Safe Ground - Using drama to educate prisoners and young people at risk in the community


Self-Fulfilling Solitude

Self fulfilment is described as “an achievement of life goals which are important to an individual, in contrast to the goals of society, family and other collective obligations” (Gary Melton  1995– The Individual, The Family, and Social Good)

At a recent conference, the question of ways in which you can maintain a prisoner’s self fulfilment throughout their sentence was raised. I found it interesting that I had never thought of this aspect before, and found myself questioning what exactly self fulfilment is, and is it important? As humans, we all need to have a level of purpose and aspiration, just as the psychologist Maslow noted in his ‘Hierarchy of Needs’ (Maslow 1943 – A Theory of Human Motivation). However, it is a need that can so easily be overlooked.

The issue with it is that, although there are ways you can help a person on their journey to self fulfilment and thus self actualisation; it is up to that person themselves to firstly decide and then construct the journey. It sounds easy enough; how hard can it be to come up with achievable goals for oneself, and stick to them; but the reality is that for the majority of people it becomes deeper than that. They have to start at the very beginning with all aspects of fulfilment.

Let us take Dan for example. He is a prisoner, currently half way through a long sentence. He hasn’t spoken to his family for nearly 3 years now as he does not get on with them. The steps of fulfilment for Dan are many times harder than for someone outside. A self fulfilled person should feel acceptance and belonging to a place or people. For Dan, who does not have a relationship with his family, (arguably the most common source of acceptance), it would be hard for him to find another point of belonging, other than the same people and environment that set him on the path to imprisonment.

Then there is ‘Autonomy and Solitude’ (Maslow 1943 – A Theory of Human Motivation) the need for personal time and thoughts. This is probably one of the only pillars of fulfilment that may work out better for someone in Dan’s situation – in theory. In a jail setting, it is so much easier than it is anywhere else to take time out everyday to be alone with your own thoughts and evaluate decisions made and to be made, as you don’t have the same pressures and demand on time as you would ‘on the outside’.

We have to remember that people in prison are people, and as people, require many of the same underlying needs and comforts that enable each of us to live and be all that we can. These key concepts of self fulfilment and self actualisation, are often overlooked, in the prison setting and out in the world, but they hold the key to bettering yourself and understanding the impacts of thoughts and actions.

Martina Enwood




  1. Eleanor says:

    Very informative, keep them coming!

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