About human needs, continued from page 1...

Updated  02-20-2015

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

       In 1968, students of human behavior began to study psychologist Abraham Maslow's newly updated book Toward a Psychology of Being. A theme of his observations about how we all think, feel, and act has been called the "hierarchy of needs." It looks like this:

maslow.gif (15780 bytes)Maslow proposed that every child and adult has overlapping needs that fall into naturally-ranked levels or priorities:

Level 1reduce current physical discomforts first: hunger, thirst, pain, air, temperature, smells, balance,  noise, light, and rest (sleep). When those are satisfied enough now...

Level 2:  We try to fill our need to feel safe enough in the near future. Safety comes from trusting that our level-one needs will be reliably met in the coming hours and days (our safety zone). In our society, that translates into believing that we'll have a dependable source of money to buy those securities. The safety zone is short for some people, longer for fear-based (wounded) others.

      Maslow suggested that when we feel comfortable and safe enough, we then try to fill...

Level 3: our need for companionship: our primitive need to feel accepted by, and part of, a group of other people. We need to feel we belong to (are accepted by) a family, tribe, group, or clan. The alternative is feeling we're alone (and unsafe) in the world.

      For infants, being alone too long means dying. People abandoned emotionally or physically (neglected) too often as infants unconsciously grow personality subselves who remain terrified of abandonment in adulthood. Alternatively, their subselves protect them from (another) devastating abandonment by (unconsciously) never bonding with anyone.

      Semi-conscious terror of rejection and abandonment is one root of relationship enmeshment and codependence. The other root is excessive shame ("I'm flawed and unlovable!") Unacknowledged codependence and it's underlying psychological wounds often cause adults to unconsciously pick wounded, unaware people over and over again, until they choose to heal. Personal recovery can significantly reduce each root of codependence, over time. These ideas gained general public and clinical acceptance several decades after Maslow published this hierarchy of needs.

      He proposed that if we fill our level 1, 2, and 3 needs well enough, then we focus on filling...

Level 4: our need to be recognized as special and valuable by our group. We need to be more than just a featureless face in the crowd, we need to be known and appreciated as a unique, respected person. Survivors of low-nurturance childhoods who were shamed too often as young children may search endlessly for the specialness and praise they never got.

      Paradoxically, their false self discounts praise when it's offered ("I really don't deserve it"). Until wound-recovery releases them from this endless quest, such burdened, unaware people are never really free to achieve...

Level 5: the need to be self actualized. A key reason people still value Maslow's ideas is the universal longing to be fully ourselves. That implies we each have unique talents and abilities that we long to develop and use to benefit the world if all our other need-levels are filled well enough, often enough. Then we can become creative, energized, centered, focused, and productive and live on purpose, "at our highest personal potential."

      Do you know what self actualization feels like? Do you know anyone whom you feel is "living at their highest personal potential"? Did your parents and key caregivers achieve this prize? Has your mate? Are your kids headed toward that priceless condition? View this inspiring example of an actualized person by Jean Giorno: "The Man Who Planted Trees." (audio narration CD. Also an animation on YouTube) 

     Pause and reflect: does this natural ranking of primal human needs make sense to you? If it doesn't, do you have another explanation for why we all behave the way we do? How does this ranking relate to why you chose to read this article?

  A Proposed Upgrade

      Much has been learned about human behavior and motivation since Maslow proposed this need-hierarchy in 1968. He and his clinical contemporaries apparently were unaware of childhood trauma and Grown Wounded Children (GWCs). Based on what you read in page 1, I propose his hierarchy should be expanded to six levels by adding a need between levels three and four: the need to reduce early-childhood wounds and free the resident true Self to make life decisions. This is required to evolve...

  • a clear personal identity (who am I?),

  • genuine self-respect and self-worth (vs. shame and guilt), and to evolve.....

  • stable self-love, self respect, and self-confidence (vs. self-neglect, shame, and self-doubt)..

Does this expansion seem realistic to you?

      Now - what does this need-hierarchy mean to you and others?

   Four Implications

      First - you and others have the best chance to become and stay self-actualized over time if your personality is steadily guided by your true Self. Lesson 1 in this nonprofit, ad-free site is about assessing if that's true, and freeing up your true Self if that's needed.

      Second - adults (like you) can significantly improve their serenity and relationships if they help each other remember that...

  • Every moment, each person seeks to fill a fluctuating group of psychological, physical, spiritual, and mental needs;

  • Some needs are currently more important (intense) than others;

  • People may perceive and rank their current needs differently;

  • Conflicting needs cause "problems" within and between people; and that...

  • Identifying each person's current primary needs, ranking them, and filling the most important ones first, promotes personal and social harmony.

      This may seem obvious. Yet I've met hundreds of stressed adults who had lost sight of these basics in their welter of personal, marital, and family problems. Adults and kids with significant wounds often lose the clear focus and prioritizing that their true Self (capital "S") provides.

      Third - these six need-levels are unconscious and instinctual. They influence the other primary needs that underlie the surface problems that unaware people try to solve every day. One result: most people are frustrated by trying to make attitude and behavioral changes which don't last - like "failed" diets and attempts to "exercise more," "eat better," "slow down," and "quit smoking." See this brief research report for perspective after you finish this.

      People who are guided by their true Selves and clearly aware of their primary needs are more likely to make core attitude changes, which bring permanent behavioral shifts.

      The fourth implication of Maslow's need-levels has to do with personal growth. The inherited [wounds + unawareness] cycle and a low-nurturance environment can keep kids and adults stuck in levels 2-4, and block them from growing towards "living at their highest personal potential." Like ground fog obscuring a mountain peak, the effects of the cycle can prevent self-actualization and lining on purpose  which can shorten your life.

      Someone (John Bradshaw?) has said the greatest personal tragedy is dying without ever knowing who you really could have been. Maslow's key contribution is in proposing that we each can intentionally grow toward "self actualization" - i.e. developing our unique skills, and using them creatively and unselfishly to benefit the world and ourselves.

      Family adults can help each other and their kids grow toward self actualization in their own unique way, at their own pace. These self-improvement Lessons lay essential groundwork for this supreme life-long personal project. Are you motivated to study them now?


      This article proposes that all human behavior is caused by the ceaseless drive to reduce discomforts - i.e. to fill current needs. It explores the difference between superficial and primary needs, and illustrates Dr. Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of five primal human needs that constantly shape our relationships and behaviors.

      The article proposes adding a sixth level to this hierarchy: the need to harmonize personality subselves under the guidance of the wise, resident true Self. This is required to fill the core need to self-actualize and discover our life purpose.

      Most people are only hazily aware of their mix of current needs. They habitually focus on surface needs as they did as kids, so their primary discomforts keep recurring.

      The article offers four implications of this hierarchy of needs, based on the demonstrable reality that normal  personalities are composed of a variety of talented subselves.

  Learn something about yourself with this anonymous 1-question poll.

To learn how to discover someone's primary needs, see this. To review common communication and relationship needs, follow the links.

      Pause, breathe, and reflect - why did you read this article? Did you get what you needed? If not, what do you need? Who's answering these questions - your true Self, or ''someone else''?

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