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Recovery and the Great Pyramid of Egypt

Tonight daydreaming, I found myself standing at the base of the great Pyramid of Giza, the tome of the Fourth Dynasty Pharaoh Khufu. It was built around 2560 B.C. . It is the oldest and only remaining member of the seven wonders of the world. I walked around the base to get to the shady side as I burn easy. I decided sit there for a while and rest on one of the huge blocks that made up the base. It was then it occurred to me. They built this thing from the base to the peak. Brilliant! It was right there, the secret to recovery. Create a solid base and build it to last.

A daydreaming visit Khufu’s Pyramid reminded me of another pyramid I remember seeing in an old text book. It was Abraham Mazlow’s Pyramid. He like Khufu is a dead guy. But they new the secrete. Build on a solid base.

Abraham Maslow put forward a psychological theory in a 1943 paper entitled, “A Theory of Human Motivation.” He based his study on persons who made the most of their lives. He looked at folks like Albert Einstein, Jane Addams, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Fredrick Douglass.

Maslow created a pyramid that illustrated basic human at its base. He asserted a persons basic human needs must be met before they could build towards higher goals. Maslow suggested that if the base of his pyramid was not solid, a persons loftier goals in life would become unattainable or at best unstable. Just like Khufu’s Pyramid, Maslow’s Pyramid or “hierarchy of needs,” could not stand if the base was not sound.

I humbly suggest that sometimes folks diagnosed with serious mental illness are asked to build on an unreliable or totally absent base.

If a person can’t be sure of enough to eat, basic physical safety, and a decent home? How can they be expected to successfully find the colossal motivation needed to initiate recovery.

Take a minute and think about it. If consistent access to your basic needs were suddenly unmet, or access to them made conditional, wouldn’t you find that distracting? What if no matter how hard you tried you could not “comply” with the conditions set. Ask yourself would you get angry, mistrustful, and or depressed? How motivated would you be to move higher on the pyramid towards recovery if faced with failure after failure? What if you got the message, real or imagined, that your were undeserving? Would you get stuck at the base of Mazlow’s pyramid?

I vaguely recall as bigoted saying I was taught at University, it had to do with “building castles in the ski…” I suggest that despite the very best of intentions, the modern mental health delivery system, fails to build recovery on a solid base. Or worse it makes the base available only on the condition that folks are well enough to comply consistently with a plan of care.

I assert that a radical reform is needed. Instead of demanding compliance as a condition of care, care should be unconditionally given. By unconditionally meeting basic needs, it will empower even the hardest to reach persons with serious mental illness to move closer towards recovery.

No more demands of compliance. No more conditional assistance. No more limits. No more time tables. No more permanent pronouncements of failure. No more giving up on the hope that recovery for all is real and possible.

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