There’s an odd sensational you get after you achieve something, after you’ve basked in the glory of your success. For while you’re pleased with yourself, with full knowledge that all your effort paid off. But then after sometime, a sensation kicks in, that undermines all your success; you feel like need more, or perhaps a nagging suspicion that what you’ve accomplished isn’t that great after all. Acquisition of that prized BMW doesn’t do it anymore; the job you worked so hard to get doesn’t please you anymore; or an achievement doesn’t fill you with pride anymore. Well my friend, it’s quite possible that you’re moving into a new level of Maslow’s Pyramid.
What is it?
In 1943 in his paper “A Theory of Human Motivation”, Abraham Maslow proposed a five tier model of human needs, in which a person is compelled to move to a higher tier after their lowers needs have been met. If said person does not move to a higher tier, then frustration builds, or if a person moves to a higher level and lower level needs have not been met , then anxiousness and tension sets in. Baring my oversimplification, this idea of Maslows is a brilliant representation of persons succession of needs. But I think it lacks something, and has been exploited unintentionally.
Whats wrong with it
As is obvious from the diagram the most important tier is self-actualization. Because that’s where the most profound human experience exists. The ability to have ones consciousness expanded, should indeed be at the pinnacle of the pyramid, but inadvertently, society has built systems that trick us into remaining in the bottom tiers.
Our monetary systems have resulted in vast swaths of the the global population struggling to meet the basic conditions of life. Food can be hard to come by, shelter is uncertain and healthcare is priced out. Our physiological needs are not met.
Our political systems have resulted in uncertainty of security, due to wars and crime. Along with financial uncertainty that results in massive tension around our safety needs.
Furthermore, those same political systems sow tribalism, nationalism and dissent to such an extent we don’t trust anyone anymore. Our sense of social belonging is tenuous at best, and has been supplanted by an that abstraction that thousands of social media followers will suffice our need for belonging.
Advertising has convinced everyone, that they what they have isn’t enough. That we must have more than our neighbors at any cost. That we should not only keep up with the Jones, but that we must exceed them. This idea that stuff can replace our esteem, is exactly what has led us to having so little of it.
The problem boils down to this; that the systems we have in place have eroded or corrupted all measures of these tiers of Maslow. No wonder, we all struggle to have a sense of value, and belonging and purpose.
A better way of thinking of it
There is one tier that cannot be subverted though; the tier of Self Actualization! There is no man-made system, law or rule that can dictate our ability to transcend our existence. By its very definition, self actualization it unbounded by human constructs. Your mind, and the ability of your consciousness to perceive other realities and dimensions are unconstrained by any prison, job, success, achievements or position. This is why I think the diagram should be altered to the one below to highlight the importance of the top most tier. To highlight that self-actualization is in fact, the only real need, the only true purpose of man. Once this big goal is attained, everything else will fall into place. The most minimal of physiological needs are then required; our cravings for safety are minimized because we don’t distrust everyone; there is no need to socially belong to any one group because we’re brothers and sisters to every earthling; and self esteem is not required because we’ve lost our egos.
I often look upon this pyramid and consider the vast potential it contains. Right now, as it stands, it is a model of needs, but I think it better serves us to highlight what we should aim for. We should strive for the pinnacle of pyramid, rather than struggle at its base through social constructs we’ve got no control over. Maslow was onto something here. And I think for us to truly appreciate it, we ourselves will need to achieve Self-Actualization.