Our Hierarchy of Needs

Our Hierarchy of Needs
Living According Abraham Maslow

A very important step in our own personal evolution from the person we were programmed to be to the person we desire to be is to figure out just how did we get here?

At some point in our life we left childhood behind and charged into adulthood down a path that was laid out for us whether we realized it or not. Once we were out on our own, free from the control and safety of our parents, we realized that life was a little more difficult than we were led to believe.

Our path was littered with hurdles and roadblocks, each of which being a detour off the path that was to lead us to the good life and the happiness that it would provide for us. And while these hurdles seemed like obstacles thrown in our way by external forces, upon reflection, we need to realize that they were actually choices and decisions that we made that seemed to make sense to our past self, but now our present self has to deal with the consequences.

The irony is that most of those choices we made probably resulted in a “successful” outcome and not the dreaded failure that we were afraid of. But after some time, after getting what we wanted, we realized that that didn’t lead to the long term result that we anticipated. The problem wasn’t that we were not getting what we wanted, we were getting what we thought we wanted, what we were conditioned to want, but we were not getting what we needed. Actually, we were satisfying needs, they just weren’t the ones that we thought they were.

Without realizing it, we were on the treadmill!

“Man is a perpetually wanting animal”

In the first half of the 20th century, psychologist Abraham Maslow, worked to combine the insights of earlier psychologists such as Freud and Skinner (who focused on the darker, more basic human instincts) and the more upbeat work of Jung and Fromm (who insisted that the desire for happiness is equally worthy of attention).

Instead of focusing on the worst parts of human psychology, Maslow directed his attention to the most positive aspects of what humans are capable of. He focused on what the most psychologically healthy individuals were doing instead of the most ill.

He determined that humans are primarily motivated by a prioritized organization of innate and subconscious set of needs. We are driven to satisfy these needs and driven even harder by the needs that go unsatisfied. These needs are instinctual and basically out of our control, but what is in our control is how we recognize them and the way that we gratify them.

If we examine the average desires that we have in daily life, we find that they have at least one important characteristic, that they are usually means to an end rather than an end themselves.

The organism is dominated and its behavior organized only by unsatisfied needs.

“What, after all, is boredom but overgratification?”

The Hierarchy of Needs
The Physiological Needs
Physiological needs are considered the main physical requirements for human survival and are universal human needs. Physiological needs are considered the first step in internal motivation according to Maslow. This theory states that humans are compelled to fulfill these physiological needs first in order to pursue intrinsic satisfaction on a higher level. The physiological needs include homeostasis, food, water, sleep, shelter, and sex.

While sex is considered a physiological need, it is also a love and belonging need when it is intimate and shared.

The Need For Safety and Security
Once a person's physiological needs are relatively satisfied, their safety needs take precedence and dominate behavior. Safety and security needs are about keeping us safe from harm. These include shelter, job security, health, and safe environments. If a person does not feel safe in an environment, they will seek to find safety before they attempt to meet any higher level of survival.

The healthy, normal, fortunate adult in our culture is largely satisfied in his safety needs.

The Need for Loving and Belonging
After physiological and safety needs are fulfilled, the third level of human needs are seen to be interpersonal and involves feelings of love and belongingness. Deficiencies within this level of the needs hierarchy can adversely affect the individual's ability to form and maintain emotionally significant relationships in general.

Social Belonging needs include friendships, intimate relationships, and family.

Love is not synonymous with sex. Sex is multi-determined and may be studied as a purely physiological need as well as a love and affection need.

Note - The love needs involve both giving and receiving love.

The Esteem Needs
Esteem needs are ego needs or status needs. As people get older they develop a concern with getting recognition, status, importance, and respect from others. Most humans have a need to feel respected; this includes the need to have self-esteem and self-respect. Esteem presents the typical human desire to be accepted and valued by others.

Most people have a need for stable self-respect and self-esteem. Maslow noted two versions of esteem needs: a "lower" version and a "higher" version. The "lower" version of esteem is the need for respect from others. This may include a need for status, recognition, fame, prestige, and attention. The "higher" version manifests itself as the need for self-respect. For example, the person may have a need for strength, competence, mastery, self-confidence, independence, and freedom.

Gratification of the esteem needs leads to feelings of self-confidence, worth, strength, capability and adequacy of being useful and necessary in the world. Thwarting of these needs produces feelings of inferiority, weakness, and of helplessness.

The Need for Self-Actualization - The Desire For Self-Fulfillment

"What a man can be, he must be."

This level of need refers to what a person's full potential is and the realization of that potential. Maslow describes this level as the desire to accomplish everything that one can, to become the most that one can be.

Maslow believed that to understand this level of need, the person must not only achieve the previous needs but master them. Self-actualization can often be described as a value-based system when discussing its role in motivation. Since all levels of Maslow's hierarchy must have been met in order to acquire this level, seeking to fulfill this form of satisfaction can be defined as an explicit motive. An explicit motive can be defined as a reward-based system that is used to intrinsically pursue certain values or goals. Individuals who are motivated to pursue this level are seeking and understanding how their sense of self partakes within their human behavior.

“Self-actualizing people have the wonderful capacity to appreciate again and again, freshly and naively, the basic goods of life, with awe, pleasure, wonder, and even ecstasy, however stale these experiences may have become to others.” - Abraham Maslow

In his later years, Maslow explored a further dimension of motivation, while criticizing his original vision of self-actualization. By this later theory, one finds the fullest realization in giving oneself to something beyond oneself  - for example, in altruism or spirituality. He equated this with the desire to reach the infinite. "Transcendence refers to the very highest and most inclusive or holistic levels of human consciousness, behaving and relating, as ends rather than means, to oneself, to significant others, to human beings in general, to other species, to nature, and to the cosmos"

“If individuals know that they should have love, respect, self-respect, and so on, they can consciously seek them out.”

There is a saying that goes something like - The quality of our lives is determined not by the problems we face, or the lack of them, but in our response to them. So, if we believe this, then we must believe that we are responsible for how we handle these problems, and in essence we are in control of our lives. But if we are in control of our lives and we choose the path that we are on, then why do things seem to be so much easier for others and so difficult for us? If I am truly in control, then why do I make such bad decisions?

The answer is not easy or simple and may take a long time to figure out, if ever. But understanding the core nature of who we are as humans can give us a big head start in figuring this stuff out and Maslow's hierarchy of needs is a great place to start.

So let's recognize when we are focusing on a need that we have already satisfied, or we're trying to satisfy one need with the same tool we used to satisfy another, or when we are just plain stuck at a certain level. The solution to our problems may be just gaining a new perspective.

Let's strive to forgive others, forgive ourselves, and always do our best.

And as always, I'll see you out there!