Path to Recovery: SAFETY (Maslow’s Hierarchy, Level 2)

You have probably heard of Abraham Maslow and his 1943 theory on the hierarchy of needs. I first learned about his theories in the human development courses I took to earn my teaching credential back in the early 90’s.

I have decided to write a “Maslow’s Theory Applied” series reflecting my path to returning to my pre-trauma state of actualization. In other words, when I hit rock bottom, I had two choices, straight up or sideways. (Thanks, Wynona!) I chose straight up and I had a lot of help getting there. It has taken me at least four years to do.

Here is Part I of the story. There are, of course, 5 parts.

Fair warning to all those of you who know about Maslow’s pyramid…I am not starting at the bottom of the pyramid to tell my story. Just like my road to recovery, my path has not been linear. I am choosing to start with Level 2 – Safety and Security.

The Safety and Security Needs in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs include physical/personal safety, financial security, health and well-being.

So, when you anger someone by accusing them of sexual harassment or turning a blind eye to it, that anger can manifest in different ways. I happened to have been threatened.


Personal Safety

About 9 years ago, well before my trauma, I earned a 1st degree black belt in Saito Ninjitsu. As a result of that experience, I have a profound respect for martial arts as well as a healthy yet realistic confidence in my ability to take care of myself should I feel physically threatened.

Regardless, I like to sleep well at night and breathe easy when away from my home, so I got an alarm system on my home. This is can be expensive. I have chosen to live without a lot so that I have this peace of mind.


Social Security

No this isn’t the government program. This is “social” security.

When I realized that getting a job where I wanted to live was just not going to be possible, I moved across the country, far away from my intimidators.

In a time when LinkedIn, Twitter and other social media channels were the way to get connected and find a job, I was still so intimidated by the real or perceived threats toward me that I did not have the courage to create any of these accounts. Keeping my personal and professional safety was more important to me than finding the right job.

Wow, was I finding out that Maslow was right!?! Safety and Security before Belonging and Self-Esteem.


Financial Security

I did not have this for a very long time and to be quite frank, I still don’t, but I am further along than I was. It has been a slow, deliberate and steady climb.

When I lost my job, I had to immediately look for another one. But in a small, yet powerful town, when the people you have angered have more connections than you do, getting another job in that town, especially without their references, is very difficult to do.

I went on unemployment, receiving about $400 per week. I ate tuna fish for lunch every day and a lot of fast food. Because I did not have much cash flow, I watched a lot of Netflix TV. I tried to find shows that would ‘uplift me.’ More on that in another post!

Knowing Maslow’s hierarchy and how important financial security is to recovery, I very quickly forced myself to define the steps and measure my progress toward financial security. What a downer it was that I could not even get a bagger job at my local grocery store. What a glorious day that was when I no longer paid my bills one $.48 stamp at a time, but could buy and use an entire roll of stamps for $48!


Health and Well-being

This was one of the most painful for me. I had been diagnosed with an ulcer and had gained 20 pounds in comfort-food weight. My blood pressure was up 20 points. The former Olympic caliber athlete in me was long gone. When I looked in the mirror, I did not like what I saw and this has kept me away (even today!) from Level 3 – Love/Belonging.

But I am delighted to share that, as of this last month, my GI tract is back to normal. 4 years of healing my gut. Every day, not knowing if the food I was putting in my mouth for every meal and snack was helping or hurting. I have just finished a month long detox to get all those harmful non-organic chemicals out of my system that I put there in my comfort food moments.

I have been on and off again on the exercise. Loving swimming, learning about Yoga, and of course, appreciating the guidance of my therapists, shaman and other guardian angels.


It has been fascinating for me to reflect on my progress and oh so helpful for me to realize that 20 years ago, 9 years ago and today, my teachers and guides have given me the knowledge and tools to first of all know that recovery is possible and then know how to make my way back to the me I was and want to be. I so appreciate each one of them.

It has been up to me to use that knowledge, choose to recover and have the discipline to keep with it, even when the ‘demons’ – the negative self-talk, the depression, the impatience, the nay-sayers – showed up.


  • Jane Phillips

    Wow! Well done! Go you, so proud of you for remaining positive and not allowing negativity or anger take over your well being:)

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