Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow seemed to sense, that aside from the people with emotional limitations and problems, there were times when man was at his best. Although Maslow avoided the word "spiritual", he did introduce psychology to truth, goodness, beauty, unity, transcendence, aliveness, uniqueness, perfection, justice, order and simplicity.  These values he called "B-values".

In the late 1960's Abraham Maslow developed a hierarchical theory of human needs. Maslow was a humanistic psychologist who believed that people are not controlled by mechanical forces (the stimuli and reinforcement forces of behaviorism) or unconscious instinctual impulses of psychoanalysis alone.

Maslow focused on human potential, believing that humans strive to reach the highest levels of their capabilities.

Some people reach higher levels of creativity, of consciousness and wisdom. People at this level were labeled by other psychologists as "fully functioning" or possessing a "healthy personality". Maslow had a more appropriate term for these people "self-actualizing".

Maslow set up a hierarchical theory of needs in which all the basic needs are at the bottom, and the needs concerned with man's highest potential are at the top. The hierarchic theory is often represented as a pyramid, with the larger, lower levels representing the lower needs, and the upper point representing the need for self-actualization. Each level of the pyramid is dependent on the previous level. For example, a person does not feel the second need until the demands of the first have been satisfied.

1. Biological / Physiological Needs. These needs are biological and consists of the needs for oxygen, food, water, and a relatively constant body temperature. These needs are the strongest because if deprived, the person would die.

2. Security / Safety Needs. Except in times of emergency or periods of disorganization in the social structure (such as widespread rioting) adults do not experience their security needs. Children, however often display signs of insecurity and their need to be safe.

3. Social (Love, Affection and Belongingness) Needs. People have needs to escape feelings of loneliness and alienation and give (and receive) love, affection and the sense of belonging.

4. Ego / Esteem Needs. People need a stable, firmly based, high level of self-respect, and respect from others in order to feel satisfied, self confident and valuable. If these needs are not met, the person feels inferior, weak, helpless and worthless.

5. Self-actualization Fulfillment. Maslow describes self-actualization as an ongoing process. Self-actualizing people are, with one single exception, involved in a cause outside their own skin.  The are devoted, work at something, something very precious to them--som calling or vocation, in the old sense, the priestly sense.  When you select out for careful study very fine and healthy people, strong people, creative people, saintly people, sagacious people... you get a different view of mankind. You ask how tall can people grow, what can a human being become? 

The people at each level in the hierarchy of needs seeks information on dealing with what is important to them.

1. Coping -seeking information when lost, out of food, or sick
2. Helping -seeking information on how to be safe such as food, shelter, emergency supplies
3. Enlightening -seeking information on how to have a happier marriage, more friends
4. Empowering -seeking information to help the ego
5. Edifying -seeking moral and spiritual uplifting such is found with the word of God, spiritual music, and paintings

Once a person is self actualized, one is in a position to find their calling. A musician must make music, an artist must paint, and a poet must write. If these needs are not met, the person feels restlessness, on edge, tense, and lacking something. Lower needs may also produce a restless feeling, but here is it much easier to find the cause. If a person is hungry, unsafe, not loved or accepted, or lacking self-esteem the cause is apparent. It is not always clear what a person wants when there is a need for self-actualization.

Maslow believes that the only reason that people would not move through the needs to self-actualization is because of the hindrances placed in their way by society. For example, education can be a hindrance, or can promote personal growth. Maslow indicated that educational process could take some of the steps listed below to promote personal growth:

1. We should teach people to be authentic; to be aware of their inner selves and to hear their inner-feeling voices.
2. We should teach people to transcend their own cultural conditioning, and become world citizens.
3. We should help people discover their vocation in life, their calling, fate or destiny. This is especially focused upon finding the right career and the right mate.
4. We should teach people that life is precious, that there is joy to be experienced in life, and if people are open to seeing the good and joyous in all kinds of situations, it makes life worth living.
5. We must accept the person and help him or her learn their inner nature. From real knowledge of aptitudes and limitations we can know what to build upon, what potentials are really there.
6. We must see that the person's basic needs are satisfied. That includes safety, belongingness and esteem needs.
7. We should refreshen consciousness, teaching the person to appreciate beauty and the other good things in nature and in living.
8. We should teach people that controls are good, and complete abandon is bad. It takes control to improve the quality of life in all areas .
9. We should teach people to transcend the trifling problems and grapple with the serious problems in life. These include the problems of injustice, of pain, suffering and death.
10. . We must teach people to be good choosers. They must be given practice in making choices, first between one goody and another; later between one god and another.


A. H. Maslow The Farther Reaches of Human Nature, Esalen Books, Viking Press
SBN 670-30853-6 hardbound, 670-00360-3 softbound

Abraham H. Maslow Toward a Psychology of Being, D. Van Nostrand Company, 1968
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 68-30757

On June 8, 1970, A.H. Maslow passed away due to a fatal heart attack.

Last Updated: October 15, 2001