03/28/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Self-Flatualization: Would Maslow Have Applauded the Current Recession?

With the waves of negative news bombarding us unrelentingly, I have been searching far and wide to find and write about something positive. It's time for a healthy dose of good news.

My first thought was to identify people who are doing surprisingly well in the down economy. A few Google clicks later and I was led to dentists. Evidently, the dentistry business is booming! Unfortunately, the reason appears to be that people are so stressed out, they are literally grinding their teeth down to the nerves, causing themselves permanent dental damage. Yippee for dentists! This is not really the message I had been seeking.

But now I think I may have stumbled onto something that we can truly be thankful for in this recession. Rather than look for those who are doing quite well (which in the end only makes us feel worse about our own situations), I searched for recessionary fallout that many of us may actually applaud -- social trends that deep down most of us wish would just go away. Like disco. Or Vice-presidential hunting.


This search led me to DABA -- Dating a Banker Anonymous.

That's right -- evidently it is very tough right now if much of your lifestyle (and livelihood) relies on dating a banker. This corner of the world is apparently so hard hit that these women have created their own support group, DABA.

Recently reported in the New York Times, DABA is a "a group founded in November to help women cope with the inevitable relationship fallout from, say, the collapse of Lehman Brothers or the Dow's shedding 777 points in a single day, as it did on Sept. 29."

The group meets several times a week, and even has a blog, inviting women to join "if your monthly Bergdorf's allowance has been halved and bottle service has all but disappeared from your life."

I am thinking Maslow may be turning over in his grave. In 1943, psychologist Abraham Maslow published A Theory of Human Motivation, which proposed that there is a hierarchy of needs in a predetermined order of importance. The needs at the bottom of this pyramid are Physiological (food, sex), followed by Safety, Belonging, Esteem, and finally Self-Actualization. Maslow believed that once the first four needs were met, humans would focus solely on becoming a "fully functioning, healthy person -- the need to be and do what a person was born to do."

Yet, what do we see in practice? Millions of people in the modern world who now stand at the doorway of self-actualization, and instead pursue a shallow and meaningless material existence. Those in DABA take this one step further, relying on shallow people to fund their shallow pursuits. Rather than self-actualization, I think Maslow might refer to this behavior as self-flatualization -- the mindless pursuit of one's own hot air.

I think there is a large sub-community of people who have had it just a little too good for a little too long, having long since forgotten the value in struggling for meaningful success. That "having" provides a unique platform for "giving," not "showing."

To the members of DABA and all the others who have forgotten the true meaning of Maslow's hierarchy, good riddens. The recession, for all its many downsides, will likely contribute to at least a temporary end to self-flatualization.

Til then, I will wait patiently for economic recovery to usher in a new, more purposeful top of the pyramid.

Have you seen examples of Self-Flatualization? Do you think this will end?