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What does it mean to be self-actualized? While it will look different on everyone, being self-actualized means you’ve done the work to learn who you are, what you want, and find your purpose in this world. Sounds great, right? But how do we get there?

Whether or not you’ve studied psychology, you may have heard the phrase hierarchy of needs. An American psychologist named Abraham Maslow developed a theory of self-actualization using the concept of a hierarchy based on things he thought we needed to reach a conscious level of self-awareness in connection to purpose. He believed one must follow and fulfill certain needs that range from basic survival to conscious self-work that would lead to optimal health and wellness.

What does this old dude’s philosophy mean in relation to addiction? A whole heck of a lot and here’s why. Addicts, functional or not, need stability to get clean and stay that way. They need basic necessities, they need support, but most importantly, they need themselves. This is where Maslow comes in. Maslow believed that once certain needs are met, a person could get to know themselves. And what do addicts need to beat addiction? Self-awareness and purpose.

Maslow’s Pyramid of Needs

The hierarchy is shaped like a pyramid with a large foundation at the bottom and smaller pieces filling the top. The bottom section contains our physical needs which keep us alive: oxygen, food, water rest, etc. Without these things, we physically can’t survive. The next factors play off these basic needs and focus on keeping us alive: shelter, safety and some kind of stability. Row one allows us to be alive, and row two keeps us alive. From here, the needs shift from concrete necessities to abstract concepts.

The third section connects to Aristotle’s premise that humans are social creatures. Maslow agreed and felt the third level rests on our need for love and belonging in our communities. Next, we reach the Ego, the level that builds our self-esteem through power and prestige. These are the tools we need to find purpose but also decide who we are and what we want. Lastly, the very top of the pyramid represents self-actualization. This is the seat of creativity and personal development. When we reach the top, we know who we are, we know what we want, and we definitely know how to stay there in health and happiness.

How Addiction Preys on Survival Mode

Looking at the contents of the pyramid, there is a clear difference between the bottom and the top halves. Without the bottom, literally and figuratively, the top isn’t possible. Many people struggle with maintaining their bottom steps, in which case, they are constantly living in survival mode. Survival mode can look like inconsistent work, moving from home to home, or limited food. One cannot fully rest without these basic principles because, without them, they are never at peace.

It’s here we find the presence of reoccurring trauma. If someone is constantly looking for ways to meet their basic needs, it seems impossible to follow a dream and find purpose because the person’s mind is full of ways to simply stay alive. From here, it’s easy for addiction to manifest and takeover. Why? Because when we are in survival mode, we are weak. We are focused on keeping the body alive which means there is no time for solid, healthy friendships. This also means limited time to reflect on past behaviors and process feelings.

Addiction loves this space; it craves it. It will do whatever it can to keep you there because it wants control over your life. It wants to ensure it can keep playing games with your mind and keep you under its guise. It finds the reasons you hate yourself and your life, it finds your weakest spaces in the pyramid, and it takes over.

People use, drink, and self-harm for myriad reasons, but a common factor stems from trauma and limited self-worth. If we take Maslow’s model into consideration, we can see how easy it would be for people to mask their pain of lacking some of all of the first three levels of need and mask it all with substance.

Addiction and Finding Purpose

If you are reading this, you are either in treatment or closely considering it. This is your sign you are in the right place. Addiction keeps us from finding our purpose in life because it keeps us on the bottom two rows of the pyramid. But if you can pause your life and seek treatment, a whole new layer of the pyramid opens up for you. Treatment can provide a solid base of your pyramid and so much more.

If these words resonate with you, know its time to find peace in your life. Reach out to Summer House Detox Center for help at (800) 719-1090. Our proven detox in Fort Lauderdale and treatment methods will give you the foundation you need to get back on your path to finding your purpose. It starts with you. Let us help you find peace and your purpose in the comforts of South Florida. Visit us at 13550 Memorial Highway Miami, FL 33161. We are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.