Abraham Maslow, an American psychologist prominent in the mid-19th century, suggested that a person’s behavior is motivated by getting various needs met. Maslow theorized that these needs range from the most basic and tangible to abstract and intellectual, and that an individual must have these needs met in a certain order in order to be fulfilled. Through my years as a therapist, and as a fellow human being, I have certainly found this to be true. It makes sense that one must have their most basic needs met, such as the ability to breathe and thrive, and to obtain food and shelter, before being capable of creating and fostering relationships and fully developing self-esteem and friendships. I agree with Maslow that the order in which these needs are met are important, and that until we fully meet one tier, we cannot hope to accomplish all the needs on the next tiers. Now, I do believe we can certainly can be fostering family relationships and friendships when we are lacking resources, such as housing and food, but I believe Maslow’s point is that we cannot fully put our energy into having successful relationships or reaching self-actualization until those prior needs are sufficiently met. When you think about it, that makes sense. I’ve worked with several individuals who reported they desperately wanted more meaningful friendships and other relationships, but simply did not have the time and energy to put into that process because they had to work multiple jobs in order to put food on the table and keep a roof over their family’s heads. So, it makes sense that there are needs that have to be met before being capable of moving on to the next set of needs. The question becomes, how do you know where you are and how do you move forward?
How to know if you’re not getting your needs met
Many individuals come to counseling because they feel “stuck” and don’t know how to move forward. That’s when I help them investigate where they feel they are in terms of getting these needs met. This can often lead to a sense of relief. In our society we are “expected” to be able to do it all and accomplish it all, so to have someone tell them “of course you can’t do it all – not all at once” can really help lift the shame that so many of us feel. I’m going to give just a basic way to explore each level of this hierarchy of needs. That way you can begin the exploratory process and hopefully begin to understand where you are at and how you can move forward on getting your needs met.
Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs”
1) Physiological – This refers to the most basic needs necessary for survival. These include:
- Homeostasis (“refers to the body’s automatic efforts to maintain a constant, normal state of the blood stream”)1
2) Safety – This refers to the needs we have for various levels of safety. In order to meet our needs of safety, we need security of:
- The family
3) Love/Belonging – this refers to our need to feel apart of in our world. These include:
4) Esteem – This refers to value and appreciation, and can be applied to others and ourselves. Our needs for esteem include:
- Respect of others
- Respect by others
5) Self-Actualization – Maslow believed that only 1 in 100 individuals in our society reached self-actualization. He believed that self-actualized individuals are those who are fulfilled and are doing all they are capable of doing. These needs include:
- Problem solving
- Lack of prejudice
- Acceptance of facts
I hope this blog has helped you better understand where you are in terms of getting your needs met. Once you are aware of where you are, you then have the capability of planning how to move forward. Remember to foster and maintain those needs that are already met, for you won’t have much success in moving up the hierarchy if you don’t.
Maslow, A.H. (1943). A theory of human motivation. Psychological Review 50 (4) 370–96. Retrieved from http://psychclassics.yorku.ca/Maslow/motivation.htm