Stocking Up

Last weekend, we stocked up. I am pleased to report we are now the proud owners of one precious toilet paper pack from Costco. It felt like we won the lottery, since we were down to our last two rolls. We also visited the grocery store. Even though the shelves looked more bare than usual, and we had to be less selective with our choices, our refrigerator is now full of fruits and vegetables, and our pantry is stocked for next week. We even bought some bright yellow tulips to put in our kitchen. They may not be a necessity, but when I look at the flowers, I smile. And that seems like a good thing right now.

The necessities are important. Food. Water. Air. Sleep. These physiological needs form the foundation of what’s known as Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Maslow posited that for people to rise to the next stage, each earlier stage must be met. These levels are also not one-way doors we pass through. Even if lower levels have been satisfied in the past, at any point they can again take precedence over the other levels. Our most basic needs must be met before we are motivated to achieve higher level needs.

Safety needs are the second level in Maslow’s hierarchy – and this basic need doesn’t feel so certain these days. We all might have different reasons for not feeling safe. Health. Employment. Finances. There’s uncertainty. In many areas of our lives, we have lost that sense of safety.

As a result, people are having lots of big feelings, and those feelings manifest in different ways. Anxiety seems high. Resilience seems low.  

And so, in addition to the food and supplies we have gathered for the week ahead, I’m realizing there’s something else I need to stock up on. This is one we may even want to hoard.

It’s our compassion. And the good news is, it’s available to all of us for no cost and in unlimited quantities.

In seeing people around me through a lens of compassion, I’m trying to remember that someone’s snippy-sounding email or curt text likely represents how they are dealing with what feels big and unsettling to them in that moment. I’m trying to acknowledge they are doing the best they can. I’m remembering who they are at their best, when these basic safety needs are met. And I’m hoping that others – if they see me at moments that may not be my best in the days ahead – will also choose to see me through that compassionate lens.

Author: Alyssa Forcehimes, PhD

An expert in behavior change, substance use disorders and empathic communication, Dr. Alyssa Forcehimes serves as President of The Change Companies® and Train for Change Inc.® She lives in Arizona with her husband and two daughters.