It seems many know the expression Maslow's pyramid. But how many outside of academia are conversant with the nuanced meaning Abraham Maslow was putting into the concept of a hierarchy of needs? I suppose not that many.
And that's a shame, since the paper A Theory of Human Motivation (published in 1943), which introduced this idea into the field of psychology, is pleasant and easy to read. It is also very short! All in all, the paper enables a reader to comprehend the fundamentals of the theory without putting in enormous effort. So, I hope the following quotes encourage one to spend an evening or two in the company of this wonderful author.
That is to say, the person who thinks he is hungry may actually be seeking more for comfort, or dependence, than for vitamins or proteins.
For our chronically and extremely hungry man, Utopia can be defined very simply as a place where there is plenty of food. He tends to think that, if only he is guaranteed food for the rest of his life, he will be perfectly happy and will never want anything more.
… it is precisely those individuals in whom a certain need has always been satisfied who are best equipped to tolerate deprivation of that need in the future, and that furthermore, those who have been deprived in the past will react differently to current satisfactions than the one who has never been deprived.
The tendency to have some religion or world-philosophy that organizes the universe and the men in it into some sort of satisfactorily coherent, meaningful whole is also in part motivated by safety-seeking.
Some neurotic adults in our society are, in many ways, like the unsafe child in their desire for safety, although in the former it takes on a somewhat special appearance. Their reaction is often to unknown, psychological dangers in a world that is perceived to be hostile, overwhelming and threatening. Such a person behaves as if a great catastrophe were almost always impending, i.e., he is usually responding as if to an emergency. His safety needs often find specific expression in a search for a protector, or a stronger person on whom he may depend, or perhaps, a Fuehrer.
It refers to the desire for self-fulfillment, namely, to the tendency for him to become actualized in what he is potentially. This tendency might be phrased as the desire to become more and more what one is, to become everything that one is capable of becoming.
It then becomes possible, and indeed does actually happen, that they may, for the sake of this higher need, put themselves into the position of being deprived in a more basic need.
People who have been satisfied in their basic needs throughout their lives, particularly in their earlier years, seem to develop exceptional power to withstand present or future thwarting of these needs simply because they have strong, healthy character structure as a result of basic satisfaction.
Thwarting of unimportant desires produces no psychopathological results; thwarting of a basically important need does produce such results.
a healthy man is primarily motivated by his needs to develop and actualize his fullest potentialities and capacities. If a man has any other basic needs in any active, chronic sense, then he is simply an unhealthy man.