Abraham Maslow theorized that people have a hierarchy of needs. First you need air, then warmth, then water, then food, just to survive physically. To survive emotionally, you need nurturance, stimulation, other people.
If you can’t breathe, you don’t spend any time worrying about whether you are getting enough intellectual stimulation. You spend every last ounce of energy trying to get enough oxygen to live. Only when you are breathing freely again do you turn your attention to other unmet needs.
There is a period of relief and well being when a need gets met. Then you start to take it for granted and turn your attention to the next unmet need, which suddenly seems terribly urgent. Thus the hierarchy of grumbles. Since we always have room to grow, we always have room to be dissatisfied with what we have.
I can see how this applies to healing. In the very beginning, when I was flooded with flashbacks, I worried twenty-four hours a day about going crazy. When the frequency of the flashbacks lessened, I started worrying about having them at the wrong times and getting myself or somebody else into trouble. Would I switch while driving and have an accident? Would I burst into tears in the supermarket? But they came only twenty-two hours a day, not twenty-four.
I¹m way past those stages, now. I’m grumbling about a whole different set of issues.
It helps to look back on the past and compare where I started and where I am now. All these years, I have been too busy healing and growing to notice my growth on a daily basis. But boy, baby step by baby step, have I come a long way!
I look at the children I gave birth to. They are as tall as I am, and are starting to get wrinkles. How did that happen? I look at the new self I raised from the shards of ritual abuse. I’m productive, no longer suicidal, even happy many days. I have a purpose in life, and I feel loved. How in the world did that happen?
I want to trade in the hierarchy of grumbles for a hierarchy of gratitude. Rather than complain that I didn’t do tomorrow’s healing work yesterday, I want to start each day with amazement at how far I have come.
From Survivorship Notes, Vol. 5, No. 4
A short biography is at http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aso/databank/entries/bhmasl.html
A list of his writings is at http://www.maslow.com/#due
Some cool quotes are at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/a/abraham_maslow.html