Tag Archives: Needs

The Significance of Needs

I was introduced early to the concept of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and have been fascinated by it ever since. This fits my ISTJ love of
English: Diagram showing the hierarchy of need...

English: Diagram showing the hierarchy of needs based on Abraham Maslow’s theories in the 1950s. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

categories, definitions and boundaries. It’s akin to my appreciation for personality tests as the categories are helpful to explain and understand observable features of people and life.

The hierarchy is based on the fact that humans have needs, and the most fundamental of these needs is represented by the first level of the hierarchy often displayed as a pyramid. There are various models of the hierarchy.

The four basic needs represented by the pyramid are:

  • Physiological needs
  • Safety
  • Love and belonging
  • (Some models add esteem needs here)
  • Self-actualization

Only when the lower levels are met can you concern yourself with the higher levels. For example, no matter how much you may want to contemplate your identity or the meaning of life, you may not be able to pursue this (let alone ask this) if you spend most of your time hungry and  all your energy is devoted to finding food. Only when you’ve met one type of need will you be able to move on to meet the higher level need.

Thus it has been theorized that people in the West are able to dedicate resources for building universities and libraries and live a life of learning because we tend to be well fed and clothed. Our worries won’t be about not having enough to eat so we are free to worry about things like what we look like and what job we should get.

On the other hand, people living in poverty don’t have this chance to ‘find out who they are’ or search for meaning in life because they’re too busy just trying to survive.

Perhaps part of social justice is allowing all people to not only have access to clean water and nutritious food but to be able to contemplate life and the more philosophical questions.

Or perhaps, this is just a horribly ethnocentric view. Perhaps people fighting for survival also think about the big questions of life and perhaps they have better answers than those in the West. Perhaps being able to read books and ask questions all day isn’t an ideal all people should be striving for.

Either way, I know I value thinking about the big questions and being able to do so without fear of where my next meal will come from. I enjoy it and part of me feels I need to pursue it too.

The hierarchy also suggests that if these four needs aren’t met in a person, they will (if not physically suffer) mentally suffer in terms of experiencing anxiety and frustration. I know I feel this mental tension and it’s part of the drive for The Cognitive Life and all my writing, and reading and learning.

While there are criticisms of the hierarchy, I see some validity in the theory and can take what is helpful and useful while being aware of its limitations.

There are other versions of the hierarchy of needs and this is one I found relevant.

While all stages are part of me, I think I must currently predominantly be at the ‘need to know and understand’ stage while aiming for those higher levels at the pinnacle of the pyramid and continuing to assess the lower levels.

Where are you?

Put Positive Psychology to the Test


Positive Psychology

Perhaps one of the strongest motivations for the development of the recent branch of psychology known as Positive Psychology is the desire to move away from viewing the purpose of care as the treatment of mental illness. Professionals see things that are wrong with patients and they go to work to try and correct or fix the problems.

If the names Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers sound familiar to you, somewhere, you were exposed to another branch of psychology from the 20th century known as humanistic psychology, focusing heavily on happiness and fulfillment. Fast forward about 30 years and in 1998 tens of millions of dollars in research was invested in the formation and development of Positive Psychology with the names of Martin Seligman and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi carrying the banner this time.

Positive psychology is grounded in the belief that people want to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives. This foundation views people wanting to cultivate what is best within them, and to enhance their experiences of love, work, and play.

The three central threads of positive psychology weave together positive emotions, positive individual traits and positive institutions. When we develop and maintain these positive emotions, traits and institutions we enhance the experiences in our lives and create the meaningful and fulfilling lives we are intended to live.

Possessing positive emotions means we are pleased with and have come to terms with our past, we experience contentment and happiness with where we are in our present; and we have a sense of positive anticipation and hope for the future.

Positive traits involve an individual’s strengths and virtues. Wisdom, self-control, moderation, self-knowledge, integrity, curiosity, creativity, resilience, compassion, courage, and a person’s capacity for love and work are all examples of such virtues and strengths.

Strengths that foster tolerance and justice, promote responsibility and civility, encourage nurturing and parenting, help develop positive work ethics, leadership and, teamwork, and define purpose all help a person develop and maintain positive institutions.

It is said the average person has upwards of 60,000 thoughts daily. For most of us, many of these thoughts are repetitive – things we tell ourselves over and over again. If we can learn to pull our attention away from the chronic negativity and focus on more positive self-nurturing, this can have amazingly positive advantages to our overall well-being. It is to this end that positive psychology commits continued research and development.

Positive Psychology Test-Drive

Feelings don’t last forever, whether they are wonderful or miserable. A quick, painless way to perform your own experiment about the effectiveness of positive psychology is to develop a sense of “mindfulness” about anything that makes you feel uncomfortable. Mindfulness is a zeroing in on the present, pulling and pushing thoughts of the past and the future aside and focusing intently on the exact moment.


As soon as the negative inner chatter starts it is time to be mindful and turn the situation into an opportunity to know you better. Strongly ask yourself the question “How long is this going to last?”

You will be instantly transported from the stressful thoughts and emotions that piggyback on each other to make it much worse and cause the negative event to last much longer. By stepping away from connections to your past experiences and concerns about the future outcome you have placed yourself directly into the present, into the moment. You have taken the focus off the negative and directed your attention onto something you have the ability to determine right here and now.

Please let me know how this turns out for you. Comment below or drop me a quick comment at colormywords@hotmail.com and tell me about your first experience with positive psychology.


I’m a licensed clinical social worker and have worked extensively as a counselor with children, adolescents, couples and families. I combine professional experience in the mental health field along with my love of writing to provide insight into real-life experiences and relationships. I hope my down-to-earth approach to living a happier, more meaningful life is easy to understand and just as easy to start implementing right away for positive results!