a person which fragmented in the face of  unmet needs and the associated pain.

Illness and the timeline and hierarchy of needs

Illness often derails our sense of well-being, erodes our esteem, and keeps us isolated. The “Higher Being” needs can’t even emerge when we’re in the grips of the deficit needs or illness. Self-actualization goes out the window in favor of survival. Or so Maslow would have us think. And actually, he’s right: Many times we do see guests arrive at the Institute in states of despair, defeat, loss, deprivation, victimhood. We see good people letting illness win and rob them of life. Illness often also throws people into regressive states of mind, because the real dependence and losses that follow in its wake are reminiscent of the dependency and powerlessness of childhood. Illness challenges us in both the hierarchical sense of our needs and in the timeline sense as well.

Detox as pivotal to change

Guests at Hippocrates enter both physical and emotional detox. We see them go through all sorts of phases, and when successful, we see them transform. We see some struggle, fighting it, prolonging it. We see some guests who yearn for the plasma TV and feel deprived when offered only the jug of water - even though biology clearly recognizes that water will save a life and TV only distracts from or entertains it.

We see guests rediscover the ways of their own bodies, their needs included. We see guests encounter and embrace old needs never met, but newly emerging - like the need for authentic human communication, loving touch and joy. We see guests cry at the reunion with themselves. We see guests wake up to the possibility and reality of feeling good at every level, and we see them shed the pain of all those needs unmet. We see people finally knowing what’s good for them and what’s not. These are empowered people.

Although detox focuses primarily on elimination of garbage, that alone isn’t enough. That’s like trying to dump darkness as a way to bring in light. Doesn’t work. Darkness is simply the absence of light, so dumping darkness doesn’t bring in light. Light, by its very nature, dispels darkness. Bringing in more light automatically makes more room for light. Super nutrition is the light. Loving community is the light. Shedding the pain of unmet needs, and accepting responsibility for our own wellness is the light. Shifting from struggle mode into a creative orientation is the light.

Meeting our “Lower Needs” might take us to a high plateau on Maslow’s pyramid, and might help energize us enough to integrate and finalize hurts from the past, but ultimately it is the love and consciousness at the heart of the healing process that liberates us, and takes us all the way to the peak. From that vantage point, we naturally want to eat well and live right. Welcome to the peak and the frontier of wellness!

Andy Bernay-Roman is a Florida Licensed Mental Health Counselor, a Registered Nurse, and a Licensed Massage Therapist, who has practiced his profound form of body-oriented psychotherapy at HHI for the last 17 years. Find out more about his work through his book, Deep Feeling, Deep Healing: The Heart, Mind, and Soul of Getting Well (ISBN 0-9708662-0-8, Spectrum Healing Press, 2001), available at his website .">http://www.deepfeeling.com. He can also be reached at 561.471.5867.

Vol 29 Issue 2 Page 26

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