In my last post, I posed some questions that are key for self-actualization. They are:
- Are you doing the right thing?
- Are you a good person?
- Are you making the right decisions?
- AND: Are you making a positive impact for the world around you?
But I forgot the most important question of them all, and I want to talk about it more about it today.
Are you happy?
You can answer all of above questions and still not be happy, and that can lead to some interesting behaviors in people. Imagine having everything you could ever need, and still not be happy. Imagine never having to go without, and still feeling like something is missing.
You might think, what the hell is wrong with me? Or if you’re not thinking it, other people in your life are probably telling you. What are you, ungrateful? Don’t you know that kids in Africa don’t get to worry about being happy? Do you want to go to Africa, huh? Do you?
It’s a ridiculous question, and answering it honestly requires in-depth, personal analysis, and the right words to answer comprehensively, and even then, the answer can vary from day to day.
And in today’s socioeconomic climate, happiness doesn’t seem to be an attainable goal anymore. How could it be, when you can barely find stability, love, or a decent job that covers your basic living expenses?
Well, being unhappy even though there is nothing particularly wrong is still a legitimate feeling. It can even be a symptom of a mental health issue, and should not be ignored. Depression, anxiety, ADD, ADHD, and bi-polar disorder are all in your head, and are still very real diseases that require treatment. But what if your unhappiness is not chemical, but social? Enter Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs:
The Hierarchy of Needs is a theory not only explaining, but also validating, universal human needs that everyone has. Once we’ve adequately met a level of need on a more or less stable basis, we as human beings subconsciously or consciously start to focus on meeting the next need, and yet, it’s still missing some key details that are essential to today’s society.
If you were out in the wilderness and there are no people around, then sure, your basic needs would be food and water. But if you were homeless in a city like New York, your very first, basic desire would be to clothe your body and protect it from the elements. You wouldn’t get very far naked, and because global warming is real, you’d surely die from exposure without clothing first.
Once you’ve covered your naughty bits, then it’s food and water and rest, and on and on, right up to self-actualization, where our needs become more about finding our place in the world. Meeting that need requires a level of self-awareness that, well, everyone could use help with.
But the thing is, our society itself is going through a phase of self-actualization.
The internet and other methods of communication has connected us with the rest of the world in a way that is unprecedented. People today have access to more information than we’ve ever have. People across the world are the most educated that they’ve ever been, in record numbers no less, and because societies are essentially mirrors reflecting the people in them, our societies are reflecting the tension between the old and the new.
Across the world, entire countries are fighting back against dictatorships because they know they deserve better. Women in Ireland are protesting ridiculous abortion restrictions that do nothing to protect children and very much punish women. And here in the United States, what we are seeing is a clash between the American Way that politicians used to exploit their voters, and actual progress (soooo much on that later).
That is both fantastic and scary. Fantastic for those who have dreamt of hoverboards, and universal incomes and a world without HIV, but scary for those who hate change. A new world, a peaceful, interconnected and collaborative world is akin to fascism to those who had or have privileges that others who aren’t like them don’t.
A new world, a peaceful, interconnected and collaborative world is akin to fascism to those who profit from things staying the same.
Waxing poetic about the way things used to be doesn’t cut it anymore. Wishing we were in the 50’s when men were men and women knew their place doesn’t cut it anymore. Staying ignorant, and making decisions based on what you believe versus what you know doesn’t cut it anymore. It is now the responsibility of every citizen with access to a phone or a computer to educate themselves about the world in order to make the right decisions, which is why I think the Hierarchy of Needs should actually look something like this:
This meme, I’m sure, was probably created as a joke (again, you won’t die if you don’t have sex. Tell your friends) but I think it’s a very valid representation of what world we are headed towards. No one is in a bubble anymore, and what happens in Syria, Britain, and Iraq affects the entire world.
Developed countries and world leaders have to decide what kind of society we want to be, and what kind of society we want to leave for future generations. And we, as the people in functioning societies, have the responsibility to demand that our leaders make the right decisions for all. You can’t do that if you do not stay informed. But what’s most important, you can’t do that if you do not know if you’re happy with your life. Why?
Because how you feel about yourself directly affects how you feel about the rest of the world. If you are not happy, why would you want anyone else to be? If you do not value happiness in yourself, how can you value it in others?
So ask yourself, are you happy? And be honest with the answer. A few examples:
- Maybe your job is shitty, or it wasn’t what you thought it would be.
- Maybe you’re married to someone who you’re not in love with anymore.
- Maybe you live in a town that is severely depressed after the main employer moved overseas.
- Maybe you’re a woman in a man’s body.
- Maybe you don’t want to be a Harvard Man like your father or your grandfather, and you just want to paint for the rest of your life.
- Maybe you realized you don’t want to be a mother.
- Maybe you want love, and your only option is to settle.
- Maybe you’re polygamous at heart, and your partner isn’t.
- Maybe being a “blue collar man’s man” 24/7 is exhausting for you.
- Maybe you’ve had everything handed to you, so you can’t relate to others that haven’t.
- Or maybe you’ve had to fight for everything you have, so you have no patience for those without internal lives.
These are all legitimate grievances, because, again, we are all different. And though you might not relate or understand, other people’s grievances about their lives are legitimate too, because:
- They’re real to them.
- You don’t know their lives, and
- You shouldn’t have to experience something to understand that it’s valid.
And therefore, what I am trying to say is that your feelings are valid too.
So what am I trying to say? That sociology is a scientific method that can help you analyze your reality, both internal and external, and how it relates to the rest of the world.
And as I continue these posts, I want you to apply that self-understanding and see how it affects your view of the world, because I want to live in a world with hoverboards, and universal incomes and a world without HIV.