Abraham Maslow developed the Hierarchy of Needs model in the 1940-50s in the USA, and the Hierarchy of Needs theory remains valid even today for understanding human motivation, management training, and personal development. Indeed, Maslow’s ideas surrounding the Hierarchy of Needs concerning the responsibility of employers to provide a workplace environment that encourages and enables employees to fulfil their own unique potential ( self-actualisation ) are today more relevant than ever.
Hierarchy of Needs
- The physiological needs– These include the needs we have for oxygen, water, protein, salt, sugar, calcium, and other minerals and vitamins. They also include the need to maintain a pH balance and temperature. Also, there’s the need to be active, to rest, to sleep, to get rid of wastes, to avoid pain, and to have sex.
Maslow believed, and research supports him, that these are in fact individual needs, and that a lack of, say, vitamin C, will lead to a very specific hunger for things which have in the past provided that vitamin C – e.g. orange juice. I guess the cravings that some pregnant women have, and the way in which babies eat the most foul tasting baby food, support the idea anecdotally.
- The safety and security needs– When the physiological needs are largely taken care of, this second layer of needs comes into play. You will become increasingly interested in finding safe circumstances, stability, protection. You might develop a need for sturcture, for order, some limits.
Looking at it negatively, you become concerned, not with needs like hunger and thirst, but with your fears and anxieties. In the ordinary American adult, this set of needs manifest themselves in the form of our urges to have a home in a safe neighborhood, a little job security and a nest egg, a good retirement plan and a bit of insurance, and so on.
- The love and belonging needs– When physiological needs and safety needs are, by and large, taken care of, a third layer starts to show up. You begin to feel the need for friends, a sweetheart, children, affectionate relationships in general, even a sense of community. Looked at negatively, you become increasing susceptible to loneliness and social anxieties.
In our day-to-day life, we exhibit these needs in our desires to marry, have a family, be a part of a community, a member of a church, a brother in the fraternity. It is also a part of what we look for in a career.
- The esteem needs– Next, we begin to look for a little self-esteem. Maslow noted two versions of esteem needs, a lower one and a higher one.
The lower one is the need for the respect of others, the need for status, fame, glory, recognition, attention, reputation, appreciation, dignity, even dominance.
The higher form involves the need for self-respect, including such feelings as confidence, competence, achievement, mastery, independence, and freedom.
Note that this is the “higher” form because, unlike the respect of others, once you have self-respect, it’s a lot harder to lose !
The negative version of these needs is low self-esteem and inferiority complexes. Maslow felt that Adler was really onto something when he proposed that these were at the roots of many of our psychological problems. In modern countries, most of us have what we need in regard to our physiological and safety needs. We, more often than not, have quite a bit of love and belonging, too. It’s a little respect that often seems so very hard to get!
All of the preceding four levels he calls deficit needs, or D-needs. If you do not have enough of something, that is, if you have a deficit, you feel the need. But if you get all you need, you feel nothing at all! In other words, they cease to be motivating.
The Concept of Neurosis
As for neurosis, Maslow was of a totally different viewpoint. He stated that every individual would like to reach the stage of self-actualisation, which is the last stage in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Maslow has used a variety of terms to refer to this level and he has called this as growth motivation in contrast to deficit motivation. That is there are certain needs which contribute to the growth and development of the person, and these are called as ‘being’ needs ( or B-needs, ), which is in contrast to Deficit or the D-needs, and self-actualisation.
These are needs that do not involve balance or homeostasis. Once engaged, they continue to be felt. In fact, they are likely to become stronger as we “feed” them! They involve the continuous desire to fulfil potentials, to “be all that you can be.” They are a matter of becoming the most complete, the fullest, “you” – hence the term, self-actualisation.
Fortunately, he did this for us, using a qualitative method called biographical analysis.
The self-actualises also had a different way of relating to others. First, they enjoyed solitude and were comfortable being alone. And they enjoyed deeper personal relations with a few close friends and family members, rather than more shallow relationships with many people.
They enjoyed autonomy, relative independence from physical and social needs. And they resisted socialisation, that is, they were not susceptible to social pressure to be “well adjusted” or to “fit in” they were, in fact, nonconformists in the best sense.