For the past 10 weeks, I’ve been conducting academic research in the field of Humanistic Psychology. This school of psychology focuses on how to help already healthy individuals become healthier. It is believed that given the right set of psychological and social conditions, everyone has the potential to become happy, fulfilled, creative, and emotionally whole.

A major tenant of this school is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. This theory represents the stages of growth in humans, and the motivating factors leading up to achieving one’s fullest potential.

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My investigation is geared towards analyzing social media usage in relation to one’s placement within Maslow’s Hierarchy, and ultimately reaching self-actualization. For research purposes, I’ve been focusing on the levels of love,belonging, and esteem. However, the events of the past 24 hours have made me rethink one of the most preliminary stages: safety.

On Friday, 6/11, YouTube sensation and The Voice finalist Christina Grimmie was shot dead as she was signing autographs for her fans. This 22 year old singer’s life was cut short by an attacker that she had embraced with open arms. Armed with two guns and a hunting knife, the murderer then took his own life.

Hours later, just a few miles away, 50 people were killed inside an Orlando nightclub. What should have been just another Friday night out quickly turned into what is being called the worst terror attack in U.S. history since 9/11. Pulse nightclub, a gay bar that was opened to promote awareness to the area’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, was dedicated to the owner’s (Barbara Poma) brother who had died from AIDS. Pulse’s website speaks of Poma’s brother; “Being raised in a strict Italian family, being gay was frowned upon. However, when John came out to his family and friends, the family dynamic transitioned from a culture of strict tradition to one of acceptance and love.”

These two devastating events brings me back to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Pulse set out to create an environment of love and belonging, as Poma’s family did for him. Shows such as “The Voice” allows for talented artists, such as Christina Grimme to ignite their esteem, in a way that highlights their unique talents. Maslow believed that an individual cannot transcend levels without fulfilling the one that comes before it. You cannot become self-actualized without building esteem first. Esteem cannot be felt without first building true relationships of love and belonging. None of this can be achieved without ensuring our very basic needs of food, water, and sleep.

But, with safety as a foundational level, how can we build upon this in such an unsafe world?

I believe that we are becoming conditioned to accept unsafe conditions as our norm. Acts of terror, as horrid as they could be, are more commonplace than they ever should be. Maybe Maslow was wrong. Maybe safety should be removed from the hierarchy. Regardless of our understood unsafe conditions, the world keeps turning. Individuals such as Poma are still out there, attempting to create environments of love and belonging. Opportunities such as “The Voice” still exist, giving those with talent a chance to exhibit it, building their esteem. But, does this mean we should just give in, and accept the fact that we’re living in an unsafe world?

In a Facebook article a friend of mine shared, a statement was released that says, “This was a terrible tragedy, but sometimes these things just happen and there’s nothing anyone can do to stop them.” As an eternal optimist, it’s hard for me to come to a realistic conclusion. I don’t think any politician, scientist, religious leader, great thinker, or everyday person can come up with a viable response to the lack of safety we’re feeling. So, I’ll end this post with a page from the book “Ten Billion” by Stephen Emmott that has really stuck out in my mind…

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