Pursuit of Human Needs
Do you have someone in your immediate family or a childhood friend, who makes you wonder how someone so close to you has turned out so different in their perspective on life? Each encounter with this person seems to be shallow, and you cannot seem to go beyond the pleasantries of 'hi, how are you doing'. This gets particularly interesting if you notice that it was not an issue many years ago when you seemed to be completely 'okay' with this person. Something seems to have changed over the years. Was it something in them or could it be something in you that has shifted over the years? I have had friends bring up this phenomenon, which gets quite awkward when this feeling extends to most of the people who had considered your "circle" for a while and you don't enjoy their company anymore.
While it is common knowledge that change is the only constant in life, and as one 'transcends', one develops a distaste for the old paradigm, I recently came across a theory that succinctly captures the phenomenon of transcendence. Abraham Maslow published a paper on 'hierarchy of needs' in 1943 in which he stratified the needs of a human being over the course of a lifetime into five layers. Starting from bare survival, this theory steps through the groups of needs of a human as it tends to fulfill one group to move to the next.
It seems to relate to the chakras of a human body, starting from survival needs such as air, food, water, sleep, excretion, etc. Once these physiological needs are met, the being seeks to secure the needs so they are guaranteed for the immediate future. In this frame of mind, one attempts to create or subscribe to a system that ensures the safety of body, employment, family, health, etc. for the near future. After that, the being looks to develop one's social needs through building connection by making friends and growing intimacy with ones partner. The next stage is developing ones self-esteem and confidence by indulging in activities that bring name and fame. After these external pursuits are realized, the being transcends to level where one looks inwards for happiness. In this phase of self-actualization, the being is driven by a sense of personal responsibility and ethics, making room for pauses for quiet reflection to decipher ones own inner voice. "What a man can be, he must be." Individuals who are self-actualized often have what Maslow termed peak experiences, or moments of intense joy, wonder, awe and ecstasy. After these experiences, people feel inspired, strengthened, renewed or transformed. Such a person is driven by purpose and is unaffected by others opinions.
Look back at your own life and notice if your journey aligns with these layers of needs. Where do you find yourself right now in the hierarchy? If you are reading this article, you are probably somewhere close to the top. And if you are, like me, you have a select group of people you truly enjoying spending time with; people who you can trust your life with.
Notice the evolution of the psychology of a baby fits this model. As an infant, it doesn't care of people's opinion, blissful immersed in it's babbling. As it grows, it slowly enters into the game of securing and consolidating it's place in this world while losing its bliss and then eventually coming full circle when it goes back to the state of being carefree after realizing that the ultimate pursuit is being in ones bliss.
In closure, this comical markup to the hierarchy reflects life in our digital age. Do you find yourself caught up in 'the web', at the expense of getting enough sleep and meals?