American psychologist Abraham Maslow was deeply influenced by the work of Freud. Like Freud, Maslow believed that our personalities and behaviors are shaped by our subconscious mind.
However, unlike the Freudian subconscious, which is driven by pure instinct and drives such as sex and aggression, the humanist subconscious is informed by our experiences in life.
These experiences include everything from what we eat to who we spend time with to what we read and watch. All of these things can have a profound effect on us as human beings.
The more that we experience life, the more developed we become as individuals. This is why people often say that travel changed them; all of a sudden, you are confronted with new people, places, things, and situations that make you think differently or act differently. It opens you up to new experiences and takes you out of your comfort zone.
The need for meaning
Maslow believed that we all have a need to understand and perceive our place in the world. This need he labeled the need for meaning.
We all want to feel that our lives have an inherent value, that we’re living for something or someone bigger than ourselves.
We want to feel like we’re playing a part in some greater scheme of things, that our existence has a purpose.
This need is particularly strong when we’re suffering from other needs deprivation. If you’re starving, for example, you’ll start to wonder why you’re alive and what the point of it is. You won’t be able to enjoy any small pleasures because you’ll keep asking yourself: What am I doing this for? What does it all mean? Why am I here? Why isn‘t there more than this? What good is any of it? The New York Times notes that people who are facing death often ask questions like these. It can be very hard to quell these kinds of thoughts.
Examples of how to find meaning
Following are a few ways to find meaning in your life. You can do these alone or with others, and they cost little or nothing.
1. Volunteer at an organization that serves the community. There are hundreds of organizations in every major city that need volunteers, so find one that interests you and invest your time in their work.
2. Create your own organization to fulfill a need in the community that you see. By doing this, you are creating something that benefits the community and adds meaning to your life.
3. Take an interest in a cause that matters to you and learn about it. By sharing this information with others, you are giving them information that may inspire them to take action on it, joining you in its fulfillment.
4. Take an interest in any topic and research it thoroughly to gain knowledge about it. Then, share this knowledge with others to help them.
Examples of how to find purpose
Maslow also believed that we can find purpose in our work, in our communities, and in ourselves.
In our work, he believed that we can find purpose in the type of work we do, the workplace we are in, and the way in which we contribute to both.
In our communities, he believed that we can find purpose in the ways in which we contribute to our communities. We can do this by participating in community events or by volunteering with organizations that help people who need it.
And, lastly, he believed that we can find purpose in ourselves by being aware of who we are and what makes us who we are. By being aware of this, he thought that you could bring out your best qualities and reveal your true self.
He also said that you can find purpose by developing relationships with other people. By doing this, you will help each other achieve your highest needs.
How to address the self
Maslow believed that in order to have a fulfilling life, one must address the self. This includes being aware of one’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as being aware of what one wants and needs.
He also believed that one must be aware of how they spend their time, money, and energy. Furthermore, he believed that people need to be aware of how they treat others and the world around them.
In his paper “The Farther Reaches of Human Nature,” he writes: “I am convinced that the most crucial problem in human life is not merely the urge to satisfy certain elementary physiological and safety needs but the need to satisfy these higher needs of personality.”
In other words, he believes that in order to have a fulfilling life we must not only meet our basic needs for food, shelter, clothing, safety, and sex but also meet our higher needs for purpose and meaning.
Who is Abraham Maslow?
American psychologist Abraham Maslow is best known for his theory of human development. He described a hierarchy of needs that must be satisfied in order of priority.
According to Maslow, the needs at the lowest level must be satisfied before the needs at the next level can be satisfied. He called this a pyramid shape, with the largest base representing basic physiological needs, and the smallest point at the top representing self-actualization.
Maslow referred to the needs for purpose and meaning that lie beyond the self as being transcendent needs. In other words, these are not purely personal desires or wants, but rather something that goes beyond an individual and benefits others as well.
These transcendent needs are not strictly ordered in terms of priority, but all five must be fulfilled in order to achieve psychological health. Healthline reported that these include interpersonal relationships, creativity, spirituality, contributions to society, and acceptance of one’s mortality (or what psychologists call existentialism).
What is the hierarchy of needs?
American psychologist Abraham Maslow (1908–1970) developed a theory of human development that focuses on five sets of needs that must be satisfied in sequence.
These needs include the need for safety, the need for love and belonging, the need for self-esteem, the need for purpose and meaning, and the need to excel. Only after these needs are satisfied can someone move to the next level.
According to Maslow, people don’t seek money per se; they seek what money can buy. People don’t pursue education or occupation advancement per se; they pursue something that provides a sense of purpose and meaning.
They don’t pursue happiness per se; they pursue something that makes them feel happy. And none of these things can be achieved unless a person has met all the preceding needs first.
Needs in this hierarchy must be satisfied in sequence.
Does having wealth eliminate the need for meaning?
According to Maslow’s theory, the need for wealth is predicated upon the need to satisfy our needs for safety and security.
Can having wealth actually undermine our sense of safety and security? Can it actually undermine our sense of self-worth? Can it actually undermine our need to find purpose in what we do?
As we’ve seen, many wealthy people spend enormous amounts of money on things that don’t really satisfy their needs for meaning, belonging, and purpose.
Many wealthy people spend enormous amounts of time working at what they do simply because they want to accumulate even more wealth — not because it satisfies some deep need within them.
As we’ll see in a moment, this can have very negative consequences — not only for the wealthy person himself or herself, but also for society as a whole.
What happens when we don’t address the self?
Maslow believed that if we don’t meet our needs at a lower level, we can’t move on to meet higher-level needs. For example, if we don’t have safety or security, we can’t move on to the need for love and belonging or esteem.
If we don’t have a sense of purpose or meaning in our life, we can’t move on to fully embrace our own self-esteem and self-acceptance.
He referred to these lower needs as “deficit needs” because we feel like there’s a hole in us that must be filled before we can go on to other things.
When people don’t address these basic needs, they may turn to addictions or other behaviors that try to fill the void. Addiction is one of the most common responses to deficits in need satisfaction.