Status, Elitism, and
used to drive a jet-black BMW convertible. When I floored it, tearing around
corners and up hills, finally rolling to a stop in my garage, I
could smell the hot oil of the finely tuned engine. It was a pleasure to
drive that car.
like that are often considered a status symbol. There’s a memetic backlash
against status symbols these days. People say such things “shouldn’t” be
important. When there’s a heavy “shouldn’t” around some behavior, it usually
means there’s a real Level-1 drive to do that very behavior. A Level-2
worldview sets up the “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts” to keep the Level-1 drives
in check. This results in civilized society, but the loss of the feelings of
fulfillment and happiness that meeting the Level-1 drive brings.
Level 3, I recognize my own driving needs and find constructive ways to meet
them rather than trying to suppress them. Suppressing them leads to stress
and ineffectiveness because so much of my unconscious mind is taken up trying
to meet these suppressed needs. In the best case, that dissonance will produce
something useful like humor or creative expression, but more often the
conscious suppression of driving Level-1 needs will lead to the unconscious
mind finding destructive ways to meet those needs.
derive fulfillment from rising in a perceived status hierarchy. Tests have
actually been done showing that serotonin levels in the brain rise
dramatically after a status-enhancing event such as being elected president
of a fraternity. Serotonin is linked with feelings of self-esteem.
does no good to pretend that an experience is not important to me when it
really is. Desiring the experience of being high in a status hierarchy is
often thought of as elitism. “Elitism” is a peer-pressure meme that has the
effect of keeping people from having fulfillment in their lives if they buy
into it. If I acknowledge that I enjoy rising in status, then I have control
over how I get that experience.
met my need for rising status in some very constructive ways. When I was a
boy, I was driven to achieve all the Cub Scout merit badges very quickly,
which resulted in my learning some useful things as well as rising in status
among my peers. I’m driven to make my books best sellers, which results in
getting my message out to more people and making more money as well as seeing
my ranking in Amazon.com rise. Intellectually, getting my message out and
making money are more important than the ranking number. But because I
understand and accept that rising in rank is an emotional drive for
me, I have the power to hook that drive up to activities I decide are useful.
also meet my need for rising status in some destructive ways, almost like a
drug addiction. For instance, I play spades on the Internet at www.mplayer.com from time to time. Mplayer
assigns a rank icon next to your name based on how much you win or lose. You
start out as a blank, then become a heart. Better than a heart is a spade,
and above that is a jack. Jacks are considered very good players. It’s very difficult
to get to the next rank, queen, then above that is king, and ace is the top.
When I go unconscious, I feel driven to improve my rank and can spend hours
playing spades rather than doing what I say is most important to me. But
rather than whipping myself, telling myself I “shouldn’t” want to play
spades, it works better for me to identify the need being met and consciously
hook it up to a more useful activity such as writing my next book, imagining
the status that comes with rising from the rank of “published author” to that
of “well-known author.”
Sometimes we decide that our own personal fulfillment should take a back seat to the difference we can make in the world. This is always a trap. I am nourished and motivated by meeting my Level-1 needs. Denying them is counterproductive. What works is to identify them and find a way to meet them en route to making that difference.
Last Edited: May 03, 2000
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