We were talking about Maslow the other day, and referencing his "Hierarchy of Needs", as well as three of his eight (or nine) foundation beliefs. I personally, look at his "Hierarchy" as I do the food pyramid....fine, if you have the budget. Sometimes we don't, so sugar is off the list, meat is not as available as the food pyramid would suggest, and we may be a little heavier on the starches and carbs. It's cheaper to buy potatoes and noodles than it is to buy meat. Dairy? I'm in TX.......this is a beef state. So, dairy has been cut back. It's the reality of our budget and where we live.....yet logically, I can take the essence of the pyramid idea and pull from it what I may. I do appreciate many of the values he places within the "Hierarchy of Needs"......and I think various parts of my system reach for or have reached different sections of the hierarchy. All at once? Or in a ladder style? No way........and I don't see how that can happen. But taken in part, some principles certainly call to my innermost system.

However, since debate is welcome apparently, then let me explain what I don't like about Maslow's approach. Although he is highly acclaimed, and many other theorists have expanded on his foundational beliefs.......the point is that these are theories. I often think of Anna Freud, who had a rather interesting upbringing, sheltered and yet the boundaries between her father and herself were questionable to say the least, she had the tenacity to collect data and question one of the strongest held beliefs at the time. That of the importance of a father figure (a healthy one) in a child's life. Her worked continued with the orphans of the Holocaust. Now, I may not agree with all of her conclusions, especially in regard to her "orphan work", still, she had the cojones to step away from her father, and actually contributed a positive impact on the children who were removed during the London blitz.

Maslow, and this is my biggest argument against holding fast to ALL of his teachings, chose to work with only  the top 1% of the college population. He called these the "healthiest", and furthermore, declared: "the study of crippled, stunted, immature, and unhealthy specimens can yield only a cripple psychology and a cripple philosophy." Ouch......not the open minded, or humanistic approach that is needed, nay, required in the field of psychiatry. And yet....he had valuable contributions, even if he chose to be highly selective of those whom he based his theories upon.

But theories are just that: theories to be questioned, considered and reviewed. I personally believe that more sociology is necessary in the study of psychology, and yet only now are students being taught to consider cultural differences, political viewpoints, and class structure within the formation of thier foundation studies.

Now, Victor Frankl also adds an interesting component to the study of psychiatry. He led, or contributed in a huge way to the study of existentialism. (Wow, want to talk about debate on that subject? Just get the drug and alcohol counselors in the same room with Social Workers on this subject alone! The debate lasted for almost a full week, often having to be moderated due to the rising of voices and anger that was provoked.) What struck me about Frankl, is that he survived several Nazi concentration camps. He wrote "Man's Search for Meaning"....which of course took off in sales across the world. Yes, he lost his wife and the majority of his family, but used his time while held under slave labor to consider how people reacted. What their essence contained, and how they interpreted the world around him.

My hold back? Well, he's talking about adults, who had led (mostly) a healthy life prior to the structural change in the political schema. And yet, he was one of the first to directly address trauma, without becoming "stuck" as so many of his predecessors on the sexuality of relationships and humanity.

Frankl was rather black and white in his beliefs about humankind, often saying there are only decent men and the indecent. I don't think we can concentrate in terms of pure black and white. But that was his experiences, and his response to the world in which he lived. In his main publication: "Man's Search for Meaning", he writes in two parts. I'm including a portion that has been condensed here:

"His concluding passage in Part One describes the psychological reaction of the inmates to their liberation, which he separates into three stages. The first is depersonalization—a period of readjustment, in which a prisoner gradually returns to the world. Initially, the liberated prisoners are so numb that they are unable to understand what freedom means, or to emotionally respond to it. Part of them believes that it is an illusion or a dream that will be taken away from them. In their first foray outside their former prison, the prisoners realized that they could not comprehend pleasure. Flowers and the reality of the freedom they had dreamed about for years were allsurreal, unable to be grasped in their depersonalization.

The body is the first element to break out of this stage, responding by big appetites of eating and wanting more sleeping. Only after the partial replenishing of the body is the mind finally able to respond, as “feeling suddenly broke through the strange fetters which had restrained it”.

This begins the second stage, in which there is a danger of deformation. As the intense pressure on the mind is released, mental health can be endangered. Frankl uses the analogy of a diver suddenly released from his pressure chamber. He recounts the story of a decent friend who became immediately obsessed with dispensing the same violence in judgment of his abusers that they had inflicted on him.

Upon returning home, the prisoners had to struggle with two fundamental experiences which could also damage their mental health:bitterness and disillusionment. The last stage is bitterness at the lack of responsiveness of the world outside—a "superficiality and lack of feeling...so disgusting that one finally felt like creeping into a hole and neither hearing nor seeing human beings any more" . Worse was disillusionment, which was the discovery that suffering does not end, that the longed-for happiness will not come. This was the experience of those who – like Frankl – returned home to discover that no one awaited them. The hope that had sustained them throughout their time in the concentration camp was now gone. Frankl cites this experience as the most difficult to overcome.

As time passed, however, the prisoner's experience in a concentration camp finally became nothing but a remembered nightmare. What is more, he knows that he has nothing left to fear any more, "except his God" .

Frankl's meaning in life is to help others find theirs."

I personally (now everyone is going to roll over in shock), but here it is: I personally don't believe in a "god". I just haven't been able to. Perhaps as time goes by, but for now: my research and experience has proven otherwise. However, I truly respect the importance He holds in the lives of others. I would never have that taken from them.

But, what strikes me with Frankl.....in regards to DID, are the stages he refers to that the inmates required in order to process liberation. The reason this calls to my system, is that I see this within the world of DID often. The depersonalization and numbness, the realization that we are "free", the replenishing of the mind and spirit, the potential or actuality of the deformation of portions of our systems, bitterness and fear....and the recognition that the experience(s) eventually become a thing of the past: "a forgotten nightmare".

Now, as far as DID is concerned: "forgotten nightmare"?........not so easily forgotten. But I also have to remember that Frankl grew up in a more idealistic home environment, with love, support, education, and.......servants. Not my upbringing. So maybe he could forget a little more easily than I can. I don't know......just thoughts.

But, what I do take from this, what I do consider as the days go by: is the stages, or the reactions that he lists. They are hauntingly familiar......I don't have the answers, only more questions. And yet.....my mind, and the minds of my insiders are intrigued.

I've been thinking a lot about the subject of "fear", hence my initial foray into Maslow. He speaks of breaking past the fear barrier, but not enough. I want to know more about this subject. For fear is what I consider to be one of the largest components of the trauma residue I have to face. The irony is that I'm considered "strong and intimidating". And yet.....I can begin to stutter, barely make eye contact, and shake so badly when faced with fear. To call it "a part of PTSD" (as many of my therapist do) is not an answer to my way of thinking. That's a description, akin to finding the word in the dictionary; but not finding the solution in a medical journal.

I'd love to hear thoughts as to this subject.....and the ideas presented above.

But please, don't judge me for not "believing in god", or analyzing and criticizing minds much greater than my own. It's only thoughts.......and I'd rather spend my time figuring out how my mind works, and deciphering the puzzle of my psyche than re-dwelling on the past over and over.It's just how my mind works, and I intend or mean no harm to anyone else in the process.


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    Shelly Dowen-Johnson

    I am currently traveling with my husband across the United States, due to the nature of the work he does. 

    I am the mother of two boys, one who has recently been diagnosed with Early Onset Childhood Schizophrenia (Schizoaffective Disorder). 

    It appears the Dowen family gene sequencing contributes much more than the darling dimples both boys have inherited!  But, as always, with love, tender care and support....we will thrive! 


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