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Abraham Maslow is someone I consider to be one of the most famous psychologist known to my generation today. Even if they have never studied psychology or participated in ASB, almost everyone has heard of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Maslow’s take on psychology was problem-centered, not method-centered, this means that instead of focusing on the problem at hand, rather than the method. At the highest level on Maslow’s hierarchy comes self-actualization. Traits of self-actualized people include an efficient perception of reality, acceptance, spontaneity, autonomy, deep relations, humor, holding both sides of dichotomy, strong ethics and value. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is shaped like a triangle, with the base at the bottom being very wide, and the point at the top. This shape has a purpose to it, not just for an aesthetic look. Maslow believed that there were important levels of needs on the journey to self-actualization. These levels were like stepping stones, instead of levels in a game. Your place on the level could be varied, you did not have to complete one level entirely to move onto the next. The base level included basic physiological needs all life, such as food, water, sleep, and sex. The next levels, in ascending order, included safety needs, love and belonging needs, esteem needs, and lastly self-actualization, respectively. It was known to Maslow, and seems to be self-explanatory, why the needs are in this order. If someone is starving because of lack of food and water, they would not be conserved with their own esteem, but only with surviving.
Being a lover of documentaries, when we first started talking about Maslow’s triangle I thought to the one about feral children. Feral children are kids that have lived through isolation from a young age and have had little to no human contact. This is a very rare and sad situation but has happened more than once. These children once found were very much dogs. Most of these children die, but the ones that survive did not have all their basic physiological needs, or most of their safety needs met.
For more common examples of how Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs fits into everyday life, I give two examples of people in my life. I have a roommate, let’s call her Kayleigh. Kayleigh has a condition called panic disorder, an anxiety disorder characterized by a pattern of extreme panic attacks. Much of this disorder comes from the stress of not wanting another episode, in turn causing another one to happen. As far as physiological needs go, most of them have been met. She has the opportunity to eat and drink without stress. Something that I would bet on is that she does not always sleep well. Just recently she was given a new medication that resulted in seizures. This along with already having the fear of having this disorder, I’m sure results in less sleep than the normal ‘healthy’ student. Because the levels work as stepping stones rather than actual levels, we go up to the third level which is love and belongingness needs. I know her parents and close family love her, as well as me and my other roommates. Recently her other friends she had before college has been less than friendly towards her. Because of this she sometimes feels lonely, and like she has no friends. We have accepted her into our group but it’s obvious that she is still upset about the way the friends that came here with her are being. Because of this there is an obvious chunk out of the forth ‘level’ in the hierarchy, esteem. Her self-esteem and confidence are an area that I would consider malnourished.
My other friend, my best friend from back home, her name is Rachel. Rachel is a very closed off person, and does not make friends easily. Truthfully I don’t think that she wants to make more friends, even though she always jokes that she needs more. Rachel’s mom died a few years ago when we were both I high school, her sister is much older than her and has not lived at home in a very long time. Her father, Kevin, has never been very attentive to her, and gave her much freedom throughout her life. Her father is a good man, but had some other relations while being married to her mother. She has always been sort of alone, in her own realm of reality. After her mother died is when we truly became inseparable friends, we even refer to each other as “twin”, and her sister thinks of me just the same. She recently got a boyfriend and likes to go, in my own opinion, fast with relationships. I believe that she has completed the first two levels of Maslow’s hierarchy, and the third is deficient. Because of the absence of attention and losing her mother I believe that her love and belongingness needs have been suffering. I have always believed that she was closed off because of the loss of her mother and the lack of attention from her other family.
In the case of the feral children as well as both of my friends cases, Maslow would say that they would not be able to achieve self-actualization, or go much further up the ladder. Maslow believed that only one percent of people actually make it to self-actualization, but that we are all trying to get there. An interesting article I came across was actually a criticism of Maslow’s work, it stated a question as to why Maslow placed constraints on self-actualization. Everything in the entire world has the biological goal to grow. If the entire world is constantly evolving and growing, then why “limit it to something only two percent of the human species achieves”. This is a valid argument to me. However with there being so many characteristics of a self-actualized person, I do not believe that you need all of these qualities. I believe that you can be a mentally healthy, free soul, without having every single quality that he listed. For example, I do not believe that a ‘self-actualized’ person needs to have strong beliefs or values, not everyone thinks this way. Perhaps someone could hold flexibility and open-mindedness as the highest quality. I also do not believe that spontaneity must be present in a ‘self-actualized’ person, but perhaps being patient and well thought out.
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