Introduction to Abraham Maslows Hierarchy of needs

Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs was developed by Dr. Maslow to explain the progressive nature of the development of individual’s needs. Additionally and more importantly, if anything interferes with  the fulfilment of these needs, neurosis in the individual will develop. The neurosis will occur at the point where the trauma occurred within the hierarchy. The individual will behave in ways that are not productive in his or her current life. He or she will do things that are counter-productive to their current life, but may make sense if a trauma occurred at a particular stage within the hierarchy of needs.

First, Dr. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs was in the shape of a triangle with food, health and shelter at the bottom of the triangle. When someone is sick they care nothing about anything except getting well. If a person is starving, they care only about getting food and not if they have a date Friday night. Next comes safety, structure and order in a person’s life. These are safety needs. If an individual is afraid they are going to be killed, then they are not going to care about buying a car. Third: belonging needs; a need for community, friendship and love.  Fourth: the esteem needs. Maslow broke these up into two types. First you have the “lower” form which was the respect of others, status, fame, glory and power over others. The “higher” form was self respect, competence, independence and freedom. According to Maslow if all the other needs were met then the final need could be achieved and that was self actualization.

Self actualized people were individuals who were at peace with themselves, enjoyed solitude, had good senses of humour (but the humour was always self- directed), individualistic, humanitarian, strongly ethical, etc.  Maslow named people that he thought had reached this level of being. For example, he believed that Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, William James, Jane Adams and Eleanor Roosevelt were examples of self actualized individuals. Most people do not reach this self actualized level in life.  As one can see from the list, Abraham Lincolns are a rare find these days!

This hierarchy Maslow developed was intended to explain neurotic behaviour in people and why people got stuck in their lives at certain places. Maslow believed that at some point during the hierarchy of needs the person having trouble must have experienced a trauma at some point of the hierarchy. Thus, they had gotten “stuck” there and are repeating patterns of behaviour that are not productive and are instead counter-productive to their current life.