Decisions, Existentalism, Awareness, and Needs: How they relate to chronic pain

This morning I listened to two episodes of a podcast called “Earn Your Happy with Lori Harder.” I mentioned this podcast a few years ago as one I really liked, however I haven’t listened to podcasts much in the past year. With all this extra time on my hands (though I’m keeping fairly busy!) I figured now would be a great time to pick them back up.

IMG_6542Earn Your Happy Podcast

The first episode I listened two as about Making Decisions, in which Lori had a guest on (Christina Lecuyer) and they discussed (a) how we make decisions all the time, (b) decisions we make effect what happens in our lives, and (c) being indecisive is making the decision not to decide. Interestingly, yesterday I read the book Existentialism is Humanism, which was a lecture given by Jean-Paul Sartre in 1945. For those who don’t know, part of existential philosophy is that we all make choices, and that making a choice not to choose is still making a choice. We have free will and create our own meanings for our lives. Sound familiar? Though neither host or cohost of the podcast mentioned existential theory (I’m not sure if they are familiar with it or Sartre’s lecture) what they were saying exactly lined up with it. And though there are many things out of our control – such as having an illness (physical or mental) and chronic pain – there are many things we can still choose to do. I choose to go to the gym because it makes my body strong and lowers my pain. I choose to go to physio/chiro/etc (well not right now because self-isolation…) because it eases my pain. I choose not to have people in my life who don’t communicate properly. Choices to do or not to do are all choices and can directly effect my health and mental health. Just some food for thought.

IMG_6539My favourite quotes from Existentialism is Humanism.

The second episode I listened to was with Lori and her husband Chris, as they discussed 7 levels of awareness. Level one (at the bottom of the pyramid) is animal instincts – essentially satisfying our basic needs – this is where we are as babies and children. Level two is Mass – following the crowd/conformity – most of the population falls into this category because it’s the easiest to live in. Level 3 is Aspiration – realizing there is more out there, but not yet ready to do anything about it – I was in this position three years ago when I knew I wanted to make some changes in career so I could help other people, but I wasn’t sure what those were yet. Level 4 is Individual – expressing your uniqueness and starting to make the changes you want – for me this constituted going back to school to up my GPA so I could eventually get into a Masters program for counselling psychology. Level 5 is Discipline – following the plan you’ve made during level 4 – doing my masters, keeping up with this blog, and starting to write my book (I’ve written the intro and chapter 1 so far!) with a continued commitment to these things. Level 6 is Experience – learning through trial and error what works and what doesn’t and how to be the best you there is – this is the level I think I am at (and I’m not trying to give myself props or anything). I’m challenge myself physically, mentally and emotionally and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t but regardless, I feel I learn and appreciate the learning from each and every experience. The highest level is Level 7, mastery – responding versus reacting – basically you can delay your immediate reactions and respond in an appropriate way while still acknowledging how you feel.

IMG_6541Earn Your Happy podcast.

This whole levels of awareness really just seems like an extension of Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. This is something every psychology student learns about. Level 1 is physiological needs (survival), and level 2 is safety – these are our basic needs. Level 3 is belongingness and love (friendships and relationships), and level 4 is esteem (really self-esteem) – these are our psychological needs. At the top is self-actualization (achieving our full potential) – self-fulfillment needs. Like the levels of awareness, Maslow states that you cannot move up the hierarchy until the each level of needs are met. Physiological -> Safety -> Love -> Self-esteem -> Self-actualization. I like this idea because I think it’s true. For people with chronic physical or mental illnesses, a lot of time is spent on physiological and safety needs because pain requires attention to be paid for those. Even with my pain I constantly strive for self-actualization because I don’t want my pain to dictate my life.

4136760-article-what-is-maslows-hierarchy-of-needs-5a97179aeb97de003668392eImage from:

Since we all have this time for self reflection, it’s just some food for thought.

IMG_6540What I dream about during self-isolation.

If you want to check out the podcasts I’m referring to is “Earn Your Happy” with Lori Harder. Episode 531: Decide it’s your turn – with Christina Lecuyer; and Episode 525: The 7 levels of awareness: He said, She said.