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The Hierarchy of Needs; Abraham Maslow

Updated on October 30, 2013

Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow described his hierarchy of basic needs as "conative," meaning we naturally strive towards them and they are motivational in turn providing for a synergism that might eventually lead to a level of personal development he described as self-actualization.

Each level of this five step hierarchy has prepotency over the levels above it meaning that a need is not pursued until the need below it is met. The most basic needs are Physiological including those things that allow organisms to maintain homeostasis such as food, water, and shelter. On the second level are safety needs. These pertain to a sense of psychical security, stability, and dependability of environment. In countries barraged with war and terrorism where people feel continually unsafe they will not aspire past this tier. The third level is the need for love and to belong. This includes the desire for friends, intimacy, and group cohesion. Beyond this, esteem-needs provoke a desire to display competence, confidence, and self-respect to those around you. The fifth and final level are self-actualized needs.


After esteem needs are met only a few people continue on to the last level of self-actualization. This stage represents the fulfillment of one's own personal potential and a drive to live within the world creatively. The vast majority of people will not self-actualize as Maslow discovered and this spurred his study into what set self-actualizers apart from non self-actualizers,

His conclusion which he explored in his works in the 1960s was that people who embraced what he called the, "B-values," would make this final stage in personal development.

These values are; truth, beauty, justice, autonomy, truth, completion, perfection, uniqueness, aliveness, wholeness, goodness, humor, effortlessness, totality, and simplicity.

The common characteristics of people who hold these, "B-values," closest include; a more efficient perception of reality; acceptance of self, other, and nature; spontaneity, simplicity, and naturalness; problem-centering (concern with societal and global problems); need for privacy; autonomy; continued freshness of appreciation (for the basic beauties found in the mundane);gemeinschaftgefuhl (social interest); profound interpersonal relations; the democratic character structure; appreciation of means versus ends; Philosophical sense of humor; creativeness; and resistance to acculturation (a transcendence of their particular culture toward universal ideals). He hypothesized that self-actualizers constitute the psychologically healthiest 1% of the population.

He explained the phenomena of, "peak-experiences," as numinous, mystical experiences that could not be intentionally induced but were felt to at least some degree by most of the population and were often brought on by aesthetics, grave tribulation, aggregate wisdom, or a sense of universal unity. These experiences were comprised of a sense of wonder or awe and characterized by a loss of anxiety and conflict and an increase in the capacity to love, unconditionally accept, and engage in pure spontaneity. Only a small percent of people would fully engage with this experience so as to be permanently altered and actualized by it.


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      Sam Cannon 4 years ago

      Try keeping all else equal and turning Maslow's "famous triangle" upside down. See if it doesn't make more sense this way.