Whether you hang out on Wall Street or Main Street, you've got to admit that the financial news of recent weeks has been unsettling.
And then there's the feeling of waiting for the other shoe to drop. Few situations are more disturbing than knowing things are out of control but feeling powerless to do anything about them.
I'm certainly no expert on financial derivatives or subprime lending. But I do know the feeling of trying to steer the ship when the waters are murky. And this applies to lots of situations in our everyday lives.
How do you live with uncertainty? In a world where things are often moving in different directions, we all need to find our own compass. Now, I'm not very good with directions (and that's an understatement). It's too bad there's no GPS for life!
A few weeks ago, I had conversations with a couple of lawyers who were planning to retire soon; now they say they'll need to keep on working because of the current uncertainties. And I had a wonderful lunch with my friend, Stephanie Ruud, to celebrate that her cancer is in remission. Her entire world has been turned upside-down for the better part of the past year.
As renowned psychologist Abraham Maslow illustrated in his Hierarchy of Needs model, we as a species have five levels of basic needs. Beyond these needs, higher levels of needs exist. These include needs for understanding and fulfillment.
According to Maslow, we don't feel the second need until the demands of the first have been satisfied, nor the third until the second has been satisfied, and so on. In other words, it's pretty hard to worry about not being enlightened when you don't know where your next meal is coming from.
Here's the order of the basic needs:
These are biological needs - needs for oxygen, food, water and a relatively constant body temperature. They are the strongest needs because if a person were deprived of all needs, the physiological ones would come first in their search for satisfaction.
When all physiological needs are satisfied and are no longer controlling thoughts and behaviors, the needs for security can become active. Adults have little awareness of their security needs except in times of emergency or periods of disorganization in the social structure (such as widespread rioting). Children, however, often display signs of insecurity and the need to be safe.
Love, affection and belongingness
When the needs for safety and physiological well being are satisfied, the next class of needs for love, affection and belongingness can emerge. Maslow states that people seek to overcome feelings of loneliness and alienation. This involves both giving and receiving love, affection and feelings of belonging.
When the first three classes of needs are satisfied, the needs for esteem can become dominant. These involve needs for both self-esteem and for the esteem a person gets from others. Humans have a need for a stable, high level of self-respect and respect from others. When these needs are satisfied, the person feels self-confident and valuable as a contributor in the world. When these needs aren't met, the person feels inferior, weak, helpless and worthless.
When all of the previous needs are satisfied, then and only then are the needs for self-actualization activated. Maslow describes self-actualization as a person's need to be and do that which the person was "born to do." A musician must make music, an artist must paint and a poet must write. These needs make themselves felt in signs of restlessness. The person feels on edge, tense, lacking something.