Understanding the Hierarchy of Human Needs
My life depends on relationships, but it also relies on structure. I need a place to live, but not just a couch to crash on. I need a safe place where I can launch each day without the worry or concerns that my stuff will disappear or that I will be physically harmed. I need food to eat, but not just the fun food or the quick convenient food. I need nourishment that includes a variety which balances what my body needs to function. I need intimacy, but it comes from more than physical sex and arousal. Matter of fact, I find less intimacy in my bodily functions rather than more. Intimacy has a familiarity, closeness, confidence and tenderness wrapped in an understanding of friendship. I also need sleep. In the moments of needing sleep I can tell when I need sleep and for assurance other people respond to my needing sleep. Finally, I need a restroom. I need to feel safe enough to pee and poop when I need to do it.
There it is: my needs. I addressed the most basic human needs. According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, the next level is safety. Security is key because foundational functionality is a pattern that we rely on which forms our daily routine. These foundational levels of one and two make a launching point for our lives. The security level is what safeguards and fortifies the foundation. If either of these two levels are discombobulated or are not well-supported, the upper floors of this life pyramid will teeter-totter like the playground equipment.
The third level is the longing for belonging. This level includes relationships. People are created for relationships as are animals. We grow up and learn with other people. I think this third level steals importance from the foundational levels of physical needs and safety. I think this longing to belong has interfered with the decision-making process of stabilizing a foundation for a person to launch from. The interference becomes public in developing adolescents when a teenager is trying on who they are with their peers. This effect is intensified when those who are in supervisory roles (ie. parents and teachers etc.) are also trying on who they are. I believe there is a crack appearing in a variety of systems which has narrowed down the focus on relationships rather than on the guidance of building a substantial foundation for people to grow.
From this point upward, the next level seems to be universal in irregularity, peculiarity, deviation, diminishment and affects everything.
The fourth level refers to the intangible appreciation of our self and others. I think this level often gets confused or misrecognized because the level below it (level 3: longing for belonging) is in constant flux and instability. How does a person build confidence, accept admiration, and receive respect when one is in a constant turmoil of their own identity, value and worth? How does a person figure out what to believe when one is challenged with trusting others and themselves? How does a person grow out of such an adolescence mindset when it is influenced by those around them who are also challenged to get their needs met? As people grow older, it appears there is a sedimentary settling of the idea… “this is what I get whether I like it or not”.
I get it. When I landed in that mindset a song came to mind: “is that all there is”. Without sugar-coated flowery language or paragraphs of advice, the long and the short of it is; it is hard to even attempt to make a lasting change. It takes time and effort. There are no quick fixes. You have to want more, with a real yearning desire that there is more. This desire may separate you from the popular group. It may divide you from what you like or from the way you have always been or thought life should be.
Returning to the structure of this hierarchy of needs, the top level is the level of self-actualization. Here, you can be more than you ever thought you could be. It is not a level to which you arrive and relax as if you completed an Olympic race. It is a level that you move into and out of as you continue to grow. It is a level that requires spontaneity, engagement, risk, exploration and application of what you learned from past experiences – both failures and successes. It is a level that compels a person in their creativity and problem-solving approaches to accept (sometimes radically accept) conditions, limitations, loss opportunities, all with a tenacity, perseverance and determination for a long run that could ultimately outlive the individual. I believe the best attitude we can approach self-actualization with is curiosity and a heart of acceptance. The legendary questions of “what if?” or “could I?” can be a starting point. Self-actualization is most commonly avoided or completely missed by not solidifying what is needed to launch beyond the concerns of the human basic needs. Take a minute. Sit for a while. Ponder what is needed to shore up or bolster the possibility that your considerations or what you have been led to believe “could be” rather than “cannot be”. Consider and contemplate something that was once “never in my wildest dreams”… as if that something is now waiting to surface in your imagination when these basic needs are no longer center of your attention.
“Good is not enough if better is possible.”
“Good is enough when different available.”