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Maslow's Pyramid


Abraham Maslow (1908 –1970) was an American psychologist. One of the theories he is noted for is his hierarchy of human needs, usually depicted as a pyramid, here shown as the oldest type of pyramid, the step pyramid. The idea is that as we travel through our lives our needs change. We gradually fulfil our lower base physical and emotional needs and move up the pyramid to fulfil more sophisticated intellectual and spiritual needs until hopefully we reach the top. Today most of us in the modern world have the opportunity to get to the top which couldn’t have been said even 50 years ago when Maslow was alive.

I don’t want to say too much about this diagram as much has been written elsewhere and it really speaks for itself which is why it is still used. It is an important tool for understanding what sort of needs humans have and for giving you a rough idea of where you are in the hierarchy. It helps to position your life and knowing where you are on life’s journey, as I have said before, is a must for being able to move on to the next stage, upwards. It is all part of controlling our world by understanding it.

Maslow called the four lower levels the ‘D-needs’ or “deficiency needs”. While these needs are not met we are not settled in our lives and will have feelings of anxiety and tension. Only when we reach the top will we come into our own and feel in control and at ease with ourselves.

It would be simple if we just moved up the pyramid a step at a time until we reached the top but life’s not like that. Wherever we see ourselves to be mostly on the pyramid we still have ‘needs’ or ‘goals’ we have achieved or need to achieve on other levels, even when we reach the top. Our lives are fluid not rigid and we can move down as well as up due to change of circumstances e.g. job, relationships, economic circumstances, ill health etc. but we never wholly lose what we have gained from higher levels.