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I approach therapy with a simple question: 

"What do you want out of life, and what is holding you back from that?" 

This question, and your answers, is where we begin the journey. I look forward to hearing from you.

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May 15, 2019

The Order of Things

Have you started recognizing some of your needs as we are on this journey together?

As we continue to move up the hierarchy of needs, you may have become aware of your need for belonging and being present. Or you may find that you have been focusing on other needs like wanting to feel more self-confident and know others respect you.

If you have children, which needs are you focused on? Are you wondering why your child isn't showing more empathy for others, or worried about their achievement?

Notice where those needs are in the hierarchy (see image below). If you find the needs higher on the pyramid, it may be easier to meet those needs once the ones below it are met.

Evaluate which needs you are meeting effectively, and which ones are asking for your attention

Notice if your efforts to meet higher-order needs are effective. If it feels difficult to meet a need higher on the pyramid, ask yourself if there is an unmet need below it that feels unfulfilled. Sometimes we attempt to compensate for a more basic need not being met by focusing on other higher-order needs. This is one way to cope with the grief of that need not being fully met, but it can also keep us stuck. Grieving, processing, and finding creative ways to meet your basic need may allow you to then also meet the need to achieve without it becoming something that feels compulsive and unfulfilling.

Set realistic expectations

Being aware of this hierarchy can also help you set realistic expectations for others. For example, I have found that children who have been through horrific abuse can be incredibly empathetic, but not at the same time that their fears about belonging are triggered. When they feel secure, they are able to empathize, achieve, problem-solve. Basic needs don't have to be completely met all the time in order to access higher-order growth, but if someone isn't getting basic sleep and nutrition, or is worried they are going to be fired any day, or don't feel like they belong anywhere, it is going to be much more difficult to be empathetic, feel confident, and be efficient at school or work.

Where are your greatest needs at the moment? Will you allow yourself to take care of those needs?

See the source image

Blackfoot Collectivist Culture holds an example of a more inclusive way of conceptualizing our needs than a hierarchy. And I think we are wise to listen.

3/16/23: Since writing the above blogs, I’ve been learning about Blackfoot Siksika values and I think they provide a lot for us to learn here. Apparently Maslow spent time with the Siksika and appropriated their ways of meeting needs into a framework that fit his white supremacy culture, and that's what psychology has passed down to us.

In the Siksika way of looking at needs, there was no need for a hierarchy to complicate things or turn needs into a competition or achievement. In their culture, there was no hierarchy of values, just as there was no hierarchy of people. All needs were important and possible to meet without having to climb a hierarchy to achieve them.

If we are hoping to move from authoritarian domination to respectful restoration, I think we can learn a lot from their values and ways of living. And not as something to appropriate, but something to celebrate, hold up, and give space for restoration. Watch a short synopsis about it here: Rethinking Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs or read in-depth about it here: Could the Blackfoot Wisdom that Inspired Maslow Guide Us Now? | Medium.