In a previous paper (Sosteric and Ratkovic 2018) we invoked Maslow’s twin hierarchies of need to suggest a framework for understanding “how to be human.” Maslow’s twin hierarchies of need give clues on what we need to do to make humans happy, whole, and connected. Maslow’s basic hierarchies provide an early and comprehensive statement of the gamut of human needs, from the physiological through to self-actualization and transcendence. Over the years, valid criticisms have been levelled at his conceptualizations, particularly in the organization of needs into hierarchies. Psychologists have realized that needs, though they exist, do not unfold one after the other, but are met irregularly, sometimes in tandem, and especially in environments that are supportive and nurturing of these needs. We learn to self-actualize at the same time as we learn to keep ourselves safe. As we satisfy our need to know, so also may we learn to transcend.
In this article, we provide a simple reformulation of Maslow’s hierarchy into a flat structure which we refer to as the Seven Essential Needs. The Seven Essential Needs are the needs which all humans are required to meet if they are to grow up healthy, happy, and connected. There can be no compromise on this. A healthy socialization process is one where all our essential needs are met, one hundred percent of the time. A Toxic Socialization process is one where needs satisfaction is thwarted. For reference, the seven essential needs are
- Physiological needs— We all have biological needs for healthy food, water, air, clothing, exercise, and sex
- Safety and stability needs— We all have a need for a safe home, safe spaces, secure finances, consistency, and stability. Safety includes the absence of assault of any kind, including physical assault (e.g., spanking), emotional assault, and psychological assault. Stability includes the emotional consistency of stable parental relationships. Financial stability includes resources sufficient to remove the anxieties and uncertainties of survival.
- Love/belonging needs— We all have needs for unconditional support, acceptance, and inclusion. We all need to feel we are wanted and connected to something. We all need to feel that we belong.
- Truth/understanding needs — We all have a need for truth and understanding. This truth is self-evident and expressed at a very early age. “Mommy, why is the sky blue?” “Daddy, why are you angry all the time?” As Maslow said, we all have a biological drive to know and understand the world.
- Esteem/Power— We all need to feel good about ourselves, and we all need to feel powerful and efficacious like we can control the world we live in and create the world we want.
- Alignment with Self– Presuming the existence of a “soul,” or a spark of Consciousness that exists independent of the physical body, we need to align our bodily ego, our body’s self with this higher level our Self, our Highest Self, the fullest and purest potential within. In Humanistic psychology, this is known as self-actualization. We are actualizing the “true self” within.
- Connection with, and expression of, Highest Self— It is not enough to actualize our highest self, we need to go beyond and actually make a strong connection with this inner Self. This is common desiderata of human spiritual systems. In Transpersonal Psychology, this is known as transcendence; in Christianity and Islamic traditions, this is known as salvation, “Entering the Kingdom,” etc. In Buddhism and Easter traditions, enlightenment. Jung referred to this as the experience of the numinosum (Jung 1938, 6).
This statement of the seven essential human needs is straightforward, as is the statement that if humans want to be healthy and connected, all these needs need to be satisfied in toto, all of the time. When it comes to the satisfaction of needs, you cannot skimp. This hardly seems an arguable point. It is the height of absurdity to suggest you should starve a plant of water and nutrient-rich soil because you think doing so will “make it stronger.” Similarly, you don’t put human children through adverse experiences, or limit the satisfaction of their needs, because you think doing so will “build character.” Failure to satisfy the essential needs of living organisms leads to reduced expression, stunted growth, and difficulty connecting.
With this basic understanding in place, i.e., that a healthy socialization process is one where all our needs are met, a few additional comments are in order.
- Most important, satisfaction of human needs is inherently social. It is important to understand this. Satisfaction of needs is not something you can do for yourself. Satisfaction of your needs is something others do for you, In order to satisfy your biological needs for food, shelter, and safety, you need the help of farmers, carpenters, electricians, and so on. In order to meet your needs for love and belonging, somebody has to love you and make you feel welcome. In order to meet your needs for truth and understanding others, authors, scientists, teachers, parents, priests, etc., have to tell you the truth about things. In order to have good self-esteem, others have to work to reinforce you when you do good things in the world. Even your higher needs like the need for alignment and connection require the assistance of others.
To be clear, if your needs aren’t being met it’s because others around you are failing in their sacred tasks. By the same token, if others (like your children, or your students) needs are not being met, then perhaps you are failing in your task. Unless you are a child, in which case it is not your job to meet anybody’s needs, or an adolescent, in which case you’re still not mature enough to do more than participate in the satisfaction of your own needs, be supportive of others where it makes sense. Remember, needs satisfaction is social by nature and you are implicated in the meeting the needs of somebody else. Carpenter, farmer, administrator, parent, teacher, friend, somebody around you needs your help meeting their needs.
- Satisfaction of essential needs is inherently spiritual. The “highest” needs, the ones that, when satisfied make us happiest and most human, are the need for self-actualization and transcendence, which we view as alignment and connection. The point of creating healthy and happy humans is so they can align and connect. This is not a particularly fanciful suggestion, nor is it that novel. In fact, alignment and connection are seen by some as the salvation of humanity. Stanislav Groff speaks of the transformation of consciousness that arises from connection: “I have … no doubts that a profound transformation of consciousness is possible in individuals and that it would increase our chances for survival if it would occur on a sufficiently large scale…The practical question is, whether such a chance can be facilitated and by what means….in the human personality there exist mechanisms that could mediate a profound and desirable transformation” (Laszlo, Grof, and Russell 1999, 4). To respond to the question “can it be facilitated,” the answer is yes, when you adequately meet all human needs, when you repair the damage done by toxic socialization, and when you adequately align and prepare, transformation of bodily consciousness is possible.
- In addition to the fact that human need satisfaction is inherently social and spiritual, satisfaction of human needs is a massive task. It is not something that just one person, like a mother, or a friend, or a teacher, can do. The old saying goes, “It takes a village to raise a child.” In fact, that does not go nearly far enough. Meeting all the essential human needs requires the participation of every single adult and every single institution on the planet. It takes a planet to raise a child. More to the point, it takes a healthy and connected planet to raise a healthy and connected child. On a healthy planet, parents, teachers, farmers, businessmen, distributors, carpenters, librarians, etc., are all involved in the satisfaction of human needs.
- Because the satisfaction of all human needs is a massive task, on a healthy planet, The System should be geared not towards the accumulation of human labour, but to the satisfaction of human needs. We go to work not to make money, but to help others meet their needs. As noted in Rocket Scientists Guide to Money and the Economy: Accumulation and Debt (Sosteric 2016), our current System is geared towards exploitation and private accumulation of human labour. Within the current system, full satisfaction of needs is impossible because human activity is corrupted and the free flow of labour is subverted. Transformation of the System into a more humane/evolved system focused exclusively on the satisfaction of human needs is a necessary precursor to collective healing and connection. For some initial thoughts on initiating and navigating this transformation are provided in “The end of the world as we’ve known is,” (Sosteric 2018a) and also Rocket Scientists Guide to Money and the Economy: Accumulation and Debt.
- Many jobs that are available right now, like weapons manufacture, marketing, do not contribute to the satisfaction of human needs and will have to expire, or transform. Marketing can be transformed to serve human education and truth needs, rather than the capitalists need for consumers to buy more. The military can be transformed for rebuilding, reconstruction, and authentic humanitarian aid, rather than imperialist domination.
- Many jobs that do exist, like teaching, will need to be tweaked in order to make them human-centred rather than system-centred. Right now, education serves primarily to prepare children for exploitation as workers and consumers (Anyon 1980), and involves limited authentic satisfaction of needs. Preparation to be productive members of society is a necessary function of education, but this should be conducted with a rubric that emphasizes the satisfaction of our essential needs. We can do a better job preparing children to be productive, compassionate members of society if we ensure their needs are fully met so they are healthy and connected as they emerge into adulthood.
- It is important to develop a sensible rubric for meeting human needs. No single person can be responsible for the sum total needs of another person. A parent at home can be exclusively responsible for certain aspects of our emotional needs for stability and belonging, but from the provision of food and housing, to the satisfaction of our need for self-actualization and transcendence, other professionals need to be involved. We need professional educators to help satisfy our needs for truth and understanding. We need professional food growers to satisfy our needs for food. We need professional builders and engineers to help us provide for our need for shelter and safety, and so on.
- Even when we are not directly involved in the satisfaction of an individual’s needs, we need to be aware enough of the significance of the essential needs so we do not subvert/undermine the work of others. A parent can be a perfect conduit for the satisfaction of their child’s need to belong, but if an uncle sexually assaults that child, if the child goes to a school and is shunned, shamed, or excluded, or if the child is exposed to hurtful and toxic experiences, even if not intended, all the hard work of the parent can be undone in a single instant by callous, insensitive, or unaware actions of adults within, or that cross into, the child’s milieu.
- Failure to meet human needs leads to “voids,” i.e., feelings of dissatisfaction and emptiness. Unmet needs do not go away. As adults, we might deny our need for belonging, love, etc., but they don’t go away. Our essential needs remain salient factors and, when unmet, become unconscious motivators, causing people to seek satisfaction of these needs in various, often toxic and unconscious ways. Kanye West is a good example. His toxic childhood left him with many unmet needs, in particular, his need for the love and acceptance of a father figure. His temporary alignment with Donald Trump, whom he openly admitted was like a father to him, was an unconscious attempt to satisfy an unmet psychological need. Kanye attracted to Trump because Trump presents, to people like Kanye, as the archetypal father.
- The presence of unmet and unconscious needs makes people easy to manipulate. If you have an unmet need for esteem and power, you will be attracted to opportunities and people where that need can be met. Anybody “in the know” can manipulate through your unmet needs. This is a common practice of advertisers who manipulate you into a purchase by promising their products will meet certain unmet needs.
- Consumerism is built on the false promise of need satisfaction. No matter how many products you buy, you can never satisfy your need for power, esteem, love, belongingness, alignment, or transcendence.
- Failure to meet all the human needs leads, in the best of cases, to the diminishment of human potential and lowered CQ. In the worst cases, i.e., when failure to meet human needs is accompanied by chronic boundary violating violence and assault, failure to meet the essential human needs can lead to disconnection of the human physical unit and the development of mental infections. Failure to meet essential needs destroys empathy, compassion, intelligence, and our ability to connect with Self and others. In the very worst cases, we see the development of the type of “deplorable,” hate-filled psychopathy that, when combined with old energy archetypal nodes (Sosteric 2018b), allows elites to weaponize the masses to further their economic agendas (Sosteric 2017).
To summarize, if humans are going to grow up healthy and connected, their essential needs need to be completely satisfied. Satisfaction of humanity’s seven essential human needs is impossible within the current global System and will require a fundamental transformation not only of that system, but in the way we think about our lives, raise our children, organize our contributions (i.e. our work) to society, etc. We’ll need to go to work not to “make money” (i.e. accumulate labour power) but to participate in the collective effort to fully satisfy human needs.
Anyon, Jean. 1980. “Social Class and the Hidden Curriculum of Work.” Journal of Education no. 162 (1).
Jung, Carl G. 1938. Psychology and Religion. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Laszlo, Ervin, Stanislav Grof, and Peter Russell. 1999. The Consciousness Revolution. Las Vegas: Elf Rock Productions.
Sosteric, Mike. 2016. Rocket Scientists’ Guide to Money and the Economy: Accumulation and Debt. St Albert, Alberta: Lightning Path Press.
Sosteric, Mike. 2017. Trump’s manipulation of mass consciousness. The Conversation.
Sosteric, Mike. The End of the World as We’ve Known It 2018a. Available from https://www.sociology.org/end-of-the-world-as-we-known-it/.
Sosteric, Mike. From Zoroaster to Star Wars, Jesus to Marx: The Science and Technology of Mass Human Behaviour 2018b. Available from https://www.academia.edu/34504691.
Sosteric, Mike, and Gina Ratkovic. What does it mean to be human: Abraham Maslow and his hierarchies of need. Academia.edu 2018. Available from https://www.academia.edu/35635479/.
Mike Sosteric (Dr. S.)