Classic books are often not read. Many people working for HR industry have heard about “the basic need hierarchy” hypothesis claimed by Abraham H. Maslow, but most of them have not read “Motivation and Personality”, in which Maslow developed his theory. Let me briefly summarize how the book goes.
Maslow took holistic approach to investigate human nature. He claimed that the individual is an integrated, organized whole. At Maslow’s time, many psychological approaches tend to divide human motivation into detailed parts. He denied that methodology and argued that the satisfaction comes to the whole individual and not just to a part of him or her.
The same view is applied into psychotherapy. If the human needs are holistic and any mental illness comes from the deprivation of such needs, the cure should be holistic. Basic needs are mostly satisfiable only by other human beings, and that therefore therapy must take place mostly on an interpersonal basis (chap 9).
The basic needs hierarchy
He thought there is the basic needs hierarchy. The higher needs presuppose the satisfaction of the lower needs, though some step may seem to be not following the hierarchy. There are five needs, according to Maslow (chapter 2).
The first needs are the physiological needs. These needs, such as needs for water and foods, are the most fundamental needs. To describe this point, Maslow said as follows:
“Obviously a good way to obscure the higher motivations, and to get a lopsided view of human capacities and human nature, is to make the organism extremely and chronically hungry or thirsty. Anyone who attempts to make an emergency picture into a typical one and who sill measure all of humanity’s goals and desires by behavior during extreme physiological deprivation is certainly being blind to many things. It is quite true that humans live by bread alone-when there is no bread.”
When the first needs are satisfied, the second emerges – safety needs (security; stability; dependency; protection; freedom from fear, anxiety, and chaos; need for structure, order, law, and limits; strength in the protector; etc.).
If both the physiological and the safety needs are fairly well gratified, there will emerge the love and affection and belongingness needs. Maslow pointed out that the increase in training groups, personal growth groups, and intentional communities is the reflection of these needs. He also argued that even some youth rebellion is motivated by the hunger for group feelings, for contact, for real togetherness in the face of a common enemy. Maslow stressed that love is not synonymous with sex, as sex may be studied as a purely physiological need.
The fourth is a need or desire for self-esteem. The needs are (1) the desire for strength, achievement, adequacy, mastery and competence, (2) desire for reputation or prestige, status, fame and glory, dominance, recognition, attention, importance, dignity, or appreciation.
Even if all the four needs above are satisfied, we may still often expect that a new discontent and restlessness will soon develop, unless the individual is doing what he or she is fitted for – the self-actualization needs. Maslow was an inexhaustible seeker of self-actualizing people and described the self-actualization need in the following way:
“Musicians must make music, artists must paint, and poets must write if they are to be ultimately at peace with themselves. What humans can be, they must by. They must be true to their own nature. “
The characteristics of the higher needs
There are some relationship and characteristics of the higher needs mentioned above. Here are some of them (mostly chapter 5):
- The higher needs is a later phyletic (ontogenetic) or evolutionary development
- The higher the need, the less imperative it is for sheer survival; the longer gratification can be postponed, and the easier it is for the need to disappear permanently. The higher needs are less urgent subjectively.
- Living at the higher need level means greater biological efficiency, greater longevity, less disease, better sleep, appetite, and so on
- The higher the need level, the wider is the circle of love identification: the greater is the number of people love-identified with, and the greater is the average degree of love identification.
- Self-actualizing people enjoy healthier, more effective and happier lives
- Self-actualizing people tend not to seek sex for its own sake, or to be satisfied with it alone when it comes. (Chap12)
- Creativity is close to the self-actualization, but “special talent creativeness” is different from “self-actualizing creativeness”. The latter comes more directly from the personality, which showed itself widely in the ordinary affairs of life, and which showed itself not only in great and obvious products, but also in many other ways, in a certain kind of humor, a tendency to do anything creatively; for instance, teaching and so forth (chap 12)
The basic cognitive needs
Aside from the basic conative needs, Maslow claimed that there also are the basic cognitive needs, composed of (1) the desires to know and to understand and (2) the needs for beauty. The needs for understanding is came both from survival needs and the curiosity. The latter is more close to the self-actualizing needs. The needs for beauty are called the aesthetic needs. Some people get sick from ugliness, and are cured by beautiful surroundings.
This book reminds me of Zen. I believe the true self -actualization is quite akin to the achievement of Zen. Just following one’s self-fulfilling motivation and nothing bothering. If we think this way, we will be able to understand more about the process of human mind development.
This book also tells us the importance of following one’s own passion. That is the way not only to regret one’s life but also to have happier, healthier and better life.
Abraham H. Maslow, “Motivation and Personality” (third edition), Longman, 1987