In 1943 in his paper A Theory of Human Motivation, Abraham Maslow designed what he called his pyramid of needs. We see by the diagram the basic human needs – breathing, food, water, sex, sleep, homeostasis and excretion – on the lower part of the pyramid, denoting that these are minimal survival needs. When someone has secured these needs, they rise in the pyramid to the next level needs.
The securities bring us above animal survival into an area of needing security and establishing it. We may at times lose health, family, employment etc, but we may also regain it. In Western culture, many people would have a preoccupation in these matters. Those who have established these securities in the main may feel that their concerns in everyday life reflect the middle section of the pyramid focussing on building friendships, family & sexual intimacy with a degree of maturity and permanence. Again, common in Western Society, and often devastating when lost. The Esteem level has a more rarified atmosphere. The population who have so established the first three levels that they are attaining to the fourth are relatively few, and the self actualisation level is the most difficult of all to reach.
Take into account that there can be variations of establishment on the lower levels. Third level family, for example, does not denote that someone cannot rise to the fourth level until they have a solid relationship based on trust, well-behaved children, and a problem free familial relationship through three or more generations. Instead it may denote someone who experiences family problems that they handle with confidence, or even someone for whom other family members are no longer in their lives, yet they have come to terms with and accepted this. Self actualisation is rare. We may well have a creative streak, but can we command it? We may be spontaneous at times, but are we most usually rooted in routine behaviour. Self-actualisation is the pinnacle of the self aware. We cannot enter the domain of self-actualisation proper until the other four are conquered, but we can have an understanding of the self actualised life. Acceptance of facts, for example is self knowledge – the banishment of self deceit and conceit! There is no prevarication at this level, the facts are bold, the statements confident. Those who aspire to it can learn the language of self-actualisation, which is in itself empowering. These are “I” statements by people who no longer say “you” when they mean “me”. I frequently hear people make statements such as “you really don’t need this in life” when they mean “I really don’t need this in my life”. We deflect feelings by deflecting the personal pronoun, but to use “I” in every case it is meant brings us closer to our feelings and opens reality to use – we are creating self-actualising conditions. It seems so odd that we shy away from involvement and avoid “I feel”, “I will”, “I am” substituting “you feel” or “one feels”. If we own our feelings, we accept reality, and only by accepting reality can we tackle it honestly.