I've been thinking a great deal about Maslow lately. In college, we had to study all the various forms of counseling, theory and practices, and of course Maslow's hierarchy of needs was discussed, as well as his principles of self-actualization.

What struck me when we first started the chapter on Maslow, was that he created a list of the people he felt had demonstrated fully the essence of self-actualization. On that list was Eleanor Roosevelt, whom I have long admired. Consider that we had just finished studying Freud, Jung, and a host of other theorist's, and each I memorized and placed within my inner "tool bag" of ideas..... not one of them hit me the way Maslow did. Of course, I couldn't possibly memorize everything, but from the first moment I began reading about his principles, I became excited, rejoicing over so many ideas that actually made sense.

Additionally, I've been reading Sara Ban Breathnach's second book: "Something More.....Excavating your Authentic Self" almost daily right now, which slightly touches on the principles of self-actualization. Her book is interesting, and I'm certainly not inclined to put it down.....there are many comments and ideas that I've found quite encouraging. Still, I woke wondering what else Maslow had to say....and how it could apply to my personal healing journey?

Within a few searches on the internet, I found what I was looking for: (http://www.abraham-maslow.com/m_motivation/Self-Actualization.asp) His hierarchy of needs is often referred to in a wide variety of discussions, from philosophy, sociology through anthropology and of course: psychology. To put them simply, he states that all human beings require certain needs to be met in order to survive. The higher on the pyramid those needs are met, the stronger the person becomes, and the more able he is to reach for self-actualization.

The subject of self-actualization is divided into a list of 8 various traits that one must address. For now, I am merely going to point out traits 2, 5 and 6. Anyone can read the entire list at the link I provided above.

Trait number 2 is defined by Maslow as:

Growth Choices
If we think of life as a series of choices, then self actualization is the process of making each decision a choice for growth. We often have to choose between growth and safety, between progressing and regressing. Each choice has its positive and its negative aspects. To choose safety is to remain with the known and the familiar but to risk becoming stultified and state. To choose growth is to open oneself to new and challenging experiences but to risk the unknown and possible failure.

This really strikes to the heart, as many who daily struggle with DID, are often doing so because of being forced to choose between safety and that of internal growth. His comment regarding choosing safety, and remaining within the known and familiar also infers the risks involved in such a decision. For once one has secured his/her basic needs, the requirement for safety has been met. And yet, to choose growth requires the individual to open themselves up, to become vulnerable to the unknown, or the challenging. This is an area we each struggle with within the environment of a therapeutic session, with our immediate families, even our employment. Everywhere, we are challenged by who we are, and how protected we shall remain. As Maslow says: each choice has its negative and positive aspects.....sometimes we can remain so protected, that we've built a wall that is virtually impenetrable. It's understandable, but it also presents a detriment to personal growth.

Numbers 5 and 6 struck me this morning, but truly, the entire list is though provoking to say the least.

The first four steps help us develop the capacity for "better life choices." We learn to trust our own judgment and our own inner feelings and to act accordingly. Maslow believes that following our instincts leads to more accurate judgments about what is constitutionally right for each of us-better choices in art, music, and food, as well as in major life decisions, such as marriage and a career.

Self-actualization is also a continual process of developing one's potentialities. It means using one's abilities and intelligence and "working to do well the thing that one wants to do" (The Farther Reaches of Human Nature, p. 48). Great talent or intelligence is not the same as self-actualization; many gifted people fail to use their abilities fully while others, with perhaps only average talents, accomplish a great deal. Self-actualization is not a thing that someone either has or does not have. It is a never-ending process of making real one's potential. It refers to a way of continually living, working, and relating to the world rather than to a single accomplishment.

To "trust our own judgement".....wow, now that truly is a challenge. Often, within the community of DID, we refer to "old messages" that come through from the past. The lessons we were taught to believe, and hence continue to live by. BUT, have we learned to trust ourselves.....to trust that we are safe now, that we can step out beyond our wall(s) of protectiveness? Ahhh, therein lies the challenge.

One of the things that caught my attention, more than anything else that Maslow taught, was that his principles do not apply to intelligence levels or talent. It would be easy to say: "Well, Eleanor Roosevelt was able to achieve self-actualization because a) she had money b) she had a blessed life or c) she was special." Not true.......Maslow refers to the fact that many gifted individuals fail to use their abilities, that they choose to not live life to the fullest. He reminds us too, that this is a never ending process, the act of making real ones potential. And yet: is that not what we all seek? To live life to the fullest, without the constraints and negative thought patterns that were placed within our very psyches as children?

I could continue on and on regarding Maslow's thoughts, and I probably shall over the next week or so. But for now, these few ideas are buzzing around in my multiplied noggin for the day. It challenges my system to rethink the world, and the choices I make daily......and it encourages me to continue to grow.

In Ms. Breathnach's book, I read last night the following section:

"Soul-directed events push us past the perimeter of comfort and the safety of old patterns....But soul-directed events-authentic moments-never betray us. It's true that frequently they leave us in a daze or catapult us into confusion. But, as with driving through a patch of fog that comes upon you suddenly, if you keep your heart steady in the same way you'd firmly hold the steering wheel, you can make it until the fog lifts. Suddenly, you can see the road again. You can see where you're headed. You are returning to your Self."

When I read this section, I was stunned at how closely it described the dark moments when one struggles with DID. How confused, and how disconcerting the environment appears to be. If I didn't know better, I'd almost assume that this paragraph could have come out of any DID Resource publication. Instead, it comes from a book that is simply about discovering our authentic selves. This simple comment serves as a reminder to have trust in who we are.

As one who has lived in heavily fogged in areas, I can attest: the fog does move in as quickly as the chaos felt within our DID psyches. And yet, the solution is not to turn on the high beams, for that simply bounces back a light that completely blocks our ability to view anything, let alone think. Instead, the solution to what the natives called "Tulley Fog", is to slow down, and remain steadily pointed in the direction in which you were moving. To trust your mind, to trust yourself, and calmly move through the haze. Eventually, and when you least expect it, the fog does lift.

And just as miraculously, the road is clear, and you are right where you intended to be.

Have a wonderful day everyone......


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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! 


    June 2012
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