So, in my house there are usually two main states of being with the animals (dog, two kittens, two grown up cats – I am excluding Barnet Boy from the animal category for the time being LOL). They are either racing around like lunatics, generally destroying the house and creating chaos or they are fast asleep and peace reigns. This morning, something incredible happened. I looked up from the computer and Barnie and the two kittens Stevie Mouse and Emmy were in his dog bed in front of the fire, wide awake and behaving. They looked so cute I grabbed my camera and took a shot that led to this image ‘Contentment’. Thirty seconds after I took the shot, Emmy launched herself at Stevie Mouse and Barnie leapt out of the bed barking and everything returned to normal. But there was a moment of pure tranquility and contentment that they all shared that comes across from my image.
But what does contentment mean to you? Is it snuggling up in your onesie on the sofa with a glass of wine and a good book? Is it the bargains you got in the Black Friday Sales? Is it the cooking that you will be doing to provide a big Christmas meal for your family? Or is it something different? What do people put on Facebook suggesting they are content? What do they talk about that they are not content with?
Mmmmm, getting a bit philosophical here maybe. But if we think about Abraham Maslow, as far back as 1943 he stated that people are motivated to achieve certain needs. At college (where I learnt to teach adult learners) we were introduced to his famous triangle with the different layers of need. At the base level we need to have our physical needs satisfied including clothing and shelter. Does that give us contentment? No, because once those needs are satisfied safety becomes an issue and that includes personal security, financial security, health and well being (and just my personal observation but probably about when we start bombing our neighbours to protect our boundaries). But then we have to fill our need for love and the sense of belonging in relationships with partners, friends and families.
So, to recap, we now have clothing and shelter, security and a sense of belonging. We are happy right? Well, no, not so much because then we need to feel respected and have self-esteem. Surely, self-esteem must bring contentment? Well no, we then move onto the level of self-actualisation where we have the desire to be the best that we can be and achieve all we can which could mean the best parent, the best teacher, the best researcher, the best consultant, the best artist etc. Maslow initially believed that to achieve this level you had to have achieved and mastered the previous levels of need. Of course in reality he realised it is not that straightforward, there is not a linear progression as I have described here (a bit tongue in cheek) these things are all inter-related and we can be achieving in part of one area and struggling in another. What really interests me, however, is that in later years Maslow brought in another dimension, that of self-transcendence, the need to give oneself to a higher goal of spirituality and altruism.
If we could get to that level the world would be a very different place and one where you could quite possible live in contentment – I think we all need to work towards that goal in these turbulent times.
For more information on Maslow you can find details on Wikipedia here.
Before you go
My name is Dorothy Berry-Lound an artist and writer. You can find out more about my art and writing at https://dorothyberryloundart.com.
Thank you for reading!