Pretty much everybody would like to feel the euphoria associated with reaching the top of a mountain after facing, and overcoming, the dangers of an upwards climb. It is a shared desire to experience the elevated point of view from above the cotton-ball clouds in the open blue sky, savouring the feeling of complete contentment in the accomplishment of the moment.
In a way, it's just human to crave to be high.
Psychologist Abraham Maslow named this elusive feeling a “peak experience.” He described the peak experience as, “rare, exhilarating, elevating experiences.”
The happening is a byproduct, or side effect, of reaching one’s own potential. Therefore, like falling ice crystals, everyone is unique and every experience is different.
The act of reading this article, in print or digital, could be called a “peak experience” as well. A bad pun away and a little different than Maslow’s idea but, hopefully, connected to happy feelings.
In order to reach our potential and its accompanying heightened state, Maslow introduced a “Hierarchy of Human Needs.”
We are motivated to reach higher on the mountain of personal needs when, firstly, things such as food and basic nutrition are met.
After basic needs, then shelter, security and safety are the next step. We cannot, or will not, grow and evolve without some structure and basic health care. The new, under construction 40-modular-housing unit with support services in Powell River is a local example to give a boost upward on the hierarchy of needs to members of our community.
Housing and support for homelessness translates into less drug dependency and associated illness, which equals less cost for society in the larger picture. It's good math as well as a grounded humanistic social policy.
The basic needs of survival are a platform to continue growth and improve mental health.
A little further up the hierarchy are essential social needs such as friendships, family and community groups, and organizations. From my personal experience, disconnectedness in life has been a darkened place where bad habits can metastasize into self-destructive, life-threatening addiction. Being part of a team, in work, play, or church groups, are sources of acceptance and connection we need to motivate growth.
Recognition and appreciation for the things we do is the next step in the psychological well-being part of the hierarchy. The respect of others is invaluable in building self-confidence and satisfying, what Maslow called our esteem needs.
Finally, at the mountaintop peak of our needs is the possibility of reaching our full potential in life: self-actualization, when our interest of reaching our full potential outweighs any concerns about opinions of others.
As someone stumbling, sometimes painfully and usually awkwardly, along the path of recovery and finding better health, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs are an understandable framework of ideas. It has stood the test of time and been updated, as well.
It’s not quite a map to the euphoric peak of the mountain but definitively a signpost pointing in the right direction.
Robert Skender is a Powell River freelance writer and health commentator.