Log in

No account? Create an account
bird poops on plum branch


Buster Benson

No advice column.

Previous Entry Share Next Entry
hierarchies of needs
bird poops on plum branch
Poll #1257959 Needs and Wants

Which level are you currently at on Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs?

Self-Actualization: morality, creativity, spontaneity, problem-solving, lack of prejudice, acceptance of facts
Esteem: self-esteem, confidence, achievement, respect of others, respect by others
Love/Belonging: friendship, family, sexual intimacy
Safety: security of body, of employment, of resources, of morality, of the family, of health, of property
Physiological: breathing, food, water, sex, sleep, homeostasis, excretion

People have gone on to expand upon the "self-actualization" level of the need triangle adding a few more specific steps like "Cognitive needs - knowledge, meaning, etc", "Aesthetic needs - appreciation and search for beauty, balance, form, etc", and "Transcendence needs - helping others to achieve self actualization". I mean, it's not like the self-actualized want to just sit around at the top of the triangle with nowhere to go. There have got to be triangles within triangles.

Is it totally lame to seek self-actualization? Or should it be all of our own private quests? Couldn't we help each other along if we didn't squirm around at its lameness?

Here's a list of "self-actualization" qualities that Maslow came up with:
  • keen sense of reality - aware of real situations - objective judgement, rather than subjective
  • see problems in terms of challenges and situations requiring solutions, rather than see problems as personal complaints or excuses
  • need for privacy and comfortable being alone
  • reliant on own experiences and judgement - independent - not reliant on culture and environment to form opinions and views
  • not susceptible to social pressures - non-conformist
  • democratic, fair and non-discriminating - embracing and enjoying all cultures, races and individual styles
  • socially compassionate - possessing humanity
  • accepting others as they are and not trying to change people
  • comfortable with oneself - despite any unconventional tendencies
  • a few close intimate friends rather than many surface relationships
  • sense of humour directed at oneself or the human condition, rather than at the expense of others
  • spontaneous and natural - true to oneself, rather than being how others want
  • excited and interested in everything, even ordinary things
  • creative, inventive and original
  • seek peak experiences that leave a lasting impression
This article is pretty interesting on the topic.  I wish there was some way to watch the documentaries about him without paying $30 a film. 


  • 1
> without paying $30 a film.

The library! Seriously, they can probably get them through interlibrary loan if they don't want to shell out $30 a film...

My library network doesn't have them. I suspect they're not that widely distributed. How do you get a library to buy something new?

Grr. At the NYPL, I just asked about something at the information desk and they thought it was cool enough that they bought a few copies for the system. They actually looked it up on Amazon when it didn't come up in their system.

You know, I went to that site and it was actually only $50 for both DVDs. I don't know why the price is so odd...

It doesn't look like the NYPL has them either -- I was going to suggest that K come and grab them in NYC and then you could ship them back! I did find a trailer for a doc on him on YouTube.

SPL Purchase suggestion


Also you can look on worldcat to see the closest other libraries that have it:


(nothing close to us unfortunately)

It's hard for me to really use self-actualization theory, even though in many ways it matches my personal thinking, because it seems so presumptuous to talk about it as a way to categorize people and 'human development' when it really speaks directly to affluent western people of the recent historical time. I think humans are definitely "reliant on culture and environment to form opinions and views," and any one of us could have been born somewhere completely different and have a different idea of self/social development and the life course. And it's historically specific to the last 150ish years to even care about The Self as a discrete, atomic thing. I wonder what we're going to believe about ourselves in another 500 years (assuming we last that long).

Well, I agree. It is presumptuous and feels wrong to talk about.

15 years after he came out with this 5-level triangle, he added a few extra levels, the top being "transcendence" which is about caring about others. So, consider it an oversight of his capitalist American mind.

All considered though, we are mired in our culture and it's sometimes okay to talk about the context we exist in without disparaging the contexts of others, right? We weren't lucky or unlucky to be born in our context, it's just what happened, and nobody's saying this hierarchy is better than all other hierarchies.

I don't think people think that self-actualization and helping people self-actualize is lame (maybe just the word). That seems to be exactly what artists, teachers, writers, counselors, etc do.

I don't know much about the theory or evidence behind the hierarchy, but it seems like even though all the individual goals make sense, I'm not convinced that it's a strict hierarchy.

Different needs at different levels connect and feed in to each other. People deliberately mess with low level needs (like going on juice fasts or staying up all night or quitting their job and starting their own company) in pursuit of "higher" needs, and that doesn't start them over.

(and what they said in the "maslow's hierarchy of needs and helping others" section)

Yeah, though it could be argued that messing with lower levels is not the same as needing the lower levels.

In general though, the hierarchy is a bit intertwined, there being some needs that inhibit or help all other needs (like freedom of speech, equal rights, etc) and Maslow accounts for them when he goes into more detail about them.

maybe I should read more

I was under the impression that it was a strict hierarchy (or rather progression, since a hierarchy can imply taxonomy). If it was strict then you can't have 20% love, 50% esteem, and 20% self-actualization -- you'd have to get enough love first before you could start on esteem.

(more exposing of my ignorance is that I don't even know whether Maslow is claiming that this is actual, ideal, or both)

I think my impression of most of the systems of organizing elements of human behavior/personality in boxes and hierarchies (like personality types, id/ego/superego sorts of things) is that they're more interesting for the parts (like the lists of different needs and motivations) than the conclusions...

A lot of people are saying self actualization but I think it's just wishful thinking. They're really down here at esteem or love with the rest of us.

I think Maslow's work is also important to view in the trait/state dichotomy -- I may not have perfect self-esteem or I may break up with a boyfriend or lose a friend, or I might be really broke one month and skimp by on food, etc. (well, more when I was a law student). But on the whole my physiological needs are met, there are people I love and who love me, and I feel that I am a good person and I am proud of myself in general.

Perhaps. But maybe not! Wouldn't it be nice if there were people like this all over the place? I need to surround myself with these people and hope some of it rubs off.

Umm, you are so SOBER right now!

I mean, in other words, that the opposite of self-actualization is thinking about self-actualization!

I taught you the opposite game, right?

It's true... I get a little verbose when I'm not drunk.

But I wouldn't say the opposite of self-actualization is thinking about it. Because almost nobody thinks about it, and almost nobody is any closer to it because of it. Of course, that doesn't mean thinking about it will bring you closer to it.

But I do think that paying attention to the qualities listed above is useful. Is it wrong to strive for something as intangible as a better understanding of self and our place in the universe? Maybe. Maybe it's vain. Maybe it's a luxury of the western upper middle class. But, this over-thinking is just a phase like the phase of under-thinking. Might as well ride it out.


1.All is vanity and chasing into the wind.

2.None of the 3rd world dwellers who I've hung out with during the last month have said anything about self-actualization, but they also haven't said anything about transcendentalism, which I love. So maybe they don't know everything.

3. I overthink everything during the first half of the week, and I underthink everything during the second half of the week, and this is the second half, so pay me no heed.

4. Maybe the opposite of self-actualization is actually a pair of crocs.

I love Ecclesiastes. I wrote a poem in college titled "All is vain, my pinwheel's name". Hippy roots.

Want sushi? I'm meeting an out of town friend at Saito's in 20 minutes and there's room for another if you want to join.

  • 1