Humanistic Theory - Hierarchy Of Needs
Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs
Humanistic theory is based upon the idea that everyone has the potential to make a contribution to society and be a good and likeable person – if their needs are fulfilled. Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers led the humanistic theory movement and it was Maslow who developed the “pyramid of needs”.
Maslow believed that fulfilling the needs – in the correct order – would allow individuals to become self actualised, fully able persons. So only after the basic physiological needs – such as food, shelter, warmth – are met can individuals move on to the next stages; the need to feel secure, to be loved and accepted etc.
Maslow developed his theory not by studying mentally ill patients, which is where much psychological knowledge had derived from up to that point, but by studying healthy, productive, creative individual’s lives and careers. He concluded that there were common characteristics which were shared by successful individuals – including self acceptance, openness and respect for other individuals.
Carl Rogers felt that, in addition to Maslow’s hierarchical needs, in order for a person to develop fully that they needed to be in an environment which would provide them with genuineness, acceptance and empathy and that without such a nourishing environment healthy personalities and relationships would be unable to flourish.
Humanistic theory is basically about the development of the individual. It was very popular in the 1970’s but seems to be slightly out of favour today as Western nations have generally moved slightly towards the political right and there is more emphasis on conforming and contributing to, what is, a slightly more conservative society. Of course, whilst humanistic theory does have a very strong focus on the individual, it is based upon the belief that well developed, successful individuals are best placed to make a positive contribution to society.
Humanistic theory suggests that the achievement of happiness is frequently dependent upon achieving, or giving yourself the licence to, investigate and pursue your own deepest interests and desires.
There are a number of different ways in which the pursuits of your goals can be thwarted and you may need to overcome obstacles – such as fear or duty – before you can fully develop and become self actualised.
Whether you agree with humanistic theory or feel that it is overly egocentric – there are those who think it is “free to be you and me, hug a tree crap” – there has to be some logic in the fact that in order to define what makes a healthy individual, its originators spent their time studying successful individuals who made great contributions to society.
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