THE DEATH OF SELF-ACTUALIZATION
By Mickey Skidmore, ACSW
I remember back about the time I was finishing my undergraduate work, how rare I thought it was that individuals would even attempted to explore the deepest aspects of their inner psyche as part of a process to genuinely discover their true inner selves. Many years later, having counseled hundreds of clients during this time, I am sad to say that my view is much grimmer. Even thought I like to think of myself generally as an optimist, I am certain that Maslow has been turning over in his grave for quite some time now. Why you ask? Because his theory of Self-Actualization is dead.
So who to blame for such a tragedy? Well, first and foremost, we as individuals must bear the primary responsibility. The fact is most of us have become lazy. We’ve allowed ourselves to become absorbed in the superficial trappings of modern conveniences which capitalism offers. We’ve shunned the deeper sense of responsibility and become masters of procrastination. We’ve become focused on the moment — what we can gain in the short-term more than contemplating the bigger picture. And when we encounter psychological pain, we have sought out the overly simplistic “magic bullets” over the process of emotional work which could make us stronger and bring us closer to a deeper understanding of ourselves.
Perhaps an example of such laziness could better illustrate this point. The kind of laziness I’m referring to is simply not thinking. We have allowed the arrogance of the medical establishment to seduce our entire culture into believing that the framework of the “medical model” as the quintessential blueprint in our understanding of the complexities of the human mind. Together with pharmaceutical companies, they promised quick cures.
Given the choice between exploring the underlying aspects of their emotional pain and taking a pill, most will choose the pill — the magic bullet. Unfortunately, taking a narcotic for physical pain or an antibiotic for infection is not quite the same as taking pill for depression or anxiety. For many, this only masks the symptoms and underlying issues — enabling an improved ability to function (superficially) for a period of time, until the body discovers another pathway in which to manifest the importance of facing those aspects of our deeper inner selves. Rather than the quick cures promised to us, there has instead been a collusion with teachers and child psychiatrists to use medications for social control in the classroom and within the family.
Despite this, we have disregarded pernicious side effects and been subjected to a nearly twenty year campaign by the medical establishment (including pharmaceutical and managed care companies) in effect, turning us slowly into a nation of drug addicts. And the campaign continues despite recent evidence that newer drugs manufactured by the pharmaceutical companies are no more effective than drugs developed earlier, or that (especially relating to psychiatric conditions), placebos are every bit as effective as the high priced drugs peddled by these companies.
Managed care companies have already taken the concept of brief therapy and used it to prevent access to treatment — downgrading the therapy profession to the lowest level of pay — and demonstrating that everything good can be turned into its opposite. Their marriage to pharmaceutical companies is a union which has become truly demonic.
Personally, I find all this most ironic. Psychiatrists have been avoiding the practice of psychotherapy and devoting themselves almost exclusively to the dispensation of medicine. And generally speaking, psychotherapy is no longer taught to psychiatric residents. Yet the ongoing campaign continues to patronize the value of the “multidiciplinary” or “interdiciplinary” approach — provided that it falls within the framework of the medical model. Perhaps the biggest irony of all is that the profession of the psychiatrist has become obsolete, and gradually replaced by agents of the demonic alliance which are more accurately referred to as “psycho-neuro-pharmacologists.”
Therapy is currently controversial because it threatens those who have created through the combination of biochemistry and managed care a powerful industry of mind control. Whether we are mental health consumers or within the mental health profession, we cannot allow ourselves to ignore these trends, or to abandon the process of therapy. I realize we cannot ignore the contributions the medical model has made to some of the more serious mental illness. But I also realize we cannot ignore the value and benefit of engaging in sometimes difficult and arduous emotional work in order to make strides to a more self-actualized individual. Maslow clearly new this to be true many years ago.
1) Madaness, PhD, Cloe. THE EIGHTH INTERNATIONAL CONGRESS on Ericksonian Approaches to Hypnosis and Psychotherapy. Phoenix, AZ. December 5-9, 2001.
2) Skidmore, Mickey. The 1990’s: Decade of the Brain? (February 2000), http://www.turning-points.com.au/2017/09/05/february-2000/.
3) Vedantam, Shankar. (Washington Post). Depression Study: Placebos Work Too. The Charlotte Observer, (pp. 1 & 11A), 5/07/02.