Self Actualization: The Hierarchy Of Needs
Self-actualization and the hierarchy of needs: and Peak Experiences

A peak experience is a state of extreme euphoria or ecstasy, during which the person feels
more alive and whole than is usual. It is a natural "high" - one which can be recalled and
savoured any time. This is unlike chemical or substance "highs". They are often attributed   
to religious or mystical causes; but there are other causes as well. More on this is coming.
First, let's take a look at how to get there: what is involved.

The Abraham Maslow was part of a much different breed of contemporary psychologists.   
He focused on
what went right with people, rather than today's tendency to look at what   
wrong with people. In 1943 he formulated a truly positive account of human  
behaviour: he was interested in human potential, and how we fulfill that potential. In his
view, human motivation is based on people seeking fulfillment and change through    
personal growth. He called them Self-actualized people: people who were fulfilled and    
doing all they were   capable of.

The process of self-actualization, according to Maslow is due to the need for personal  
growth and discovery that is present throughout a person’s life. He believed that a person    
is always
'becoming', and never remains static in these terms. In self-actualization a   person
comes to find a meaning to life that is important to them.

During the years between 1943-1952 Maslow developed his now-famous "needs model",  
with five levels, or tiers, see the diagrams below. His "hierarchy of needs" is a  motivational
theory was originally is presented as a five tier (pyramid-shape) model of human needs.

The rising levels are the hierarchy sections. It was his view that people are motivated to
achieve certain needs; and that some needs have priority over others.
  • The most basic need is for physical survival, it is at the bottom of the pyramid. It is   
    the first thing that motivates our behaviour.
  • Once that level is fulfilled the next level up is what motivates us, and so on.
  • His original model with 5 stages or tiers was "divided" into what are called deficiency
    needs (D-needs: the first 4 levels), and growth needs (the top level B-needs: be-ing

In his understanding, deficiency needs motivate people when they are unmet (if you're  
hungry, you do something about it). Also, the need to fulfil such needs will become   
stronger the longer the duration they are unfulfilled. Like in the being hungry example,      
the longer you put off eating something, the hungrier you get).
  • One must satisfy lower level deficit needs before progressing on to meet higher  level
    growth needs. When a deficit need  has been satisfied it will go  away, and our activities
    become habitually directed   towards meeting the next set of needs that    we have yet
    to satisfy. To take the hunger example a bit farther: it is unlikely that your concentration
    on task and   activities that require you being alert, responsive  and quick would be up
    to the task. Those tasks would have to wait until you'd  eaten.
  • These then become our most noticeable and important needs. However, growth needs
    continue to be felt and may even become stronger once they have been  engaged.  
    Once these growth needs have been reasonably satisfied, one may be   able to reach
    the highest level called self-actualization - also know as Peak Experience.

We are all capable, and have the desire, he said, to move up the hierarchy toward a level of
self-actualization. But like many human situations, that progress is often  disrupted by not
having dealt  adequately with lower level needs. Life experiences, including death, major
illness, job loss, bankruptcy, etc, can easily result in an individual to fluctuate between    
levels of the hierarchy. So it's not a foregone conclusion that everyone will move/rise  
through the hierarchy in a direct straight-line manner; instead, many may  move back and
forth between the different types of needs.

Only one in a hundred people become fully self-actualized, Maslow said, because our society
rewards motivation primarily based on esteem, love and other social needs.

His original model of five tiers (levels/steps), was altered in the 1960's - 1970's to 7 tiers,
and then 8. Both the 5-tier and 8-tier models are shown here.

Changes to the original five-stage model are highlighted and include a seven-stage model
and an eight-stage model, both developed during the 1960's and 1970s. The  stages are    
as follows:
  • 1. Biological and Physiological needs: air, food, drink, shelter, warmth, sex, sleep, etc.
  • Safety and Security needs: protection from elements, security, order, law, stability, etc.
  • 3. Love and belonging-ness needs: friendship, intimacy, trust and acceptance,   
    receiving and giving affection and love. Affiliating, being part of a group (family,  
    friends, work).
  • 4. Esteem needs: self-esteem, achievement, mastery, independence, status,  
    dominance, prestige, managerial responsibility, etc.
  • 5. Cognitive needs: knowledge and understanding, curiosity, exploration, need for
    meaning and predictability.
  • 6. Aesthetic needs: appreciation and search for beauty, balance, form, etc.
  • 7. Self-Actualization needs: the need to actualize oneself; realizing personal     
    potential, self-fulfillment, seeking personal growth and peak experiences.
  • 8. Transcendence needs: helping others to achieve self actualization (the epitome of
    Peak Experience).

The drive toward developing and realizing our full human potential is a life-long
as we've seen: reaching for the divine with our human limitations.

             See below for a pictorial representation:
  • Need For Self-Actualization (Peak Experiences) - Highest Desire to help others; ability   
    to direct one's own life; rich emotional experiences; sense of meaning to one's life.  

Realizing (achieving) our full human potential requires development, growth and integration   
of all the dimensions of life that make us human: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual:  
that is the holistic way. It may not be possible to do so fully (see the Human Potential

When we are fully integrated, we are fully whole. When there is no complete integration,   
there is no complete wholeness. Wholeness is known as "holistic", which in essence means,    
to incorporate all aspects - or the "whole".

There is a major "caution" here, however: generally, the "potential" we can reach is    
prescribed by our
culture. Transcending those cultural prescriptions are a major       
challenge. More coming on this.
Diagram 1: Original model
Diagram 2: original model -
different presentation
Diagram 3: revised, expanded model
Summary of Maslow's concepts - from most
important (primary) to the "less important"
ones (for survival):

  • Physiological Needs (primary - lowest   
    on pyramid). Specific hungers, food,
    water;  shelter; sex; air; general survival.

  • Safety Needs (2nd from bottom.
    Security; stability; dependency;
    protection; freedom from fear; anxiety;
    chaos; need for structure, order,     
    limits, etc.

  • Belongingness and Love Needs (3rd
    from bottom). Love; affection;
    belonging; need for family, friends,
    groups, territorial, community.

  • Esteem Needs (2nd from top).          
    Self-esteem (self-worth); esteem of
    others;  achievement recognition;  
    dignity; appreciation; self-confidence;
    mastery of one's self and one's
Dawn Cove Abbey
Roadside Assistance For Your Journey Through Life
- Dedicated to helping people return (and maintain) sanity and decency to life -
From the eBook: "One! The Journey hOMe", by Klaas Tuinman  © 2007-2017

Questions and comments welcomed.