As a humanistic theorist, Abraham Maslow was an American Psychologist who proposed a triangular type of structure, highlighting the needs of an individual. This structure is best known as Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Triangle.
Through this triangle model, Maslow in effect described the psychological health of an individual.
Maslow proposed that there are 2 distinct forces at work on an individual:
- The physical and psychological needs of an individual. These needs refer to the basics such as ensuring to survive and feeling a sense of belonging in the community.
- Those forces which encourage self-actualisation – this is to realise one’s full potential and Maslow’s (1970) suggests “becoming everything that one is capable of becoming”. This quote refers to the intellectual and creative areas of an individual’s life.
The first force is at work for its own needs sake whereas the second force comes about due to an individual feeling internal satisfaction as a result of the basic needs being met.
Maslow’s pyramid structure is made up of the following distinctive, 7 levels of needs, starting with primary needs which form the base of the Triangle:
1. Physiological Needs – Food, drink, oxygen, temperature regulation, elimination, rest, activity etc.
2. Safety Needs – Protection from potentially dangerous objects or situations, e.g. the elements, physical illness. The threat is both physical and psychological. (e.g. “fear of the unknown”). Importance of routine and familiarity.
3. Love and Belongingness – Receiving and giving love, affection, trust and acceptance. Affiliating, being part of a group (family, friends, work).
4. Esteem Needs – The esteem and respect of others AND self-esteem and self-respect. A sense of competence.
5. Cognitive Needs – Knowledge and understanding, curiosity exploration, need for meaning and predictability.
6. Aesthetic Needs – Beauty – in and nature – symmetry, balance, order, form.
7. Self-Actualization – Realising your full potential by “becoming everything one is capable of becoming.”
The structure of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Triangle has the following important points which need to be considered:
- Physiological needs must be satisfied before we can get to the next level. For example, if we are in pain or hungry – we cannot go to the next level to concentrate on safety. Albeit there have been exceptions – we have to carry on despite the hunger!
- Psychologists suggest that needs at the higher end of the pyramid are a later evolutionary development. This means that self-actualization appears to be a recent development in our species.
- Also the higher up the hierarchy we go the greater the link to life experiences and the lower the link to biological factors. The younger we are, the more concerned we are with basic needs. E.g. babies are more concerned with their bellies than brains!
- Self-actualization is reached in different ways and through different activities. This is related to experience and not biology. The higher up we go in the triangle, the harder it is to achieve these targets.
- The pinnacle of achieving self-actualization is therefore the most difficult to achieve and a lifetime can be spent getting there. Some individuals never even come close to this part in their lifetimes.
Have you worked out what your level is yet? How much further do you have to climb on the triangle? What is delaying you from getting to the pinnacle of your achievable potential success?