Understanding Needs


Maslow contends the bottom four needs (physiological, safety, love/belonging, and esteem) are deficiency needs.  The bottom level needs are the most important, and only when these needs are met can we move up to the next need.  If a lower level need, such as physiological, is not being met then no other needs are relevant.  After all, if you cannot breathe (physiological) then you probably aren’t real worried about what your friends think of you (love/belonging).

I think this only applies to a certain point.  I believe once physiological needs are met, an individual can freely move throughout this pyramid of needs based on their own perception of what they feel they need at the time.  The concept of a “deficiency need” is relative anyway, as is the way this pyramid is constructed.  I believe this theory may be good for general understanding of human motivation, but may not be applied at the micro level.

I like the eight needs suggested by another theorist (Dr. Gary Applegate) and my idea for application.  Applegate’s 8 needs are:

1) health 2) security 3) freedom 4) faith 5) knowledge 6) love 7) fun 8)worth

My application is:

Individual perception is paramount in determining which needs are being unmet.  A guy like Victor Frankl can find a way to fulfill his need for freedom in a Nazi concentration camp, while a successful business man may feel completely trapped by the demands of his job.  Some people go about getting their need for love met by dating people and committing to them, others go about getting this need met in a completely inappropriate way and end up being my client.

Also, the ordering of these needs isn’t absolute.  For some people, faith may come even before security.  For others, fun comes before health.

The key is doing an inventory on yourself, and finding which needs you feel are being unmet.  How are you going about attempting to meet this need?  Why isn’t it working?  What other avenues might you choose to get this need met?  Is the manner in which you are going about meeting another need infringing on the fulfillment of the need in question?  Can you make a compromise with yourself between the fulfillment of these two needs?




6 thoughts on “Understanding Needs

  1. It’s a pretty good list. I just need some clarification.

    1. Health. I think it’s an obvious one. You can’t strive to do what you want unless you are healthy.

    2. Security. Again, obvious. You can’t do what you want unless you feel secure that your needs are meant. This could mean bodily security, economic security as well. Basically, it’s where other people don’t constrain you.

    3. Freedom. It’s an abstract term, but I see this as having the ability to do what you want. The difference between this and security is that security is the freedom from something whereas I take this freedom as the freedom to do something.

    4. Faith. This is where I need clarification. Do you mean religious faith? Do you mean some need or belief in a higher being? Or do you mean something simpler like mental or emotional stability?

    5. Knowledge. While I agree with you that knowledge is something that people need, it’s a sad state of affairs that people don’t do this. In fact, many people don’t even want knowledge let alone need it. I have an uncle who proudly claims that he hasn’t read a book since high school. There are many people who are content with living their lives by just watching TV, and then going to bed after that. It’s the drone life.

    6. Love. Do you mean to feel loved or to love someone else? I think the former is necessary, but the latter is something I’m still thinking about. Could one go through life without loving someone? If so, is that a deficiency? What makes that person deficient?

    7. Fun. Of course, we need the pleasures in life, whether it be physical or mental pleasures.

    8. Worth. I need clarity on this too. Do you mean self-worth? Is this how you’re worthy in terms of society (meaning that they contribute to it)? Is this a sense of purpose?

    In terms of your other questions toward the end, I think those are excellent questions. People hardly figure out what needs are being met. Is because of laziness? Is it because of lack of wisdom? Is it because they’re afraid of the answer? There’s a video clip here that might relate, it might not but I’ll send it anyways: http://www.startstrongmonday.com/05/04/health-strength-good-great/

    I would probably add another need but it’s probably in one of the categories that you mentioned, but that’s a sense of a social dynamic. What I mean is that one must be social. It means getting involved in some sort of societal scene. It could be grand as getting involved into politics, or something simple like having a few close friends. But getting out and interacting with others, I think, is a need that needs to be met.

    Here’s another thing I thought of: to have needs being met means that you function well. So if one isn’t functioning well, I would say it’s probably because one of those needs aren’t being met.

    This post may sound too philosophical, but hey, I guess it’s one of my needs. 🙂

  2. I’ll define the one’s you had questions on.

    1) Freedom- Freedom is a state of mind, not a condition of the environment. It comes from knowing that we ahve choices over what we think and do. I feel free when I rethink, rather than when I merely react or wait for things to happen.

    2) Faith- Faith is a belief in me to meet my needs to be happy, as well as a belief in a greater power. Faith is a positive attitude about myself and life in general.

    3) Love/Belonging- I feel I belong when I have friends, when I am involved in community activities, and when I care for others. I am demonstrating love when I put others first. I think this addresses the other category of a social dynamic you were referencing.

    4) Worth-When I sense a positive value about myself, see that I have gone a step beyond where I was I feel worth. Through action and risk taking, I fell good because I am achieving.

    Hope that clears up the questions.

    Your idea of:

    “to have needs being met means that you function well. So if one isn’t functioning well, I would say it’s probably because one of those needs aren’t being met.”

    …is spot on. This is usually the first step I go through with people when they present a problem they are having.

  3. Very interesting post and comments!

    This may be a stupid question but, needs to what end? Is the purpose to be happy, healthy, self actualized, or merely a well functioning person in society? Clearly, the lowest level of the pyramid – the physiological needs are needs for mere survival or continuance of life but as you pointed out once those needs are taken care of the goal changes.

    I really like what you said about freedom – that it is a state of mind. That we are free to choose how we respond to anything and everything. Like Frankl says, he who has a why to live for, can endure just about any how – people are free to determine their own purpose in life and how they react to what happens to them in order to achieve that purpose – this is an extremely liberating concept, if hard to practice.

    Like Sean I wonder about the faith need. I like what you said about the need for faith being a need to believe in one’s self and one’s ability to meet one’s needs, but why is a belief in a higher power necessary? Does that mean an atheist – which I consider to be a faith in the non-existence of a higher power – cannot be happy or self actualized. Where does that leave us agnostics? Also, is a positive outlook on life really a need? I recall a study that did find that optimists outperformed pessimist in every profession except one. The one where pessimist actually did better than the optimists? The Law. A big part of being a lawyer is preparing for the worst case scenario, so I can see how an optimistic outlook could be detrimental, but I hope this doesn’t mean that I have to choose between maximum success in my chosen field or having this need for faith fulfilled. 🙂

    I really really liked what you said about the key being self reflection and considering what your individual needs are. I also agree with Sean’s comment about knowledge – there is a certain under-current of anti-intellectualism in our culture that deeply troubles me. Way too many people are ignorant and proud of it. Of course knowledge of one’s self may the most important kind of knowledge. As Socrates said, “the unexamined life is not worth living!”

    Sean’s questions about why people so rarely think about what needs are being met is also very interesting. I would posit the reason is because all too often people allow others to provide them with their individual needs. Generally speaking, people are told, by their family, religion, or society in general what their needs are and what will make them happy. There is a lot of pressure from society, friends and family to conform. It takes a lot of strength to step away from that and recognize one’s individuality and realize that no one else should determine for you what is going to make you happy. But it can be difficult, because the pressure to conform will always be there.

    Anyways, thanks as always for the mental exercise.

  4. Hey Eric,
    To answer your questions:
    You ask: “This may be a stupid question but, needs to what end? Is the purpose to be happy, healthy, self actualized, or merely a well functioning person in society?”

    This may be a non-answer, but I suppose all your suggestions are correct. Meeting needs in a functional manner leads to health and happiness, which would make one function better in society. If all needs are met as efficiently and effectively as possible, then I suppose one could reach a state of actualization. That doesn’t clear much up, does it?
    How about this: Working towards successful fulfillment of each need in and of itself is the purpose AND the end. I think of it as a process. A process that is not static, as our perception of need fulfillment likely changes continuously. This especially is the case if we define our need for WORTH in a monetary sense, right? Anyway, I guess actualization would be if one were to achieve as close to a simultaneous and static fulfillment of all needs at once as is humanely possible. This would be tough due to our perception constantly changing, which would make moments of actualization quite fleeting. Pretty grim.

    As far as your question on faith. No, I don’t believe one needs to believe in a Higher Power to meet the need. I guess what I meant to say is faith is a belief in one’s self OR a belief in a higher power. Or, of course, both. It wouldn’t make any sense to limit the fulfillment of that need to those that believe in a higher power, as there obviously have been some pretty happy atheists.

    I am, however, working with the idea that faith encompasses a need for or a belief in something outside one’s self. Whether this be God, or humanistic, collective conscience type idea is up to the person. I’m not sure a person can truly be happy if faith extends only as far as the confines of one’s skin. It just seems there needs to be a belief in something outside one’s self. I don’t know why, which is why I say I’m still thinking this one out.

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