Our Basic Needs

Human Development

Abraham Maslow (1908-1970), an American psychologist, proposed a hierarchy of human needs. He theorized that there are five basic and most important needs that are essential for human survival. These are: [1

* Biological and Physiological needs (basic life needs such as air, food, drink, shelter, warmth, sex, sleep)—anything for our physical survival.

* Safety needs (protection, security, law, stability)—“psychological needs”—our need to feel safe, to know that our families are safe and that we can live our lives away from dangers; to have jobs, resources, good health, and access to services.

* Belongingness and Love needs (family, affection, relationship)—“emotional needs”—to love and be loved, to feel being important for others, to be valued, to be seen and heard, to have family, friends, and relationships.

* Esteem needs (achievement, status, responsibility, reputation)—to have self-esteem, self-confidence, and belief in oneself; to have opportunities in life; to be able to succeed in the tasks of life; to have recognition from others who are close to us, which results in feelings of prestige, acceptance, and status. All this means that we learn to have belief in ourselves and are able to do things independently and successfully. The lack of any opportunity to feel being believed and to feel being acknowledged by others may lead to insecurity and discouragement.

* Self-Actualization needs (personal growth and fulfillment)—including spiritual needs—the need to be articulate, to create art and beauty, to have a moral centre, and to be spontaneous; the need to be close to a higher power, may we call it god or spirituality.

Now the question is, “What happens when some or all of these needs are not met?” I will explore these needs more based on our Iranian culture!

How we fare in each need category is based totally on the opportunities we have and also the lifestyles we live. We may have all our physical needs met, yet have no self-actualization or esteem needs in place. What happens then?

In our Iranian style of life, unmet needs within the traditional upbringing that many of us have experienced came from the cultural bans on self-actualization or esteem needs. Class, gender, race, ethnicity, education, and all the aspects of having traditional or secular parents, are still the main factors in determining whether we are raised to be the independent, happy, and healthy persons that we want to be or what our parents want us to be.

Many families raise their children to be good, obedient, and caring children who have ONLY to focus on studies, because education has such high values. Children and teenagers who for any reason cannot do well in school and do not cope well with their parents’ expectations for their becoming engineers and doctors are in trouble many times. They may feel like failures for not being able to live up to their parents’ expectations, or because they want to work on self-actualization, meaning on becoming the persons they want to become!

What is the best we as parents can do?

We need to encourage our children to become healthy and independent individuals who have the confidence to take care of their tasks in life in a healthy way.

What are your needs? Which of these five categories of needs is most important to you? Which one of these categories, has been taken care of most, and in what way?

May 3, 2007


[i] Refer to http://www.businessballs.com/maslow.htm for Maslow’s original five-stage model

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