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Abraham Maslow created an organized pyramid of human needs that reveal
great importance toward understanding motivation, personality and of course need.
Maslow’s theory of human needs is known as the Hierarchy of Needs, “which is a
systematic arrangement of needs, according to priority, in which basic needs must be
met before less basic needs are aroused” (Weiten 342). This contribution to psychology
was created in 1954, recreated in 1970, and found with more complex views dependent
upon the pyramid, however the main five levels of need are present in all examples and
are the essentials to the pyramid.
Maslow believes in a positive view of psychology and the Hierarchy of Needs
demonstrates his humanistic views that channel an individual’s needs toward a point of
bliss known as self-actualization. “Self-actualizing persons are people with exceptionally
healthy personalities marked by continued personal growth” (Weiten 343).
Maslow’s positive theory inspired me to understand more about his humanistic
perspective towards constructing the Hierarchy of Needs. My attention was quickly
pulled into his classification of need, realizing that our needs in life did exist within these
walls of the pyramid. I placed certain times of my life right into one level, to another,
then back and forth. It was quite shocking to see how an individual can portray their
reality through Maslow’s understanding of need. Maslow understood potential of
satisfying our needs, as he once said "Almost all needs, capacities, and talents can be
satisfied in a variety of ways" (Maslow).
In direction of satisfying our needs I was interested in what Maslow’s first
motivation towards bringing about a structure of basic needs. I learned that Maslow
had studied monkey’s, which may have introduced him to the conclusion that certain
needs take precedence over other needs, or maybe he took time to evaluate what he
needed first before progressing in life. I did not find if in fact these studies with
monkeys were his inspiration for structuring the theory, however he did notice
precedence of need by studying monkeys, or precedence in need within himself for that
Basic needs or physiological needs are the foundation of his theory. These needs
like other needs are structured in precedence. Dr. C. George Boeree, a personality
theorist and psychology professor demonstrates the precedence of basic need. “If you
are hungry and thirsty, you will tend to try to take care of the thirst first. After all, you
can do without food for weeks, but you can only do without water for a couple of days!
Thirst is a “stronger” need than hunger. Likewise, if you are very very thirsty, but
someone has put a choke hold on you and you can’t breathe, which is more important?
The need to breathe, of course. On the other hand, sex is less powerful than any of
these. Let’s face it; you won’t die if you don’t get it!”(Boeree).
As you can tell physiological needs refer to mainly breathing, water, food and
sleep. Without all physiological needs individuals will experience many health issues
and will not be able to experience life. These needs must be fulfilled in order for an
individual to progress toward another level of need.
Sex seems to be the exception as a basic need. I find it interesting that sex is in
this category of need fulfillment. I imagine Maslow feels extremely strong about the
importance of sex and how necessary this function is. Maslow once said that “sex is
part of the essential core of the person and everyone must have sex to become fully
human. In this view, people become “human” by “self-actualizing” themselves through
sex” (Heimbach 287). This example justifies sex as not only a physiological need, but
also portrays sex as part of becoming a self-actualizing individual.
Safety and security needs are also very important and are next to be fulfilled
once our physiological needs are satisfied. It is important that we stay out of danger,
feel okay to shut our eyelids before we sleep and have a secure source of income that
enables us to replenish physiological needs. We need a shelter to protect us from the
elements and offer a place of refuge. It is also necessary for us to stay healthy and have
the means to correct our health when it is bad or declining.
I feel that most of society is in great control of these first two levels of need and
even though some of society remains in a world lacking food and shelter, most of
society has satisfied these needs and is in search of social acceptance and need of love
and belonginess, which is level three in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs pyramid.
Some individuals classify need of belongingness before physiological needs due
to importance of being accepted, dependent upon current reality of an individual. If a
person is denied social acceptance, it is possible that certain eating disorder issues may
develop, thus giving social acceptance precedence over basic need of food. Need of
belonginess has such impact on personality and place in society. I know that whenever
I feel unwanted, It makes me feel worse than being hungry or thirsty, which is not to be
mistaken with starvation or dehydration.
Friendships and relationships with humanity are also extremely important to
individuals. Maslow noticed that without these needs individuals could also develop or
suffer mental problems. It is necessary for people to have the need of love and
belonginess to avoid such mental suffering.
Moving forward towards self-actualization, next in the pyramid is esteem needs.
These needs I noticed have been divided into two different classes. He classified esteem
needs into a higher and a lower category, also referred to as cognitive needs and
aesthetic needs.
Esteem needs are those needs that satisfy our levels of confidence, recognition,
and intelligence related behaviors. Cognitive needs are related mostly to personal self
esteem within, while aesthetic needs are characteristics of self esteem that others
notice about our characters mental interaction toward reality and other members of
This last level has brought great inspiration and motivation to many individuals
who are in pursuit of achieving a strong position of health, happiness, and harmony, as
well as other rewarding feelings of achievement. Maslow beliefs in our becoming a selfactualized individual and structuring our minds in depth, with positive personality and
healthy perspective.
Maslow studied several individuals who he considered to be of healthy genius
mind state to gather perspective to clarify a self-actualizer. Amongst these individuals
were Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington,
Albert Einstein, Walt Whitman, Eleanor Roosevelt, Jan Addams, Ralph Waldo Emerson,
as well as many other individuals who have achieved recognition for their many
contributions and achievements. By studying these individuals, Maslow was concerned
with gathering data from a broad range of healthy mental perspectives to bring about
definition. He noticed these people had developed strong mental values of reality,
creativity, intelligence, self acceptance, relationships as well as fulfilling all elements of
prior levels.
In conclusion I feel great importance of positive mental structuring and outcome
to happiness that can be found by gaining knowledge and interest in Maslow’s theories.
His development of the Hierarchy of Needs is valuable toward understanding
precedence of need and possible reality to obtain with positive mental thought.
"A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must
write, if he is to be at peace with himself. What a man can be, he must be.
This is the need we may call self-actualization. It refers to man's desire for
fulfillment, namely to the tendency for him to become actually in what he is
potentially: to become everything that one is capable of becoming"
(Abraham Maslow).
Works Cited
Diaz, Cristina Benefits of Positive 2006, 2008.
Weiten, Wayne Psychology: Themes and Variations, Briefer Version, Sixth Edition
Belmont Ca: Wadsworth / Thompson Learning, 2005.
Boeree, George C. PHD Personality Theories: Abraham Maslow 1998, 2006.
Heimbach, Daniel R. True Sexual Morality: Recovering Biblical Standards for a Culture
Wheaton IL: Crossway Books / Good News Publishers, 2004
Maslow, Abraham Toward a Psychology of a Being
Performance Unlimited Self-Actualization: The Peak of Human Achievement 1998