Updated: Dec 7, 2020
The current system is designed to keep those in power powerful and keep the people under them worried about whether their needs are being met. This is all done through our social structures, labor practices, family culture and marketing.
There may be bits of this post that make you bristle a bit or tingle in all the right places. Notice if you start to defend some of the structures that may be keeping you at the bottom of the pyramid.
This work is Sacred Rebellion; it's revolutionary. Privilege and Power in enough Self Actualized people is dangerous to the current system so there is a program of fear and lack at its roots. Let's do a little unpacking...
First, let this inquiry be about no one other than yourself. Yes, there are groups of people who are being more severely oppressed than others; it is heartbreaking and one of the reasons your sacred rage drives you to dismantle the patriarchy in the first place. You are simply gathering information that will inform the direction you want to go in next. If you feel too emotionally overwhelmed by these feelings take a break, let yourself feel what's rising to be felt and come back when you feel grounded again.
Let's look at Maslow's first layer of needs: Physiological; Are you breathing? Do you have access to healthy foods & fresh water? Are you enjoying shame-free sexuality with or without a partner, getting enough sleep for you, and eating enough fiber?
Now, let's look at the way our society may be limiting this need: inner city food deserts, GMO foods, unsafe drinking water, shaming around sexuality, fast food culture, processed convenience foods.
Maslow's second layer is just as important as the first: Security; do you live and work in a safe neighborhood? Are you worried about losing your source of income? Do you fear that the actions you perform in this life will determine if you go to heaven or hell? Do you fear for your families safety? Do you have concerns for your health?
Society limits this layer through a decrease in labor unions, uneven power dynamics in the workplace, authoritarian parenting practices, dualistic Abrahamic religion, legislative indifference to school shootings, and increasing costs of health care.
The third layer in Maslow's hierarchy: Love/Belonging; how do you feel about your place in your family structure? Do you have a network of like-minded supportive friends? Do you have any intimate relationships?
Society limits this layer through long-held dysfunctional family dynamics, over-importance placed on independence, popularity of letting babies "cry it out", a cultural belief that one should not involve others in your emotional or personal affairs, sweeping conflict under the carpet, gaslighting and cultural norms that promote weak boundaries.
Maslow's fourth layer concerns our esteem; how do you feel about yourself? Are your achievements celebrated? Do you feel respected?
Our culture is set up to be competitive rather than collaborative; we are in competition for our money, our jobs, our affection, our friends, our stuff. A contributing factor to this is the way we are marketed to; we get the transmission that we are never good enough and we are taught that to be humble means to underplay our achievements. We learn that often respect is something that is needed to be earned rather than given and somewhere along the way many get jaded and decide it's easier to be an asshole.
The final layer in Maslow's hierarchy of needs is the level of Self Actualization. Privilege and power in enough Self Actualized people is dangerous to the current system. Especially when you think of "Self Actualization" from a yogic perspective. This perspective is expansive and realizing our highest potential means realizing we are in fact the Universe itself in ecstatic motion. Quantum physics backs this up, there is no arguing that "we are the world" is a bunch of kumbaya bullshit anymore. We live in a holographic universe and the whole "As above, so below; As within, so without" thing is real. We truly do have the power to shift, we just need to be brave enough to play our part like Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, John Lennon, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and dare I say it Bernie Sanders have. Self Actualization happens when we begin to act as if all of the needs in Maslow's hierarchy below it are met; we have nothing to lose and everything to gain by acting from this place of radical authenticity.
Why are so many people complacently sitting back while they are in an abusive relationship with the powers that be? The answer to these questions is found within Maslow's hierarchy of needs. If you fear for your security and safety or feel disconnected from your fellow humans you don’t pursue Self Actualization even if that fear is based in illusion. Systemic oppression, acculturation and our capitalist society perpetuate a fear of loss of security and safety that shouldn't exist. When you grow up within a system that tells you your needs being met are dependent on the color of your skin, the balance in your bank account, your available credit, your willingness to sacrifice your personal values and freedom, Self Actualization falls pretty low on the priority list.
Rather than lamenting about what's wrong with the world I am more interested in coming up with a solution. So I asked myself "how do we create a population of Self Actualized people?"
Provide health care as a human right. This will take care of the first three layers in Maslow's hierarchy. Those who are sick can focus on healing rather than trying not to lose their job and medical coverage. Those who aren’t sick can feel freedom to make employment decisions based on interest instead of fear of accident or illness.
Expand public education so that everyone has access to education from kindergarten to college and has a chance to pursue their passions regardless of their place in society or ability to pay. Parents and teachers will have the freedom to teach in a way that addresses the whole child and meet them where they are at while encouraging the student to find and work with their own strengths and weaknesses. When our health care and education systems support our individual authentic expressions, we thrive and the relationships that are built strengthen our community and our connection to our fellow humans.
Provide the tools for a healthy nervous system. Yoga, meditation, somatic practices, therapy and breathwork are all effective ways to heal a wounded nervous system and teach resilience. These practices, made available to everyone regardless of race, gender, social status or ability to pay, will create a dramatic shift in our society over time. For those of us who grew up with caregivers and/or environments that were less than ideal, learning how to healthily self-regulate takes practice. By showing up regulated ourselves we will teach those around us to regulate; it's called co-regulation and it's the way humans work. We have a responsibility to show up for ourselves and provide hope and care for the next generation; we need to hold our children, kiss their ouchies (with consent) and teach them it's safe to have emotions, even the difficult ones. We need to stop handing them iPhones as a distraction from their own bodies and give them healthy ways to self regulate. Independence and the ability to self soothe will happen naturally as they grow, when we show up to them in a way that is unconditionally loving and supportive. We need to let children explore, and practice getting hurt and healing. Showing up in this way to young humans gives adult humans an opportunity to heal their own inner child and that is what is needed to create lasting change. We have the power to rehabilitate the nervous system and expand our capacity to hold experiences without overwhelm. This step is both PT and preventative care for the nervous system. It's revolutionary.
Address suppressed emotions such as: shame, rage, fear and grief. Many of us have a hard time with emotions in general; the four listed above are the big ones that keep most of us seeing the world from a limited perspective. Recognition and healthy expression of these emotions is vital to our nervous system's development. When our fears are acknowledged as valid and real rather than gaslighted and dismissed we learn to feel the subtle discernment between fear and excitement and can pursue our passions and use our voice. When we are allowed to feel the depth of our grief, the hollowed out heart that comes with feelings of loss and abandonment, we find compassion for others and can serve in our own unique way. Addressing our shame will heal on multiple layers of Maslow's hierarchy; shame around our privilege, shame around our race, our gender, our sexuality, shame around our humanity, all of it is keeping us stuck in the bottom rungs of the pyramid and away from the life we are seeking to live. Address it, feel it and then set it free.
Don't let your emotions keep you from acting in your power. A psychological trick of the current paradigm has many stuck in the story of "but what about them". This keeps those who can help create the change we wish to see from seeing the privilege and power they actually wield. Notice if you begin to think of the others who can't and go into that story instead of staying within yourself. Also notice if you begin to go into a story of hopelessness or helplessness; my favorite way to play this game is by meeting everything I notice with "that's interesting", this allows you to be an observer of your situation rather than getting bogged down in the experience.
Our work is to get curious and start to notice where we are getting stuck in the program and begin to write a new one of our own. The question I continue to ask myself each day is "how can I begin to build the systems I want to see in place when the current system falls?" I am living my life building the new program as I go, the current system IS crumbling and one day we will be living in the world we are longing to build. Turn your energy inward, dismantle the patriarchal structures within you; this is what will create lasting shift and change. Information is power and through it arrives choice. What choices will you make given the information you've gathered today? Be revolutionary; rise above that program and begin to move towards a new future.