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Wellness Focus: Get to Know Dr. Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

Updated on September 9, 2019

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs or... Something to think about.

I am a big fan of psychologist, Dr. Abraham Maslow. I first became familiar with his theories when taking psychology and human development courses while in college. Dr. Maslow is famous for his research in human psychology, the process of human self-actualization and the development of his popular construct; "Maslow's hierarchy of needs".

I think it is valuable for us to either become familiar with or to revisit his ideas because they are so pertinent to our daily lives and help to explain how each of us function as individuals in society. It helps us to understand why some people thrive in society and others become stuck or minimally functional. It helps to provide a visual construct regarding how those that face neglect during childhood may struggle with reaching higher functioning levels.

Here's a quick review. Let's walk from the bottom of the triangle to the top:

Maslow's hierarchy of needs is visually portrayed in the shape of a triangle with our basic Physiological Needs, i.e., air, water, food, temperature, sex, the bottom. This indicates the first set of needs. Next, as we proceed upward we come to Safety Needs such as safety, security, stability, protection, etc... The third level of needs are Belonging Needs or our need for love, friends, affectionate connections with others, etc...The fourth level of needs are Esteem Needs. Maslow splits this level into two groups of needs with lower esteem needs based on status, attention and respect from others, power, etc...and then higher esteem needs based on self-respect, self-confidence, competence, freedom, etc... At the very top level or peak of the triangle is Self-Actualization, or the need for self-fulfillment of your greatest potential. Maslow separates out these top level needs as Being Needs and the prior levels as Deficit needs. In a June 2019 article in Psychology Today written by Dr. Neel Burton MD, he states, "Once a person has met his deficiency needs, he can turn his attention to self-actualization; however, only a small minority of people are able to self-actualize because self-actualization requires uncommon qualities such as honesty, independence, awareness, objectivity, creativity, and originality."

Maslow emphasized that when lower needs are not met or when an individual has a deficit at a particular level this acts as a gap that can prevent the progression to higher need levels and the eventual fulfillment of your highest potential. People in this situation may actually fixate on deficit needs for the rest of their lives. He also indicated that under stressful conditions a person will likely regress to a lower need level.

These are questions I have chewed on and would like you to ponder:

1. Does our popular culture with heavy reliance on the ideas and values our media bombards us with and promotes, I.e., unrealistic body image, materialism, shaming, etc... create ongoing psychological barriers that interfere with breaking free of the lower esteem levels and moving beyond to higher levels and eventually to self-actualization? Does it make progression to the top of the pyramid more difficult? Hm.....

2. How can we promote success in our academic settings when observing the needs of children and youth who deal daily with deficits in the safety and belonging needs levels? And what about safety in the classroom? If a child does not feel safe in his/her classroom how do they thrive and reach their greatest potential? School shootings, violent and aggressive children, bullying, etc.. appear to be on the rise.

3. How does Maslow's hierarchy of needs help explain eating disorders and addictions? Or does it?

It is my hope that this information at the least gives you a brief introduction to Dr. Maslow and his "hierarchy of needs" and that you will continue to move towards your own self-fufillment and awareness that indeed makes life so much sweeter. Let's all go forward with our own research and reach the top of that triangle!

Make love a priority...
Make love a priority...


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    • profile image

      Yale Wishnick 

      10 years ago

      Very nice summary. When we consider that almost 50% of Americans to not pay federal taxes and depend on the other 50%, we are living in deficit times. My sense is as long as we have groups and organizations (including government) that exist to simply take care of 50% of our people, the number of people dependent on others will continue grow.

    • Stayifyouwant2 profile image


      11 years ago from So. California

      I also like Abraham Maslow. But I have a different perspective on his theories. Read "Fex."

    • talented_ink profile image


      12 years ago from USA

      Maslow's hierarchy of needs is a fascinating piece of work and to avoid writing too much, I'm just going to answer the first part of your first question. Sex will continue to sell more and more to the masses, and in trying to be like the next girl, young girls can be forced to stay in the lower esteem level because their confidence and respect doesn't come from solely comes from others so they would always need the approval of others for a happy existence. Good hub!


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