Pyramid Problems

Humans are easily motivated. Or so they say.
I know I can be. With food, usually. Although, I suppose, that’s kinda animalistic, living for your baser needs. Doesn’t matter for the point I’m making though – because when it comes to forward motion – we humans are easily motivated.

IF and WHEN a few simple demands are met.


Maslow described it in his ‘hierarchy of needs’ half a century ago. A pyramid building up from basic needs to self-actualization that shows us the road to our full potential. That shows us how we can be motivated to move up in life, and to just ‘grab life by the balls’.

And that pyramid (even though it has been added to, detracted from, reshaped, revisioned and cast aside by some) still holds true in many ways. As the image up top shows – one only needs to fulfill a few basic requirements in order to clear the path to becoming the best ‘self’ they can possibly be.

And we, as the lucky bastards that we are, live in the type of country that has the bottom tiers pretty much covered. We’re not in Africa (or America, these days) after all.
Food, water, warmth, rest. Not too much to ask. Security, safety. Sure, we got that covered here. It’s only after those two bases, that ‘we’ come into play. That we have to actively provide input on acquiring the motivators to get ahead in life. According to Maslow.

I view things slightly differently, for myself anyway. Shift things around in the pyramid a little, or expand on it slightly. I still uphold much of it as recognizable and true – but I know myself well enough to know my ‘basic needs’ extend past food, water, warmth and rest. That my bottom tier contains more than just that powerful group of four.

It has to – because in this theory by Maslow, one level must be satisfied before it becomes possible to move to the next (these days, it is mostly theorized that levels overlap and influence and fluctuate up and down – but in classical Maslow: you don’t move up before you’re full). And the past has proven that I do NOT get past that first tier for some things I consider a need.
(and I’m not just talking about chocolate! Oh wait…that’s food…).

Most days we, as a people, are pretty well covered in regards to food, water, warmth and rest. We can get to all of those, no problem (ok – we can get to a comfy bed, ‘rest’ in the sense of actually sleeping might still be a challenge)

But then there’s the moments where you still ‘just can’t’. Where your life comes to a screeching stand-still, or where all energy just drains from your body into the earth below your feet. Where taking even another step becomes an improbability and where maintaining normal human interactions is just a bit too much to ask. And what prompts that incapability is usually not tied to any of those basic needs Maslow conveys, but to something ‘individual’. Or at least – that’s how I feel it.

There’s additional items on ‘my’ bottom tier of the pyramid that I have to feed into, before being able to even consider moving up. Needs that control the day to day to such an extent that they’re complete showstoppers after a while. Needs that should be ‘relatively easy’ to fulfill (which is pretty much a requirement for bottom tier items). And that, when they are not met, or can’t be fulfilled – cause a quick and painful descent into madness. Literal being-mad-ness, for the people around me too. I’ll snap at you like one of those turtles that can clench down on a finger so hard it comes straight off. SNAPSNAP. It doesn’t even really matter what these ‘individual needs’ are, but the result is ever the same (things like ‘away-from-the-world-time’ or Netflix binging or…you know).

At first there’s the detox period from the point that your individual base need is no longer being met. Whether it’s a person, substance, activity (or need for lack there-off) is not important. You might convince yourself you can do without. Should do without. Could totally go without. That you don’t require it to self-actualize. That you can definitely replace it with other fulfilling items. But that’s just because there’s still enough in your system to cope and act like a normal human being.

Then there’s the cravings. Your head starts revolving around that single need. About fulfilling it. About finding that relief or achieving its boost or getting whatever reward meeting the need yields for you. It becomes the sole center of your world and leaks through in everything you do. Until you just kinda stop doing things, at all. Because of the cravings.

And before you know it you dive straight into anger, pain, frustration or depression (whichever flavor you prefer, I suppose). Complete and utter stand-still in the pure lack-of-fulfillment. Everything you do is colored by the absence. Everything you feel is tainted by the need. Self-actualization is suddenly out of the question because all you’re geared up towards is checking the box of that individual ‘base need’ on your bottom pyramid tier.

In moments like these I find myself climbing the walls – being an outright bitch (not just the resting bitch face) to any person so unlucky as to be around me and overcompensating in the other items on that bottom tier (AKA a LOT of comfort food -> MAINLY CARBS. A LOT of drinking (fluids contain water, right?) A LOT of sleeping and a lot of cuddling with blankies.).

Not that that solves the problem.

Sadly it’s also the moments that creativity, ambition and my natural competitive drive drain out of me (even when they’re most definitely required to keep my life on the rails). Which is annoying, as they tend to help in building solutions.

But the beauty of something so simple as maintaining a pyramid of needs is that it also allows you a clear view on fixes. Because if all you need to do to get to the top is check the boxes for everything below it – it definitely gives you a clear goal to work towards. And if a need is not being met, you’ll (at least) exactly know where the problem is and what the fix could/should be. As long as you make the choice of classifying something as a need in your personal pyramid. Fulfill the need – fulfill your destiny.

These days – after having recognized additional ‘needs’ as basic needs (damn, that sounds needy) – it is becoming increasingly easy to skip that detox period and denial. To accept the cravings and, from the moment a need is no longer met, work towards fulfilling it once more. And do that faster than before.

These days a lot more people get to keep their fingers, and a lot more things in my life get done. However, it’s only ‘easier’. Not guaranteed success. Even now – every now and then I’ll climb back from that top of self-actualization and get stranded in that bottom tier again. That’s also the way of life – can’t always be on top. And that’s OK too. Just gotta embrace the ‘needy’. Or order a LOT more carbs.

4 thoughts on “Pyramid Problems

  1. And why is it always carbs?!? I still can’t resist them, even knowing they make my life on insuline more difficult since I’ve developed auto-immune diabetes… And for that matter, a feeling of safety/security has gone forever. I wonder what’s the best way to deal with that, for I feel like I am never going to climb up the pyramid again… My body tells me I need more of those carbs! And my brain says I better leave them. Or is it the other way around? And could we build the top of the pyramid first, and then lift it? Not in need of anything anymore, as soon as our soul has found real freedom? I wonder.

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    1. Oh craaaap – how dare your body reject the thing you want most…that fucking sucks!

      That ‘stuckness’ makes sense tho…because the idea of climbing the pyramid while a layer is still in the works should be daunting I suppose.

      It has to be satisfied before anything else becomes an option…but wanting to skip to the top is always an obvious wish. And struggle when it’s visible but not reachable…

      Meh. I wish I had better answers.

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  2. No wonder the base of the pyramid is always the widest in its geometry. You can stuff in as many needs as you want in it. Maslow never said the pyramid has to be slim 😀

    Its okay not to have better answers, recall that you had yourself wrote “you can be a masterpiece and a work in progress at the same time”. ☺

    Just live your life with all the gratitude you can. 👍

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