You're probably familiar with the pyramid of needs that the American Abraham Maslow, founding father of humanistic psychology, created in the 1940s, right? Since then, it has served as an illustration of how our needs are built up in layers.
At the bottom of the pedestal, we start with everything that serves bare survival, then security comes on top. As soon as we feel safe, we climb to the relationship floor. If it works halfway there, we take the stairs towards prestige, esteem and importance, and finally we swing up to the top. Self-realisation and the development of potential await us there.
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In the 1970s, Maslow expanded the pyramid once again: He added two floors before self-actualisation and wrote cognitive and aesthetic on its entrance doors.
Then, at the very top, he placed transcendence. The pyramid of needs now has eight levels, which, on the basis of psychology, illustrate to us in all simplicity - and therefore wonderfully apt - what sounds from the vernacular like "The shirt is closer to me than the skirt".
When Bert Brecht weaves this thought into a song lyric, it sounds like "What does man live on?" in "The Threepenny Opera":
You who love your bellies and our goodness,
Know this once for all,
How you always turn it, and how you always push it,
First comes food, then comes morality.
Brecht is right.
It goes without saying that the contents of the floors are individually filled according to the respective life situation. Some serve hand-milked green smoothies at the foundation, while others have what they got out of hardship at the social market on their plates.
Maslow's Roof Garden
What happens next in the pyramid? That, too, is individual. Some may hungrily fight their way to the top, while those who could use the lift may have no interest in rising above themselves, get stuck somewhere in their development and are overtaken via the staircase. Too bad for them.
I've noticed lately that Maslow's pyramid seems to have been given two more floors:
Firstly, a cellar was put in her place, and there was then stored what for many seems to be even more important than bare survival: wifi and toilet paper.
And then the pyramid got a brand new roof garden. In itself, it is not new at all, but more and more people are just discovering it. Above self-realisation and transcendence, there is the possibility to support others on their way up. It is no wonder that there, in the best air, a magnificent view and especially beautiful plants can be admired.
Have you ever been up there? A visit is wholeheartedly recommended, you really feel excellent there.
The people who hang around Maslow's roof garden are called mentors. They did not fall from the sky into the roof garden, they are not saints either, often they are even the opposite. They have trudged their way up step by step and misstep by misstep. With their story, they can support others in their story, tell them some shortcuts in retrospect and hold the robber's ladder.
These Lichtzeig figures are particularly good at five things:
1) justify (but don't condone) the mentee's mistakes.
2) confirm his suspicions (but don't stay there pecking)
3) allay fears (but don't drive them to recklessness)
4) give impetus to dreams (but do not feed illusions)
5) help defeat opponents and opposing forces (but not take away the fight).
Mentors are masters of something, but never be-teachers. Their reward? Among other things, a regular place in Maslow's roof garden and the key to the secret door to the floor of transcendence... In other words, a little shortcut in terms of transformation. And that's also the particularly good news: you can take the direct route to the roof garden from any pyramid level.
Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach, one of the most important writers of her time, probably knew this roof garden and knew: "If everyone wanted to help the other, everyone would be helped."
I add cheekily: When we do something for each other, we do it for ourselves at the same time.
With this momentum, every person, every company, every one of us, could drop by Maslow's rooftop garden for a jump. There would be room for everyone there for some magical reason, the wifi works just fine. And up there, there is a clear view of a tomorrow that has the makings of a new, a better story for all of us, one that is about all of us and multiplies our strengths instead of dividing us up like the old story.
I think that 's what my grandmother, old Story Dudette, meant when she talked to her little flowers while gardening and whispered to them, "No Story. No Glory."