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What are the ‘hierarchy of needs’?

By Amy Heydlauff

A long time ago – 1943 to be exact, Abraham Maslow, a psychologist and ‘humanist’ developed something called the “hierarchy of needs.” 

This hierarchy defines what is required for man to thrive and find self-fulfillment. I can’t possibly give it the full attention it deserves. But it is important enough to drag it up from our collective psych class memories.

Maslow said our first need is physiological. Food, water, warmth and rest. This is obvious and for the majority in our 5 towns, generally met. If you know of someone for whom these needs aren’t met, call the foundation (734-433-4599) so we can connect this person with the necessary resources, if possible.

Next, we require safety and security. Fear paralyzes most of us. It prevents us from moving beyond our current circumstances.  We wish security to all and where it doesn’t exist, we encourage you to reach out to someone who can help you. Law enforcement, faith leaders and organizations, counselors, shelters or anyone you believe you can trust. If there is no one, call us. We will try to help you find the right resource.

Once we are fed, warm and safe, we need belonging and love. It’s such a simple thing yet many of us don’t know how to belong or where to find love. If we don’t feel it, we aren’t going to be very good at dishing it. There is a book called “Everyone, Always” by a man named Bob Goff that says we should love everyone, always. It takes practice.

Once we are fed, safe and belong we will seek esteem that comes from a sense of accomplishment. Here we start to see individual expressions. One person may feel an accomplishment from their creative endeavors and another by something less tactile – the rearing of a happy family, perhaps.

Some find esteem through generous expenditures of their time, talent or treasure. Some find esteem from their daily work. But it’s safe to say, we all seek esteem. Another book, “Dignity” by Chris Arnade gives some insight on this issue.

If we are lucky enough to have food, security, love and esteem, we then seek self-actualization. This is a fancy way of saying we feel as if we’re firing on all cylinders. Achieving our full potential. Imagine how satisfying that must feel. It isn’t just a temporary winning of a big contract or getting into your first choice college. This is knowing your life is in order so your energy can be focused on whatever makes you feel fulfilled.

With self-actualization you are energized. Able to contribute at your highest level. And contribute you will because we won’t reach self-actualization by being focused just on self.

Finally, we reach self-transcendence. I think this is Mother Teresa territory. Zen. Bikram Choudhury. Most of us will need some work to achieve self-transcendence.

Eighty years later, this hierarchy still resonates.

Over the last century our nation and our 5 towns worked hard and as a result, most “5 Healthy Townians” have food, warmth and apparent safety. But what of belonging and esteem?

According to the Maslow and others, these needs are universal needs. From the cranky among us to the most endearing, we all want to be loved, belong and be proud.

There are about 45,000 people in the 5 healthy towns. Each of us is completely different. Special and unique. And yet we are all seeking the same things.

When you ponder of this paradox, it’s a bit of a miracle. Don’t you think? And good insight as we live shoulder to shoulder.

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