Monday, September 7, 2009

Psych 101

Lately I've been thinking a lot about Maslow's theory on the hierarchy of needs and self-actualization. According to Maslow’s theory, there are five levels of basic needs that must be met before we can self-actualize, that is, reach our full potential as human beings. The basic needs are: physiological, safety, love, self-esteem, and self-actualization. Once we meet the first four needs, we can begin to focus on more intellectual and spiritual pursuits to become the person we were made to be.



Most of the physiological needs must be met or life cannot exist. We need oxygen, food, water, shelter, etc. Next we need to be in secure surroundings. These two levels ensure our physical well-being. Love and then self-esteem keep our minds healthy.

Visiting Haiti last month has triggered my interest in this theory. Anyone reading my blog knows that for most Haitians, their basic needs are not met – some yes, but not most of them. Many don’t have daily meals; some resort to making a kind of mud cake to keep their stomach full when food is unavailable. Shelter is also an issue – not everyone has a place they can call home; sometimes they only have a place where they are allowed to sleep (but not always). Of course, under such conditions, safety is not guaranteed. With a poor, unstable government, the police force is almost nonexistent. Crime is rampant. There is love in Haiti but with most individuals trying to eek out a living, the philosophy is every man for himself. It is hard to love under those conditions.

And it’s hard for me to look at our society here in the United States. For the vast majority of us, all of our basic needs are met. So, according to Maslow’s theory, we should all be focused on being the best people we can be. But that doesn’t appear to be happening. The problem, as I see it, is that we keep raising the bar on what constitutes “basic” needs. The size of our homes continues to increase; we own more cars than any other country; we are weighted down with all the latest electronic gadgets; we are the most obese nation on the planet.


Talking to people, I hear that times are tough, money is tight. Many would like to help others, but they say there’s no money in their budget. But I notice the family eats out on a regular basis; mom has her hair colored and highlighted and gets regular manicures; dad spends Saturday on the golf course; and the kids have their own cell phones. I suppose they don’t realize that sometimes the lack of $20 a month keeps a child from attending school or that a dollar a day can make the difference between living and starvation.

This post isn’t just about Haiti; it’s about human beings around the world who don’t have their basic needs met. Millions of people are dying each year of starvation and preventable diseases. And yet we continue on, raising the bar on what we feel we’re entitled to, what we consider basics. My heart breaks when I think about the suffering that is going on right now as I type this entry. In this country, what we call suffering is usually just discomfort or inconvenience. Not so for the vast majority of other nations.

I’m hoping that this rambling post will make my readers realize that their needs really are met and that we all need to move on to self-actualization, to making the world a better place. Please, take a few minutes to do research on conditions in other parts of the world and then think about what you can do to help.

1 comment:

Mamasong said...

Bravo Cherie! Entitlement is such an ugly attitude and has no place in God's upside-down kingdom of sacrificial love.