Heeft psychologische behoeftebevrediging in elke cultuur een positief effect?

Jasper Van Assche
Persbericht

Heeft psychologische behoeftebevrediging in elke cultuur een positief effect?

Moeder, waarom leven wij? Het was niet alleen een roman van Ludo Zielens uit 1932, het was ook het startpunt van mijn twee jaar durende queeste die startte in 2010. Het was een zoektocht vol gevaren en obstakels, ze bracht me zelfs tot in de meest zuidelijke uithoeken van deze planeet. En ja, ook daar zoeken mensen hetzelfde: welzijn. “Wat is welzijn en hoe kan je het bereiken?” vroeg ik me af…Al sinds de Klassieke Oudheid denken filosofen na over dit fundamentele vraagstuk. De Griek Aristoteles definieerde welzijn als de aangeboren, actieve tendens naar psychologische groei en zag welzijn als het hoogste menselijke goed. Recent ontwikkelde de Zelf-Determinatie Theorie een breed theoretisch kader rond psychologische behoeften dat het tweede deel van de vraag tracht te beantwoorden: hoe kunnen we wel-zijn?

Psychologische behoeften zijn motiverende krachten die, indien bevredigd, de actieve groeitendens in ieder van ons aanwakkeren en zo essentieel zijn voor ons welzijn. Net zoals een plant lucht, water en licht moet hebben om te overleven, hebben mensen bepaalde psychologische voedingsstoffen nodig om mentaal gezond te zijn. De drie psychologische basisbehoeften zijn autonomie (het ervaren van een gevoel van vrijheid), relationele verbondenheid (het ervaren van nabijheid) en competentie (het ervaren van een gevoel van effectiviteit). Contexten die deze drie behoeftes ondersteunen, promoten eveneens het welzijn en de psychologische groei van de personen in kwestie. Scholen kunnen verbondenheid en competentie stimuleren door leerlingen samen te laten werken aan zinvolle en uitdagende groepstaken. Evenzo kunnen ouders een gevoel van autonomie creëren door logische argumenten te geven als ze hun kind huishoudelijke taken laten uitvoeren. Dit zorgt ervoor dat het kind de taak zal uitvoeren met een beter gevoel dan wanneer het ertoe wordt gedwongen.

Deze voorbeelden schetsen duidelijk dat de bevrediging van de drie psychologische basisbehoeften tot welbevinden leidt. Toch is de kous hier niet af. Een kritische wetenschapper verruimt zijn blik en gaat na of die drie behoeften wel van belang zijn voor iedereen, overal ter wereld. Hoe robuust is het positieve effect van psychologische behoeftebevrediging? Neem nu Zuid-Afrika: een smeltkroes van diverse culturen, maar tegelijk een land waar ziekte, veiligheid en geld serieuze problemen vormen. Zeventien procent van de Zuid-Afrikanen is besmet met het Hiv-virus, de meerderheid van de bevolking voelt zich onveilig op straat – vooral ’s nachts in de stad – en het land staat in de top 10 van landen met de grootste inkomenskloof. Zou een zieke, werkloze moeder uit de township nog steeds gelukkig worden indien ze zich verbonden voelt met haar echtgenoot, haar familie en vrienden?

Ik besloot naar Pretoria, de hoofdstad van Zuid-Afrika, te trekken om er een vragenlijst af te nemen bij 224 studenten van de plaatselijke universiteit en politieacademie. Deze studenten kwamen zowel uit rijke, blanke buurten als uit armere townships. De resultaten tonen aan dat de effecten van psychologische behoeftebevrediging op ons welzijn inderdaad robuust zijn. Er is een positieve relatie tussen welzijn en de bevrediging van autonomie, relationele verbondenheid en competentie en deze relatie blijft sterk wanneer we controleren voor gezondheid, veiligheidsgevoel en financiële voldoening. Het effect is niet sterker voor mensen die hoog scoren op gezondheid, veiligheid of financiële voldoening, wat suggereert dat de zieke, werkloze moeder uit de township echt wel baat zal hebben van het ervaren van een gevoel van nabijheid.

Een tweede eigenaardige bevinding is dat, ondanks het feit dat iedereen geniet van de positieve effecten van de drie psychologische behoeften, er toch verschillen zijn in de wens naar psychologische behoeftebevrediging. Studenten die lager scoren op vlak van gezondheid, veiligheidsgevoel en financiële voldoening hebben doorgaans een grotere wens naar autonomie, relationele verbondenheid en competentie. Dit druist in tegen één van de meest populaire motivatietheorieën ooit: de piramide van Maslow. Die stelt dat lagere behoeften moeten bevredigd zijn opdat er energie kan vrijkomen om hogere behoeften te vervullen. Iemand die geen gevoel van veiligheid of zekerheid heeft, zal op dat moment geen wens hebben naar sociaal contact – ook al zou dat wel positieve effecten hebben op zijn/haar welzijn. De Zuid-Afrikaanse data doen echter het tegenovergestelde vermoeden, namelijk dat iemand die geen gevoel van veiligheid, gezondheid of financiële voldoening ervaart net meer verlangen zal hebben naar autonomie, relationele verbondenheid en competentie. Bizar, niet?

Ter conclusie: hoe maak ik een Zuid-Afrikaan gelukkig? Het antwoord op deze vraag is vrij eenvoudig: creëer sociale contexten die de drie psychologische basisbehoeften stimuleren. Dit zal bijdragen tot het welzijn van eenieder; rijk of arm, gezond of ziek, uit een veilige buurt of niet. Misschien moeten we net focussen op arme risicogroepen uit de onveilige wijken. Zij verlangen net meer naar autonomie, relationele verbondenheid en competentie, maar voelen zich vaak gefrustreerd, wanhopig en ongelukkig omdat deze behoeften niet bevredigd zijn.

Zuid-Afrika is nog steeds een ontwikkelingsland. Sinds het einde van de Apartheid in 1994 is het land uitgegroeid tot een multiculturele en democratische samenleving, maar het verhaal van Mandela is nog lang niet ten einde. Er moeten duurzame structuren  uitgebouwd worden die een zo hoog mogelijke beschikbaarheid van een behoeftebevredigende omgeving garanderen. Dit kan ervoor zorgen dat welzijn en psychologische groei voor alle Zuid-Afrikanen mogelijk is. Of zoals Mahub Al Haq, oprichter van de UN Human Development Report, verklaarde: “Het fundamentele doel van ontwikkeling is om een gunstig klimaat te creëren voor mensen om een lang, gezond en gelukkig leven te genieten”.

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Universiteit of Hogeschool
Psychologie (Bedrijfspsychologie en Personeelsbeleid)
Publicatiejaar
2012
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