The work of Abraham Maslow showed us that humans are all potentially good and wise beings, it’s just that things get in the way to prevent certain needs being met that would allow of us to realize this potential.
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs has physiological needs like oxygen, food, water and sleep at the bottom. We need these the most often, and luckily for us are usually the easiest to come across.
With physiological needs satisfied, safety needs such as physical security, health, financial security and employment are the next level of need to take precedence.
Social needs such as friendships and family relationships are the next level required in the individual’s growth. This need for a sense of belonging I have written about regularly is a necessary step on the path to self-actualisation, but ultimately needs to be moved on from in order for the individual to realize their full potential.
Self-esteem needs include status, recognition, self-respect, competence, self-confidence, independence and freedom. These can be achieved through work, school, leisure activities etc, and are necessary to attain before moving on to the final stage of growth.
When all of these needs are met, the individual has the opportunity to become self-actualized. All of the lower needs must first be met in order to reach the pinnacle of human existence. Self-actualization is about finding our true self, letting go all prejudices, having pure morals, relinquishing all beliefs and fears, attaining wisdom, mastering emotional stability, and having a fully developed inner compass.
At the risk of using one of my least favourite words, self-actualization should be the goal of all individuals during their time on this planet. The sense of inner calm and happiness makes the struggle to get there all worth while. All decisions and actions after self-actualization benefit both the individual and society as a whole. Someone fully in tune with their inner compass will always act in way to truly benefit their community.
It goes without saying that the vast majority of people will never attain self-actualization. Thus they don’t become what Maslow describes as good and wise beings. They all had the potential to, but along their path certain needs were not met. Think about people you know, or know of.
Think of the person who struggles to put food on the table or is a victim of domestic violence. How are they supposed to get anywhere near self-respect and independence, let alone anything higher?
Think of an incredibly wealthy person that is so fearful of losing their money and intent on buying people’s affections that they get stuck somewhere between safety and social needs.
Think of the people in your own family who have become so addicted to the comfortable numbness of the love of their tribe and the sense of belonging to something safe, that they do not even want to look past to see what else might be out there.
The next post will address removing the obstacles to self-actualization.