Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs Fails



According to Maslow's hierarchy of needs, we will focus all our energies on the lowest level of needs that are not met. For example, if we aren't breathing, we will not care about anything else but breathing again.

The thing is, though, besides breathing, homeostasis and excretion, it doesn't really work that way in certain people. Once we get past the lower levels, we will always care about the highest level we've achieved even if we start to fail on lower levels, but we're supposed to still put the lower levels first. For example, we will care about having friends even if our health is very bad and we lack health security, but we're still supposed to put our health first.

And yet, so many people today don't function like that. I know a girl who lacks security of health, of resources, and of property and at times even the physiological need for food. And yet she still cares more about self-esteem, respect of others, and spontaneity. She's focused at the top of the pyramid when she should be focused at the bottom.

Anorexics lack food and homeostasis and still care more about self esteem and respect of others. Many, many people today forgo sleep for security of employment and of property, or even just for friends. Many others forgo sex and sexual intimacy for confidence and respect of others; indeed, respect and achievement in out culture surpass almost all other needs. Why? Are we a culture of the mentally unbalanced? What drives us to forgo our basic needs for higher needs? If one actually acheives self-actualization and enlightenment, I can understand losing the need for all but the most basic needs, and of those they could even lose the need for sex. But the people I spoke of above, they aren't Buddhist monks. They're ordinary people who get their priorities screwed up. How does a person get to that point? What wiring in their brain comes undone?

My father always told me my priorities needed to be as follows: My health (physiological and security of health and body needs), my schoolwork (to provide, eventually, security of employment, resources, and property), then my friends and family. Is it so hard to follow?

The girl I mentioned above is allowing herself to suffer and potentially either cause irreparable harm or die (though I suspect when the need to breathe and maintain homeostasis kicks in she will reconsider how much the respect of others matters to her) because of pride. Pride has ruined more lives than any other emotion. I don't object to pride on principle, there's nothing wrong with being proud of yourself, but when we let it get away from us... The results are devastating.

Priorities. Come on people.

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