Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Hello my Zebras and Spoonies! Thanks for coming and hanging out with me today, I’m glad that you are here. Today I am going to be talking about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and why they matter. There is much in the theory of modern psychology that I am frustrated with and believe is complete bullshit. But, one gem, that I believe has it right is the Hierarchy of Needs. The basic idea is that we cannot invest in things until our needs are being met and that makes complete sense to me.

Maslow never presented the concept in the visual of a pyramid, but that’s how you are most likely going to see this presented today. The reason it’s presented this way is because it is supposed to visually represent that there are some needs that are more important than others and thus serve as a foundation. The foundation of this pyramid is the physiological needs which include being able to breathe, having food and water, being warm and getting rest. The second tier is our safety needs which is the idea that we need to feel safe and secure in our environment. These first two tiers together are generally considered our basic human needs: having our bodies physically taken care of and feeling safe. The third and fourth tiers make up our psychological needs. The third tier is love and belonging which expresses the human need for social connections so this includes friendships, families and intimate relationships. The fourth tier is esteem and this is the need for feeling that we are accomplishing something of value and that we offer a meaningful contribution to the group. The fifth and last tier is that of self fulfillment which is about reaching our full intellectual and creative potential.

So, the pyramid is telling us that our physical needs must be met before our emotional needs can be addressed. And that our emotional needs must be addressed before we are able to engage in healthy relationships. And so forth. The idea works like this: if you cannot breathe, you are not going to care if someone is threatening your safety. In fact, if you cannot breathe, you are not going to care about anything else. Until that need is met, you will be incapable of thinking about or working towards anything else. This makes sense.

Alright, so let’s look at this in context of having chronic illness. When you have a chronic illness, you always have symptoms that require management. There are physical needs that are always demanding your attention. This means that until those needs are being met, we are not going to be able to address the other things in our lives in a meaningful way. The problem here is that your medical system is not very good at managing chronic illness but rather is very good at creating chronic illnesses. Our medical system does not research cures for illnesses but treatments and this approach creates chronic illnesses. Yet, our medical model isn’t designed to manage those illnesses. Instead, our medical model is aimed at saving lives. This means that if you’re not in acute distress you’re often left lacking the care that you need to have your basic physical needs met.

We are frequently being told that we talk about our chronic illnesses all the time and that we have an unwarranted focus on our illnesses. Well, anyone who’s basic needs are not being met will remain focused on meeting those needs and is likely to find it difficult to focus on anything else. When you are starving or not breathing, that’s going to hold all your attention until those basic needs are met. Having pain and feeling fatigued are the same. The foundation of being able to participate in society is ensuring that a person’s basic needs are being met. Because we, as humans, cannot engage with others socially in a meaningful way until those basic needs are met.

Thus, having good health care that can properly manage chronic illnesses is essential to having a good society. If you want the people within your society to come to work and to engage with that work with the desire for esteem, then you first have to make sure that their basic needs are being met. Employees that desire esteem are ones that want to perform their job well and want to belong within their working community. But how can you possibly invest in this when you are struggling just to take care of yourself physically?

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs argues that an individual cannot truly participate in society until they have reached the highest level: Self- Actualization. This is the level that people are able to be creative and innovative. This is when people are able to tackle problems and create new things. This is where businesses and society benefits most from the presence of the individual. So, why does business and society not want to support individuals in reaching the level of Self-Actualization? Because when people reach the level of Self-Actualization they become the people that invent the wheel or discover penicillin.

Those with chronic illness usually don’t feel that those basic needs are being met. We have physical issues that are not being addressed yet we often feel that we will not be respected or taken seriously when we express our concerns regarding our basic needs. We often fear that we won’t be afforded the same rights as those that are able bodied. When we fear that others will judge us simply based upon our disabilities it is difficult to build relationships that are equitable and healthy. So, is there any real surprise that those with chronic illness struggle to reach self actualization?

It is easy to dismiss this as a personal problem, but the impact is huge. With almost 2/3 of the American population having a chronic illness it isn’t a personal problem, it’s a social problem. Because the reality is that the majority of medical spending is being spent on those of us who have chronic medical conditions. Yet, the majority of us with chronic illness are also reporting that we don’t feel that the medical system is helping us very much. The medical system needs to restructure with the focus being on actually meeting the basic needs of the largest consumers of medical care.

Well, that’s about it for my rambling today. Thanks for coming and spending some time with me. If you like what you read, click on that like button. It really does help! Until we talk again, you take care of yourselves!

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