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Abraham Maslow And The Hierarchy Of Needs

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Abraham Maslow and the Hierarchy of Needs

After Abraham Maslow met Kurt Goldstein, who originated the concept of self-actualization, he began his movement for humanistic psychology. Early in his career Maslow worked with monkeys and he noticed that some needs took precedence over others. Maslow took this observation and created the theory of the Hierarchy of Needs. These needs were considered current motivations if they were not actualized. These needs are the Physiological Needs, the Safety and Security Needs, the Love and Belonging Needs, the Need for Self Esteem and the Need for Self Actualization (Boeree, 2006). As we consider the practical use of the Psychology of Personality in the workplace, fulfilling the needs of an employee as a means to motivation is an effective tool.

The Theory of Human Motivation

Maslow's paper, "A Theory of Motivation" is a classic that was first published in the Psychological Review in 1943. In the introduction Maslow lays out the foundation for his theory and makes the statement that "Man is a perpetually wanting animal". While most of theories we examine center their study on the formation of the individual's personality characteristics and traits, Maslow has centered his study on the present state of the needs of the individual and fulfilling them. We see that the individual learns to adapt to his environment to actualize the current need and defends that channel if it is threatened. While many of the tools an individual seems to garner from whatever personality theory is invoked, the motivations are the triggers that bring them out.

Physiological Needs

Our cravings for food, water and air are physiological needs we cannot live without. Those that will kill us sooner take a higher precedence in fulfillment. Maslow speaks of "Homeostasis" which is the "process for (1) the water content of the blood, (2) salt content, (3) sugar content, (4) protein content, (5) fat content, (6) calcium content, (7) oxygen content, (8) constant hydrogen-ion level and (9) constant temperature of the blood" (Maslow, 1943). When any of these things are lacking, it creates a craving that must be fulfilled.

In 1977 I attended a Navy Survival School (SERE) for one week. After several days of not eating and extreme physical stress I started having a craving for Sara Lee Chocolate Brownies. If I had the opportunity I would have eaten an entire package. Thinking back on it, my blood sugar was probably running very low. The craving was real and physical and in the situation could have been a primary motivator. When I was later exposed to interrogation and mild torture, I'm convinced I would have told them anything for Sara Lee Brownies and a glass of milk. Hunger is a primary motivator and will drive people to fulfill it anyway they can.

Safety and Security Needs

Once our physiological needs have been met, they no longer have as much influence on our motivations. The needs that arise are more of a psychological reaction to our surroundings. The feeling of being safe and secure can best be illustrated by a child and his reactions to perceived threats. When a child is startled by a loud noise or the unfamiliar, crying usually results. This is a sign of pain or fear of something and the parent must come and nurture and protect to fulfill the immediate need.

As adults we enjoy the safety of our home, the security of a job or a familiar daily routine that is dependable. We tend to dislike the unfamiliar or a feeling of dread when something does not seem quite right. It is at times like this our motivation is to feel safe and seek security. In December of 2005 I was startled by a loud noise at 2 o'clock in the morning. I thought one of my neighbors was having a fight. As I walked into my living room a loud bang rattled my door. The banging continued and I noticed the frame starting to give away. I looked out my window and saw two men dressed in black trying to break my door down. I told them to stop or I'd call the police. They shouted they were the police and to open the door. They continued to bust my door down. Confused by all the violence I asked them to wait a minute while I get dressed. They busted the door down anyway and grabbed me and dragged me outside. It was then I saw that our building was on fire. During the fire I lost my car and my apartment smelled like smoke. Although my landlord offered me a low rent and repairs, I no longer felt safe in that apartment and moved. It took a month after I moved before I felt I could move on. I needed to be sure I could feel safe and secure in my new apartment with new surroundings. Now I realize that I never really felt safe in that apartment and it probably stunted my growth in seeking a relationship. But now I can feel free to deal with the next motivation, the feeling of love.

The Need for Love and Belonging

Once the physiological needs are met and a person feels safe and secure, the need for relationships begins to emerge. Maslow refers to this emotional need as "instinctoid" or a need genetically built in like an instinct. We display in our need for friends, family, loving relationships in general or a desire for a sense of community. Sex is considered more of a physical need and is not always fulfilling of the emotional attachment that we crave. For some it can be considered a temporary respite from the loneliness that is the result of this need lacking. Not fulfilling this

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