The haunting feeing that I’ve failed, the feelings of loss that knock me over like a wave in the ocean.
The feelings of living the most most reassure me in this liminal yet familiar space as I go back to my librarian role.
I sit with my Most Most. The Most Most is looking at what direction to take when values and duties compete and constraints exist. How do we decide how to move forward with the most meaning? It’s not that decisions don’t break our heart; it’s that in breaking our heart with one loss we are simultaneously expanding it with our “most most”. I call it the “most most” because there may be many things in our life that give us meaning, but in the reality of our life, we may need to choose which of these things we pursue and nourish the most. We choose, to the best of our situations, the order in how we live our greatest values and loves.
Eli Finkel adapted Maslow’s hierarchy of needs for love relationships with his concept of Mount Maslow. He argues that marriage has moved from a financial, practical, survival arrangement to one replete with opportunity for personal fulfillment, emotional closeness, and self-expansion, inviting a relationship as sitting on Mount Maslow. Some seasons of a relationship invite couples to reach for self-expansion goals and climb the mountain. Other seasons require descent from self-actualization needs to more lower-level needs.
Of critical importance is that the “lower-level” needs are not less important or less worthy. In fact, they pave the way for the higher level needs. They are non-negotiable cornerstones that set the stage for growth and lived meaning. Having physiological needs met, having health needs met, and having belonging with friends and family nourish us and sustain us for ascent.
How can couples navigate and decide on their Most Mosts when needs and wants in the hierarchy constrain one another or compete with one another?
Every person and every relationship’s Most Most decision, no matter what the content of the decision is about, might be different. The goal should be for the process of decision-making to be made in a space of kindness, assertiveness, and trust. Having that space is predicated on developing and maintaining emotional safety with one another.
Stay tuned to a future writing of my thoughts on how couple’s can make the Most Most decisions.
MY PERSONAL MOUNT MASLOW
I’ve left my MFT program. It was not an easy decision, but the most mosts call.
My meaning straddles both worlds. Being in the therapy field calls, and other things also call: : whole health, presence to my precious ones, the librarian part of me. The intersection of my professional longings – libraries, therapy, and healthy relationships – is a signal for my life’s work, but perhaps not how I envisioned. There is something sacred in this intersection of TCS.
My librarian work is meaningful in its own right, and it also makes space for my most “most mosts”.
Last summer, I posted a graphic of traditional markers of success our society holds dear along with things that should be updated markers of success. Some of the right column may fuel the left, and it may be a most most decision at where and how people prioritize which in what columns and to what extent.
Am I fearful that some of the people I respect the hell out of will think I’m a failure? Absolutely, I’m human. Would I still have made the same decision given the totality of my values and constraints, anyway? Yes. Will I regret this at the end of my life? I don’t know. Did I actually fail? I’m not convinced that I did. It is up to us to look back with how we ordered our priorities among our most mosts.
My heart grieves, and I look forward. Helpers exist and are needed in many forms. Helping, also, is also needed in many forms.
I am not done with teaching or with scholarship. Three unexplored research questions burn in my mind. I hope to answer them, some through my employer, and I would need help from clinicians to answer one of them.
TCS will remain a lifelong resource collecting the wisdom of couple’s therapists and mental health professionals in the name of healthy relationships. I unabashedly love Emotionally Focused Therapy; I do prioritize crowdsourcing on the foundation of emotion and its somatic undertones as the agent of change. I also recognize depending on presenting problems, many orientations can help people, and people have a right to learn about all of them.
I sense TCS has influenced the field, helping make relationship resources more accessible to all, and I am moved with meaning at possibly having influenced the work of my human heroes with my own work.
I look inward at my dream and outward at the work of people whose work I admire, and I quake that I failed. I look at the role of librarian and TCS and into the eyes of my partner and our children, and I have a hard time believing that my path, even if it was releasing the opportunity of a lifetime, is anything but failure.
I hope my story gives you and your partner the courage to make most most decisions even when (especially when) they risk vulnerability.