Transforming Fear to Joy

So much of our human experience in the new millennium is attributed to the rapid pace of change brought about by both the industrial and technological revolutions of the past century.  There is no doubt of their significant impact on our growth and development, however the “evolution of human consciousness drives technological, organizational and social progress” (Dent 1999) not the other way around.  Because human consciousness is not easily defined or located, I offer the definition below as a starting point for the purposes of discussion.

Consciousness is a quality of the mind generally regarded to comprise qualities such as subjectivity, self-awareness, sentience, sapience and the ability to perceive the relationship between oneself and one’s environment.  In common parlance, consciousness denotes being awake and responsive to one’s environment; this contrasts with being asleep or being in a coma.

Many cultures and religious traditions place the seat of consciousness in a soul separate from the body.  Conversely, many scientists and philosophers consider consciousness to be intimately linked to the neural functioning of the brain.

As you can see, the verdict is still out whether a spiritual or a scientific viewpoint is correct.  In time, we may find some combination of both views to be accurate.  For the time being, one depiction of our human evolutionary development is Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs as illustrated below.

Maslows Needs

Maslow’s theory stipulates that until the needs at each lower step on the evolutionary ladder (physical and emotional) are met, humans are unable to consider their higher order needs of influence and personal development.  In other words, if we are starving or our survival is threatened, we cannot focus on socializing, relating to others, learning how to belong in a group or influence others.   Maslow further contended that very few people could be found in the highest stage of self-actualization – i.e., Albert Einstein, Eleanor Roosevelt.

In the last century, new technologies, improved educational levels and a drastically heightened standard of living in developed nations moved massive numbers of people out of survival into Maslow’s belonging stage.  Although to a lesser degree, this same phenomenon was experienced in the esteem and self-actualization stages, and by all appearances another leap in our standard of living is like