I continue here from my last post – Learnings from a son to his father
Since I wrote down what I learnt from my child, the same thought has been haunting me. What if I am wrong and misinterpreting? Are those 3 needs mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive? (Yes, I know that’s the inner consultant in me speaking). So I decided to question my understanding today. And this is what I did – Studied Maslow’s theory of human motivation (Quick recap of the hierarchy below)
- Physiological needs -Food, water, air, sleep, sex
- Safety needs – Physical, financials, health
- Love/Belonging – Friendship, intimacy, family
- Esteem – achievement, adequacy, confidence, freedom, reputation
- Self-actualization – To realize what a man can be, reach an ideal
While, Maslow’s theory seems to be true (read acceptable) for grown up individuals and it is the most popular theory to explain what we as humans need / want, it’s difficult to imagine any esteem or self-actualization needs for an infant. Those are higher order needs which seem to be developed out of experiences we have in life and thus are probably not fundamental needs. It’s worth investigating what the fundamental building blocks are and how they develop into such complex needs
My basic hypothesis is that the fundamental needs of human beings are to know (wonder), to be nurtured (care) and to seek peace. All other needs develop over time as manifestations of these needs or as a combination of these needs.
My argument is as follows –
- Needs may not necessarily be an orderly hierarchy and might be a range of emotional needs simultaneously stemming out of the basic three needs like a tree. (Refer to the illustration below). From my newborn’s ability to express all the basic needs, I feel the three basic needs do not develop in any particular priority or order but are present right from infancy. Other needs develop from these based on life experiences.
- At the most basic level, Care involves enabling the person to survive and grow. Physiological needs are simply all the requirements arising out of the instincts of survival (and growth) under normal circumstances while Safety needs are survival requirements which arise out of the possibility of danger / adversity in the environment. Belonging to a community additionally helps in survival and growth through the benefit of cooperation.
- The second important root need is Peace or Harmony, within and outside. It arises out of our instinctive ability to envisage a future or create expectations of what ought to be. Whenever reality differs from our desired / envisaged thought, it is expressed to us either by self-realization or through feedback from others. Closer the reality is to our envisaged thought; we either are internally satisfied or externally approved. In both cases, we feel peaceful (It went as per plan, nothing went wrong, it’s exactly how it should be etc.). If reality is different (e.g. unknown people, unexpected sounds, not finding something at its place / at the right time etc.), it puts us at unease and disturbs the sense of harmony
- Finally, the curiosity to know about the unknown is another instinctive faculty that our species has developed. That seems to have given us the third important need – The need to know / Wonder. It involves both developing an understanding of the world and thus philosophical questions like “What is the universe” or understanding oneself or questions like “Why do I exist”
I am still curious if the classification can be completed in a mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive manner or if there are interactions within the needs which result in further complex needs. For example, if our Sense of peace is disturbed (say an unexpected noise), does it also necessarily trigger the sense of danger and activate the need of Safety at the same time. Is “Love” something that merely gives us a peaceful and harmonious feeling with another person or is it derived from needs like belonging and cooperation.
Finally, I submit that all my thoughts are just hypothesis and may be either a great truth or be completely off the mark. Only a detailed research can answer this. I only hope I could analyze my own learning and developed a reasonable theory 🙂
Illustration below: (Not exhaustive)