Why Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Isn’t Real

You see the little pyramid graphic, with safety as the base and self-actualization at the apex. This isn’t how I live at all, and it annoys me to see it laid out so neatly. Granted I’m grateful to have enough to eat and my bungalow of an adobe house. But safety? In the existential or even practical sense? As a woman, a disabled person, and a Jew? Something I neither have nor expect to acquire.

I’d say the first level states the obvious. Without air to breathe you are dead and not worrying about Maslow. However, a person in extremis might have more need for human connection or even meaning than for food they can’t digest. At least this has been my experience working with hospice.

For an infant, the first three levels merge–you can’t really use one without the other. The graphic below claims to be about our shared situation during the pandemic. I disagree completely.

At the start of the pandemic I didn’t wake up and think: thank goodness I have toilet paper and diet root beer. I woke up in a panic. Where were my friends? How was my family? Could I write? How could I serve the community? Could I meditate? Was meaning available to me? What did I need to resist?

And I think it is weak to call this “privilege” unless you are going to add the idea of class. A lack of money, health, even freedom does not prevent a person from seeking connection and understanding. And it does not destroy creativity. In fact, I’d propose that it is an excess of the material that is just as bad, if not worse. Oppression is in and of itself evil, but it certainly does not remove a person’s capacity to love and hope. And to think.

Well, call me philosophical or a Marxist or a hippie or maybe just a poet. Threaten to take away my diet root beer and imagine I’ll collapse to the base of the pyramid. We can’t predict how we’ll act, but we can see how we’ve acted. And Maslow’s stair master isn’t what I’m climbing.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized by Miriam Sagan. Bookmark the permalink.

About Miriam Sagan

I'm blogging about poetry, land art, haiku, women artists, road trips, and Baba Yaga at Miriam's Well (https://miriamswell.wordpress.com). The well is ALWAYS looking to publish poetry on our themes, sudden fiction, and guest bloggers and musers.

4 thoughts on “Why Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Isn’t Real

  1. Interesting take on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, Mir. But I beg to differ on what oppression does to someone’s psyche in relation to hope. It may not rob you of your capacity to love, but it certainly can rob you of your capacity to hope. What is depression if not, among other things, a lack of hope? Perhaps the operative word is ‘capacity.’ Can you have the capacity to hope and still feel hopeless?

    • Thought provoking response–thank you! I guess I’m thinking about Victor Frankl in terms of meaning–which is a kind of hope. However, this may be an ideal. I’ve certainly felt hopeless in life, but I think you are right–the potential for hope remains. However it might take rising expectations–some kind of improvement–for it to appear.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s