An Authentic Life

The Humanistic Psychologist Abraham Maslow recognised, through what he termed the Hierarchy of Needs, that when humankind’s most basic needs are met – that is once they have food, shelter and safety – they will endeavour to move towards self-realisation. Maslow understood that this drive to actualise our greatest potential is a fundamental part of our humanity. In other words, as long as we are not starving, homeless or war-torn – consumed wholly by the demands of mere survival – we will come to a point when the urge to express, create, grow and flourish will move in us.

Maslow is saying that we, as human beings, are born to express our passions and gifts; it is inherently a part of our humanity and this process unfolds over an entire lifetime.

Maslow’s colleague, Carl Rogers, wrote about this process of self-realisation as an endeavour to live authentically, or as he termed it, to live the ‘good life’:

This process of the good life is not, I am convinced, a life for the faint-hearted. It involves the stretching and growing of becoming more and more of one’s potentialities. It involves the courage to be. It means launching oneself fully into the stream of life.    

Rogers realised that the full expression of the good life could easily be thwarted by pressures from without – emotional, social, cultural or political expectations leading a person to forgo an authentically expressed life in order to gain approval from others. ForRogers, many folks ‘live lives that are not true to themselves, to who they are on the inside.’

As we reach middle-age and beyond, this possible tension between who we truly are and the life that we lead might result in a breaking point. As we age and become more aware of time speeding, of the irresistible call of our own mortality, it might do us good to recall those crossroad moments in our past when we could have chosen the authentic route but took another. When we find ourselves at such a juncture again, maybe we need to remind ourselves of Maslow’s rather wonderful assumption that fulfilling our potential is the bottom line and because our gifts, talents and passions are such a fundamental and intrinsic part of our humanity, it is never too late to rediscover them or even to reveal and embrace them for very first time.  

To many of us the thought of changing paths, careers or lifestyles in our latter years appears too daunting; it takes courage to stand in that current but when we do, it could be suggested that it is because we have come to a point on some deep inward level where we no longer have the choice – we either take the risk or whither inside. Aging can bring with it a sense of urgency, each moment made more precious by the limitations of our mortality. One of the beauties of aging is that death’s closeness encourages us to whittle out the dross and keep what truly matters. This sharpened awareness of death can grant us the permission to rebel but unlike the rebellions of youth which perhaps lack the wisdom of experience, we have the depth and knowledge to make those rebellions truly count.

Finding one’s ‘Passion Path’ later in life is not an impossibility; it’s about reaching middle-age and beyond and suddenly making the decision to step into that current, one that is uniquely ours, allowing it to move and inspire us. These currents, once we stand in them, have a momentum all their own that does not necessarily concur with modern ideas about success, fame or wealth. Standing in one’s passion path is certainly not an answer to every ill; we do not have control over every force that impinges on our lives; we might have only limited personal control over the wider social and political cycles that we are born into and that direct us in ways that most cannot prevent. In truth we are often more like little human bumper cars, in the driving seats to an extent but constantly bumped off course by other people or events.  However, we each have that innate spark waiting to ignite in us, waiting to open us to our core selves.

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6 Comments

  1. Christine Croft said,

    June 16, 2011 at 1:13 pm

    I feel like a Bumper Car. Ageism is rife!

  2. Wightdruid said,

    June 20, 2011 at 12:22 am

    Beautifully crafted, M. Delightfully real.
    I’m 60 now, with chronic lung disease, but the light of the Awen now burns brighter than ever.
    And … I made it to The Longstone today and helped create the Solstice festival celebration.
    But, I love your blog….
    Bendithion/|\Blessings
    of Allban Hefin

  3. luckyloom1 said,

    June 20, 2011 at 12:22 pm

    Maurice! Hello! I am so pleased you made it to the Longstone! I do hope you are feeling a bit better. Yes, I agree, it is about keeping that Awen burning brightly. My Dad is 86 and he speaks of how important it is to nurture that connection to and involvement with life. Those things that keep us connected to our hearts and souls definately keep the blood pumping! 🙂

    I am so pleased you like my Blog! Thank you!
    Sending lots of love and Solstice Blessings to you and your lovely ones!
    M XXX

  4. luckyloom1 said,

    June 20, 2011 at 12:26 pm

    Hello Chris! Hope you are not too bumped and bruised lovely one! 🙂 Also hope you are chipper and chirpy!

    lots of love and long distant hugs,
    M XXX

  5. kruse said,

    June 27, 2011 at 9:33 pm

    this post came into my life at exactly the perfect moment – just as I finally realise the imperative of living as authentically as possible. It does take courage but is absolutely the right thing to attempt. If only because being authentic and true to oneself oneself may enable other folk to live free.
    Which ain’t no bad thing!

  6. luckyloom1 said,

    June 27, 2011 at 10:49 pm

    Thank you Kruse! I am so pleased it was timely for you! In fact your comment has been timely for me too: I think your point that it may enable others to live freer is so important and has got me thinking!
    M X


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