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  • Writer's pictureRebecca Stone, LMHC

What’s This Hierarchy of Needs I’ve Heard About?

A Little Background

Maslow, Abraham Maslow, was a humanistic psychologist who believed that humans are interested in growth rather than basic balance or the avoidance of frustration. He also identified that once one human need or desire is met, another need or desire arises that takes its place. Maslow proposed that, in the movement toward self-actualization or fulfillment of one’s potential, an individual moves forward toward greater growth, satisfaction, and happiness.

Ultimately, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs was developed out of humans’ drive toward having their basic needs met, as well as their innate desire for fulfillment of one’s human potential. Maslow identified motivation as the human need to reduce tension by satisfying deficits or lacks, called D-needs (or deficiency needs). D-needs arise out of survival requirements, physiological and safety/security needs, such as the need for food, rest, excretion, and safety. Beyond that, Maslow identified growth tendencies as metamotivation. Metamotivation includes B-needs (or being needs), which drive humans toward self-fulfillment through growth and enrichment rather than satisfying deficits.

Maslow acknowledged that D-needs are stronger than B-needs and dominate human thoughts and behavior if the needs are unmet or of high concern. These needs must be reasonably met in order for a human to move toward self-fulfillment. Maslow created his Hierarchy of Needs as a representation of needs and desires, in order of potency, within the human life: physiological, safety, belonging and love, self-esteem, and self-actualization. Maslow proposed that, the higher one can go, the greater health, wellness, and self-actualization one can achieve.

What does this really mean?

Still uncertain about what Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs means? Think of it this way…

  • If you really have to pee, can you focus on your work? Probably not very well, since you’re focused on holding it and/or finding the nearest restroom.

  • If you’re uncertain if you’ll have a job tomorrow, can you focus on belongingness? Probably not, as you’ll be thinking about where you’ll get your income to meet your physiological needs.

  • If you don’t have a sense of belongingness or closeness with others, can you feel respect for or respect from others? Not likely until you find the right group where you feel like you “fit.”

  • If you don’t feel like you’re good at what you do, or you doubt your capabilities, can you possibly feel a sense of greater purpose or your ability to fulfill your dreams? Unlikely.

It’s also important to know that Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is not unidirectional. One could achieve higher potential on the hierarchy, but their life circumstances could change (loss of job, moving to a new place, etc.) which could cause one to move back down the hierarchy. One may move back up the hierarchy, however, as their needs are met once again.

Hopefully this is relatable and helps explain what Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs means.

Unmet needs can case stress, anxiety, or depression symptoms to arise or worsen.

Want to process and work through some of these things to take you to the next level of your Hierarchy? Contact me today!


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