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Nandita Kochar

One of the most treasured ideas in the field of psychology is a simple yet profound triangle divided into five tiers, referred to as ‘Maslow’s Pyramid of Needs’.

The pyramid was given birth by a Jewish psychologist named Abraham Maslow who was on a persistent search for the meaning of life. He wanted to find out what it was that made life purposeful – was it a pocket filled with money or a life lived away in the cold mountains in the search of God or was it something else altogether? These questions were even more important to him in a troublesome capitalist America where the shine of money had painted the outsides of people bright while their insides remained dull. What was it that a human needed to feel fulfilled? 

Maslow saw that a human’s needs could be divided into five categories, in ascending order –

  1. Physiological Needs: Basic and non-negotiable needs like food, water, warmth and rest
  2. Safety Needs: Urgent safety needs for bodily security and protection from attack
  3. Belongingness & Love Needs: Family and friends to build intimate relationships with, relationships that provide us with warmth, care and affection
  4. Esteem Needs: Prestige and feeling of having accomplished something
  5. Self-Actualization: Achieving one’s full potential as a human being and becoming ‘who we really are’

 

One of the reasons why this pyramid has managed to stay relevant even today is because with its elemental simplicity, it has managed to answer some immensely complex questions we, as a species, have posed to ourselves from time to time. The most important of these questions being ‘What are we really after?’ Maslow has helped us strike a balance when it comes to answering this question. He made it a point to prove that basing one’s life completely on spirituality, without a roof above one’s head or money to pay for lunch is no smart answer. He also made it a point to fight against those who based their lives only on earning money so that they could put food on the table and roof above their heads.  

Maslow realised that we could not ignore our material needs for the psychological ones and vice-versa. Rather we needed our material needs in order to get to the psychological ones at the top. Afterall, how can one with a hungry stomach even think about self-actualization? And without the psychological needs, the material ones fall pretty flat. We might have all that which money can buy but if we do not have respect in the society or don’t know who we really are, is all that green cash really worth it?

In the personal sphere, Maslow’s pyramid is the compass we can always turn to, to assess the direction of our lives. Some lives have a base broader than needed with all the bungalows and Ferraris. Whereas others have a more broad top weighing on the shoulders of an unfed unsheltered skeleton-like human. 

Maslow’s pyramid always points to a balance that we can strive to achieve when surrounded by the complexities of modern life. When undergoing frantic moments, we should use it to decide what to do next, in our journey to become who we are!

[Feature Image Credits: www.simplypsychology.org]

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