Maslow’s View of Humanistic Psychology
Abraham Maslow was the humanistic psychologist most famous for creating Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. As a leader of humanistic psychology, Maslow approached the study of psychology by focusing on subjective experiences and free will. He was mainly concerned with an individual’s innate drive toward self-actualization—a state of fulfillment in which a person is achieving at their highest level of capability. He developed a hierarchy of human needs to explain how a person moves from his/her basic, physiological needs to higher-level self-actualization and transcendence needs. He believed that successful movement through every stage was vital in the development of personality. Those individuals who finally achieved self-actualization were said to represent optimal psychological health and functioning. Maslow stretched the field of psychological study to include fully-functional individuals instead of only those with psychoses, and he shed a more positive light on personality psychology.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is most often presented visually as a pyramid with the largest, most fundamental, physiological needs at the bottom and the smallest, most-advanced, self-actualization needs at the top (Figure 1). Each layer of the pyramid must be fulfilled before moving up the pyramid to higher needs. The first four of the five layers of the pyramid include only deficit needs, and the last layer includes growth needs. Deficit needs come before growth needs in a hierarchical sense only—not necessarily first in the developmental sense of happening earlier in life. Deficit needs are the basic requirements for physical and emotional well-being, without which, nothing else matters. Growth or being needs are those that create a desire for fulfillment. As one acquires and fulfills a need, he/she can and will advance to the next level, and this process is continued throughout the lifespan.
1. Physiological—These needs are the physical requirements for human survival. They include basic necessities such as air, food, and water. These needs are so basic that a human who does not possess them will not have concern for any other part of the pyramid until they are acquired.
2. Safety—These needs are the second most-basic requirements for the security of the human person. They include security of body and resources. Once an individual is physiologically secure, safety needs will take precedence and dominate behavior. These needs can be acquired and lost at any point in life, such as with economic crisis, war, or natural disaster.
3. Love and belonging—These needs represent a move from biological needs to emotional needs. They include family, friendship, and intimacy. This interpersonal need generally presents itself after both safety and physiology are assured, but may supersede these lower level needs depending on the strength of peer pressure in a particular situation.
4. Esteem—This concept represents a ubiquitous human need to feel respect and esteem. It includes confidence, achievement and esteem. This level builds on the interpersonal element of love and belonging by adding an element of acceptance and value. Maslow noted two versions of self-esteem: “lower” esteem as respect for others, and “higher” esteem as the need for self-respect.
5. Self-actualization—These needs constitute the highest level of human achievement. They include morality, creativity, and acceptance. Maslow believed that humans had an inherent drive to reach this state of being. In order for a person to perceive this need, they must have achieved and mastered all of the previous needs in the hierarchy.
Characteristics of Self-Actualizers
Maslow viewed self-actualizers as supreme achievers in the human race. He studied stand-out individuals to better understand characteristics of those likely to perceive and fulfill the need for self-actualization. He found that many of these people shared certain personality traits. Most self-actualizers had a great sense of awareness, maintaining a near-constant enjoyment and awe of life. They often described peak experiences during which they felt such an intense degree of satisfaction that they seemed to transcend themselves. They actively engaged in activities that would bring about this feeling of unity and meaningfulness. Despite this fact, most of these individuals seemed deeply rooted in reality and were active problem-seekers and solvers. They developed a level of acceptance for what could not be changed and a level of spontaneity and resilience to tackle what could be changed. Most of these people had healthy relationships with a small group with which they interacted often. Self-actualized people had developed complete, coherent personalities.