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Saturday, August 22, 2020

Different Lives for Different People-Dysfunctional Groups Limit Self-Actualization

A good friend and I sat last night over diner talking about the differences in life and how each person has their own unique flavor and take on the world. Our value systems and particular lifestyle influence the friends and company we keep and associate with. We judge each other and our social position based on things like who we hang out with, how many friends we have, our possessions, and our careers. What we don't often do is stop for a moment to think about why this is so important and whether or not there is a true right or wrong when it comes to our particular flavor in life. 

A different times in our lives we are different things as we come to find our center ground. To not explore means we are stagnant and unable to understand ourselves or worse others. Eventually many of us do find ourselves, through exploration and insight, while the vast majority of of us adhere to a rigid self structure. There are a rare few that will integrate the different selves into a single identity to create what is called "self actualization". 

I've seem the major archetypes of lifestyle. The intellectuals, the artists, the sports players, the trend setters, the military type, the culturalists, the politicians, the druggies, theatricals, the surfers, and just about any other gradation in between. Each one thinks the other one is "dooped" in some way. We know more because life is like.....this or that! Yet each one is a different choice that often leads to a different outcomes. Its hard to say who is right and wrong in the end. 

What we find is that there really isn't a right or wrong more than their is a helpful and unhelpful. Some lifestyles lead to longer more fulfilling life while others to shorter and less fulfilling life. For example, playing sports leads to longer life while using drugs heavily leads to a shorter life. Of course extreme sports might kill you and a serious sports injury make you limp. You get the point.....

The problem is that when we not only judge others but we try and enforce that judgement on others. For example, I know a sports group who formed their identity in high school decades ago. While most haven't played sports since that time it is still part of their identity. Fine...no issues here. People have the right to form their identity in any way they want even if it no longer reflects reality.

The problem is that when these groups become dysfunctional because of a lack of critical self-reflection. Rigid social structures limit people's opportunities for a full life; and they do this to each other through social enforcement mechanisms. Subconsciously they may even judge their own children raising the sports players up and diminishing the value of those who do not play sports. Furthermore, they judge people not by their sports playing abilities but by their perceived "coolness" in the sport which leads to encouraging further dysfunctional behavior. 

Again this is only a problem for them and their children in so long as it is kept away from the general public as a type of subversive counter culture group formed out of the 70's Caddyshack mentality. Yet we must also think about the children who are left within the group thinking that the only thing that matters is how well they do in sports. Not all the children are so endowed and have many other unexplored strengths that are squashed under egos.

There is more to life then high school sports and we should help our children find their true center so they can live happy and free lives.

When such behaviors become dysfunctional to the community, manipulative in manner, and judgement becomes projected onto others then this is when a harmless group becomes harmful. For example, a new family comes into town to start a business or reside and the local group rejects them based on skewed beliefs about what it means to be a sports player and what it means to be "cool" in that community. Much of this rejection behavior could very well be based in jealousies and ethnocentric ignorance. 

Communities that want to grow must be welcoming and open minded. 

I've heard this happen multiple times. Doctors, dentists, and educated professionals come into town and can't really settle because the culture promoted by the trend setters of the community is "in" versus "out" and "local" versus "outsider". It moves from opportunities to law enforcement. Let it go unchallenged for a long time and we will find our economy diminish and our community become further misaligned to the global market and that in turn damages future prospects for everyone. 

New people may bring new ways of doing things but if they spark positive change and new economic opportunities than that is helpful. 

If we were to go back and look at where this culture stems from we will find that it is related to high school sports and how it may have inadvertently socialized some people to a dysfunctional value system. You may also find that the same families from the "in group" are played more often and become demanding coaches later thereby reinforcing dysfunction from one generation to the next in the system. 

To change that culture means to change the sports to focus less on "clansmanship" and more on teaching the fundamentals of health.

That isn't all sports players but often there is a dominant culture managed by a central group that has significant status stake in being seen as "the sports players". Its odd because most didn't play college sports or move onto the professional world.  Yet because it was such a big part of their life they can't shake the identity long after it is no longer relevant. Its a type of delusion! There is nothing wrong with supporting teams, supporting local opportunities or fitness in general and those behaviors of clubs and groups should be applauded.

Sports clubs and sports programs are about supporting the development of children through positive sportsmanship and good health. 

As long as the central focus is on the players and their development and not parents needs then we have a functional club. The central purpose should be the teams and kids and not the ego needs of the parents.  Behaviors such as causing disruption, bullying coaches, heckling referees and being overly loud and obnoxious is all about the parents and that is a detractor to the community! Its destructive, damaging and sends the wrong signal to the kids about appropriate behavior! Shame!!!

Kids learn to carry on the dysfunctional values and beliefs of the parents.

However, I can say morally that we should not be paying taxes for programs that are not truly focused on creating the foundations for future self-actualization. With Covid now putting significant pressure on extracurricular activities likes sports we must start to think about the value of these programs. I am an advocate for sports, and played sports my whole life, as long as those sports are designed to create healthy and well adapted individuals that lead to a stronger society in the future. 

Sports programs can be more cost effective and encourage healthy well adapted individuals that leads to self-actualization later in life. 

Maslow discussed self-actualization in his original Psychological Review paper, "Even if all these [physiological, safety, and social] needs are satisfied, we may still often (if not always) expect that a new discontent and restlessness will soon develop, unless the individual is doing what he is fitted for. A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write, if he is to be ultimately happy. What a man can be, he must be. This need we may call self-actualization. (1943, pp. 382-383).

Thus self-actualization is the development of individuals to their fullest potential so they live happy and meaningful lives that contribute to society. That isn't possible if we allow dysfunctional values derail positive change in society and the proper use of financial resources that help our youth grow and develop in open minded ways. The question the leaders of our institutions should ask is, "Who are you and what do you support?" We only have one life so lets live it in a positive and beneficial way that does the best for the next generation. 

.....or we can continue to engage in self-serving beliefs. 🙅

Maslow, A. H. 1943. A theory of human motivation. Psychological Review, 50, 370–396



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