Abraham Maslow's model of human needs, showing a motivating hierarchy' has been a strong influence in several sectors of our culture since the 1950's. It is used in advertising to predict and manipulate needs and motivations, in health and social services as a sort of scale of personal well-being and in cultural and business studies as a reference to personal development in relation to employment. But a close look reveals that this particularly Western cultural model is missing important elements for those who believe life on earth has a purpose.
Maslow's original model shows a hierarchy of human needs that start at the bottom and work up. These are:
Self-actualisation needs the need to become who you are' self-fulfilment, realising personal potential, seeking personal growth and peak experiences.Esteem needs
the need to derive some positive value from your actions, self-esteem, achievement, mastery, independence, status, dominance, prestige, managerial responsibility, etc.Social needs to have a sense of belonging to a group, tribe, work group, family, affection, relationships, etcSafety needs freedom from attack, from extreme environmental conditions, security, order, law, limits, stability, etcPhysiological needs to be able to eat, drink and maintain physical integrity, air, food, drink, shelter, warmth, sex, sleep, etc
Maslow states that until one level of need' is fulfilled that the person is unlikely to move on to the next, for example if you are hungry and thirsty and have nowhere to live you are unlikely to be looking for social status. He suggests that each need has to be aroused and unsatisfied to be a motivating force in behaviour.
Watching adverts on TV it is easy to see how many of them try and arouse unsatisfied needs, especially around social and esteem needs, to motivate people to buy products. You must have this in order to look cool' to your group (social). You will never be happy until you have this product (esteem). Protect your family with this amazing product (safety). But since the 1950's, before we all had houses stacked out with consumer durables to make our houses safer, trendier, the envy of our neighbours, things have moved on to the top of the hierarchy.
In the 1970's, two more levels were added to the top of the hierarchy, after esteem needs' (4) and before self actualisation' (5). These were generally recognised as:
Aesthetic needs - appreciation and search for beauty, balance, form, etc.
Cognitive needs - knowledge, meaning, etc.
Becoming more common in this age of celebrity consumer capitalism' is a direct appeal to manipulate the perfect you in the process of becoming' (self-actualisation) in the interests of consumerism. Consider, for example, some of these prime values from recent brand-name adverts:
Weightwatchers club: "Be Who You Want To Be"
Microsoft: "Where do you want to go today"
Mortgage company: "Make your One Day Today"
Hyundai: "Drive Your Way"
Harpic: "What does your loo say about you"
O2: "The World Revolves Around You"
Hugo Fragance: "Your Fragrance Your Rules"
City & Guilds web site: "therealyou.com"
Not many people in the West could deny that we now live in a celebrity culture. The cult of me', that of celebrity worship, is central to many motivators in western culture. People who self-actualise in a public way are given special status, whether this is through politics, royalty, movie fame or reality TV. Everyone, it seems, wants their fifteen minutes of fame and will often use it to endorse some kind of consumer product in order to attract money.
But this type of self-actualisation is one peculiar to western culture. It is one of the models at the heart of a dangerous materialistic creed that has produced a Me First' culture driven by ego, greed and desire. It has resulted in a cultural philosophy hell-bent on self-annihilation.
In other cultures the highest attainment of the evolved human is in the service of others. We could call this mutual actualisation' I can't be me unless you can be you!' This means recognising that on one level whatever I do to you, or you do to me we also do to ourselves. We are all caught up in the circle of life'. This is reflected to a certain extent by an addition in the 1990's of another need placed at the top of the hierarchy, that of Transcendence needs - helping others to achieve self-actualization. So in all the present (derived) Maslow model looks like this:
1. Transcendence needs - helping others to achieve self-actualization.
2. Self-Actualization needs - realising personal potential, self-fulfillment, seeking personal growth and peak experiences.
3. Aesthetic needs - appreciation and search for beauty, balance, form, etc.
4. Cognitive needs - knowledge, meaning, etc.
5. Esteem needs - self-esteem, achievement, mastery, independence, status, dominance, prestige, managerial responsibility, etc.
6. Belongingness and Love needs - work group, family, affection, relationships, etc.
7. Safety needs - protection from elements, security, order, law, limits, stability, etc.
8. Biological and Physiological needs - air, food, drink, shelter, warmth, sex, sleep, etc.
This is a sign that new consciousness is dawning on some members of western culture. It is a recognition that compassion for others and co-operation may be more important than competition, and that consideration for others and our environment is an essential part of sharing a planet. Such understandings are sparking a new paradigm that means some people are sublimated their egos for what might be termed species-actualisation', a true pinnacle of human evolution.
But if you believe that life has a purpose, that we are here in the universe for a reason then we can add other layers to the derived Maslow model: planetary actualisation, universe actualisation
and even, bringing us closer to the source of things, the actualisation of whatever forces hold this miraculous universe together God actualisation.
With thanks also to businessballs.com for the Maslow derived models