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In this episode, Joel and Antonia revisit Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and discuss the pain and self-deceit we often face at each level.

In this podcast you’ll find:

  • Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
  • Helpful model to diagnose challenges people experience
  • Maslow’s is a vertical model – levels of ascension
  • Maslow’s pyramid
  • The lowest level is survival: food, shelter, sex
  • Next level up is Safety and Security: sustainable survival that brings security
  • Next level up is Love and Belongingness: relationship needs, connection, intimacy
  • Next level up is self-esteem: What are we capable of? How competent are we?
  • The final level is Self-actualization: Transformation. Metamorphosis. Radical sovereignty.
  • You can flow in and out of these levels throughout your life.
  • The choices you make at the top can move you down the pyramid.
  • Not everyone who gets to self-actualization is a good person.
  • Going up the levels doesn’t necessarily mean you are highly evolved.
  • Maslow’s isn’t a model of morality or superiority.
  • It is a diagnostic tool to determine what is going on for you.
  • The closer you are to the basement of Maslow’s, the less buffer you have.
  • Your survival could be in question if you are living in Maslow’s basement.
  • The higher you are, the more buffer you have.
  • Each level has it’s own pain if the need isn’t getting met.
  • If you are feeling suicidal, you have kicked yourself down to the basement.
  • Level one: Survival
  • Physical pain. Poor health. Body betrayal.
  • Pain is physical at this level, so there isn’t a lot of abstraction.
  • Level two: Safety & Security
  • Timeline extends. Abstraction increases.
  • Pain points become more emotional than physical.
  • Anxiety. Stress. Fear of losing a loved one.
  • Level three: Love and Belongingness
  • Also abstract. Emotional.
  • Relationship challenge with the people in your life.
  • The loneliness of feeling isolated.
  • Loneliness is extremely painful.
  • More people are involved in this level.
  • More is beyond your control.
  • It feels like you have less control the higher up you get.
  • Someone going through a divorce can feel as threatened as someone in a survival level event.
  • These first three levels are a constant in most people’s lives.
  • Level four: Self-Esteem
  • This level is even more abstract.
  • Self-esteem comes from within
  • You get to decide who and what you’re going to be.
  • More subjectivity at this level.
  • The pain point is failure.
  • Spiritual challenges can arise here where your ego feels bruised after repeated rejections.
  • It can be crushing to the soul to keep trying and never achieve.
  • Level five: Self-Actualization
  • The most abstract of all the levels.
  • Radical sovereignty.
  • You are the source point.
  • This level is on you.
  • The pain point deals with permission.
  • “Do I have have the permission to be sovereign?”
  • The pain at this level can look like an existential crisis because you are deciding what your footing is.
  • This is as close to metamorphosis as human beings get.
  • You can self-actualize more than once throughout your life.
  • Caterpillars liquify to change into a butterfly.
  • Metamorphosis can feel like you are liquifying and not sure how to put yourself back together.
  • This is excruciating to the soul.
  • It means changing your life so radically you have to rebuild from scratch.
  • Sometimes the pain of self-actualization isn’t just putting yourself back together; it is realizing that the choices you make are sending you back to ground zero.
  • When you reset your life, you can lose a lot.
  • Divorce is common.
  • Relationships can become unstable.
  • Pain points of earlier levels follow you up the ladder.
  • If you’re at self-actualization, you can choose not to self actualize.
  • You can stay at self-esteem.
  • If you are in self-actualization it is because you succeeded at self-esteem.
  • Just like if you go from survival to safety & security, it means you succeeded at survival.
  • If you go from Safety & Security to Love & Belongingness, it means you have created a baseline of safety so you can now turn your attention to community and love.
  • If you go from Love & Belongingness to Self-Esteem, it means you have a good enough support system to build your confidence.
  • And if you go from Self-esteem to Self-Actualization, it is because you have proven to yourself you can succeed.
  • You can survive no matter what level you are in.
  • And when you feel pain at the top, you feel the pain all the way down.
  • As we move up Maslow’s Pyramid, we become comfortable in the lower levels.
  • “I can’t adult today.”
  • They are fearing upper levels and choosing the comfort of Safety & Security.
  • Couples fight about money (Safety & Security) when Love & Belongingness is challenged.
  • Or if you are venturing into Self-Esteem and feeling unstable, you will create drama in your relationships to keep you in Love & Belongingness.
  • What level is the most comfortable for you?
  • When do you jerk the wheel and return to what is comfortable?
  • Don’t give yourself an out.
  • Knowing your personality type and your Enneagram type plays into this system.
  • What is your go-to strategy for dealing with things?
  • What influences you?
  • What is the story you’re telling yourself?
  • Is it true, or is it a reflection of your past?
  • Awareness is easier to find when things don’t go well.
  • Reflect on the moments of emotional triggers.
  • We tend to believe that self-awareness means change.
  • Sometimes the value is merely recognizing that something is happening.
  • It doesn’t mean you have to change, and it doesn’t mean you’re a bad person.
  • You have to understand you are a node in every system that you don’t like.
  • How are you feeding into that system?
  • If everybody knew what was involved with personal growth, nobody would start.
  • Most people aren’t ready for behavior change when the self-awareness comes.
  • The self-awareness will create inevitable change.
  • You won’t want to keep up the pattern once you see it for what it is.

In this episode, Joel and Antonia revisit Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs and discuss the pain and self-deceit we often face at each level. #maslowshierarchy

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  • Lisa Van Allen
    • Lisa Van Allen
    • February 24, 2020 at 8:04 pm

    Excellent content – thank you for showing the way these systems work together.
    I’ve felt like a yo-yo on Maslow over the last few years, going back and forth from Suvival to Self Actualization with angst at every level between. I developed a rare neurological disease called CRPS (Complex Regional Pain Syndrome) and live with excruciating, unrelenting pain. I’m an Enneagram 4, so forgive the drama – and know that the pain is very real. Both the physical pain and the existential pain of having my life’s work put on hold. I am learning to manage the pain and working to move forward toward growth on days when the distraction is lower. Awareness of what is going on physically, emotionally and spiritually makes the journey easier.

  • Izzy
    • Izzy
    • February 20, 2020 at 7:11 pm

    That’s awesome that you are digging into Dabrowski!

    I stumbled accross his work about a year ago while I was trying to get to know and understand a new friend better. She was from the U.S and from my understanding giftedness programmes are quite common in the schooling system there. Where i live in the UK we don’t really have anything like that so I was a bit ignorant on the subject.

    When i came across the theory of positive disintergration I felt like it was narrating much of my personal history (and continues to do so :-D)

    I had read the article you shared and alot of other articles and youtube videos on the subject. I am really interested in getting some of his books though and trying to understand it in more depth.

    I haven’t come across anyone else using or talking about the model, but then I haven’t really looked at the current time.

    That’s great that you shared it with your coach! Have they found it beneficial in undertanding you and your needs better?

    Best Wishes

  • Jane
    • Jane
    • February 21, 2020 at 5:26 am

    Antonia & Joel, thanks for another insightful and helpful podcast.

    If my go-to strategy is always, always ’I’m not good enough’, and ‘my life has no purpose’, does it mean I’m living in a perpetual existential crisis, as only ‘self-actualization’ is higher up than self-esteem.

    The ’I’m not good enough’ argument doesn’t strike me as offensive, but rather as a defensive one. I know you said it’s more common to have defensive strategies at the lower levels of the pyramid, and offensive strategies when you’re dealing with things higher up, but not always. Just want to check if the ’I’m not good enough’ argument is offensive/defensive and is it’s definitely a self-esteem strategy.


  • Chris
    • Chris
    • February 21, 2020 at 7:30 pm

    Just me again after reading all the other great replies.
    I had posted mine after listening to your podcast, but then realized how enlightening it was to also read all the other comments here. We all share in this wisdom after all, and it is great to hear how you all care @ Jess: >> “most people don’t talk about these types of things and I had been feeling alone in this struggle.” Jess, you hit the nail on the head. I often feel like that. A little isolated and lonely because friends and family did not talk about these things. I have tried to talk to good friends and family about tools to understand (if not solve) certain issues in our lives, e.g. between us or between themselves and their partners, but “other more existential and important problems” kept them from even looking at solving issues. And years later it often comes to a peak and complete standstill or relationship breakup.
    But what freaks me out is that I have a pattern of old friends turning to cult-like organizations instead after things go wrong in order to get their needs met, they seem to be looking for leadership. I was asked to join different cults by good friends. I think there is a great hunger for understanding, paired with great loneliness, and sometimes this is taken advantage of, hence a lot of insecurity all over the place.

  • Chris
    • Chris
    • February 20, 2020 at 9:19 pm

    Antonia & Joel,

    Another brilliant podcast which delivers great inspiration, it really touched my heart when Antonia described how the Egypt experience still impacted her. Such an honest and beautiful description, such places touch some of us deeply, I think it is humility, feeling small and insignificant in the eyes of thousands of years of human history. And we realise how we are just not the wisest greatest humans that ever existed, far from it, we know so little. I often feel like that after visiting Newgrange, a site older than the Egyptian pyramids which is right at the base of our shared culture.
    To make the connection with the new podcast, I have consequently met people who don’t share that strong feeling for ancient sites, people who think these places do not deserve any respect and have little to do with their own culture. It hurts and feels destructive and ignorant, but I suppose these folks cannot share the experience, because their problems are more existential.


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