Our inner journey has a definite arc. This defined trajectory which our psyche follows, when traced to its very end, leads to wholeness.
Human psyche undertakes its inner journey by activating and seeking fulfillment of needs in a set pattern as they are its trajectory plot points. This set pattern of needs in human psyche exists because it aids the evolution of our consciousness. Thus understanding our needs and their time triggers helps us understand our inner journey.
Various attempts have been made to present human need architecture with most famous model given by Abraham Maslow wherein he defined human needs as a hierarchy. His needs pyramid has physiological needs at the base, belonging needs, esteem needs and then actualization needs in successive layers towards the top. The idea being that next layer opens up as the layer below is fulfilled.
In my view, this picture though very widely taught and followed in psychological literature is neither accurate nor helpful in our psyche’s journey. There is another way of understanding our needs architecture which I want to define here.
Apart from our physical survival needs, like food and security (that includes shelter and clothes) we have two other set of needs which come into play during a human lifetime. They are differentiation and integration needs.
Differentiation needs originate from the fact that as little babies our consciousness is undivided from universal consciousness. Then as we become toddlers we attach our individual consciousness to a larger aura of parental consciousness. They are the ones who ensure that our survival needs are met. It is only later, our consciousness begins to mature and increasingly sets itself up to take care of its own survival. As a consequence we now want to stand apart from the rest and be on our own. We start to rebel against parents, society and set standards. In normal parlance this trigger point is called teen age and is accompanied by surge of sexual hormones in our bodies. This is when the differentiation phase of consciousness or its state of defining itself properly kicks in.
Lasting for next 20-25 years, male and female psyches follow a different differentiation strategy as set by our evolutionary past. Male psyche differentiates on strength and leadership while female psyche differentiates on beauty and belonging. (Those lines are now blurring and female psyche differentiation is also getting culturally defined on traditional male parameters) The differentiation phase is also a key parameter for mate selection and passing on our genes to next generation. More you are differentiated, better chance you have of leaving behind maximum surviving offsprings.
Hence in differentiation phase we compete and get driven by earning and keeping money from system, esteem from peers and want to reach out and grab at any parameter that our surrounding culture defines as success. In female psyche selecting a differentiated mate is also a big need. Thus differentiation phase is plotted on needs of resource mobilization, esteem creation and mate selection.
However the differentiation phase recedes once our place in society gets defined and our next generation is birthed. One set of needs does not have to disappear totally for the next phase of needs to open up. Our psyche just moves on and enters the integration phase which then lasts for the next 20-25 years. Success in this phase now is not as important as Purpose is. We want to look at big picture of life and we start to seek meaning in our individual lives. In this phase of life’s journey, colloquially starting at mid life crisis, we want to integrate back with society and contribute. We want to actualize our true selves ( not what society ordains as success but what fulfills our innate talents) and be a self realized part of a bigger whole. Charity and Kindness become important. Religion or at least spiritual leanings become prominent. We slow down and learn to let go of attachments to things achieved in differentiation phase. So the set of needs that open up in integration phase of consciousness are connecting and belonging, actualization and quest for meaning.
For a chosen few who go through differentiation and integration phases fully, a deeper integration phase also opens up which is the transcendence phase. The need that gets triggered in this phase is of total transcendence of self. (glimpses of which are available in a state of flow in self actualization tasks of the integration phase) Taken to its very end, the integration phase can lead to a complete and conscious merger back with the undifferentiated wholeness. Transcendence is the final stop in the journey of psyche’s wholeness. It is when our consciousness is self aware but parked in universal consciousness.
Outlined as above is the circular journey of human psyche in two distinct and complimentary parts. After its unconscious emergence from undifferentiated wholeness and initial survival, differentiation phase ( ego boundaries) help us define ourselves and then integration phase ( weakens those boundaries) and help us connect with larger whole till deep integration ( or transcendence) leads to a full and conscious merger back into undifferentiated wholeness from which we emerged in the first place. Life as we experience it is then a journey of first survival then individuation of our consciousness and then paradoxically of transcending that individuation.
The moot point is does our journey of wholeness happen on its script? As you might have guessed, No is the answer to that question. The plot thickens as our childhood traumas, ignorance of path of wholeness, attachment to success and money, not pursuing your flow and host lot of other factor kick in to derail us. In fact more often than not our psyche gets trapped into some situation and is unable to continue its journey. It is then we indulge in all kind of compensatory drama of addictions and derelictions which are symptoms of unfulfilled lives.
On the other hand recognizing this journey helps us correctly label needs, when they open up. Correct labeling helps in psyches progression, for then we do not block its path when phase transitions happen or our consciousness evolution necessitates letting go of a certain need without their full realization. In other words, in knowing this pathway, we do not try to run our lives on imaginary stick shift as all along our psyche is programmed to cover its journey of wholeness in an auto pilot mode.