Guest Author - Terrie Andrade
In the early 1940's Abraham Maslow, a renowned psychologist, released a paper called "A Theory of Human Motivation". The document became famous for its introduction of a hierarchy of the things most often sought by humans in their personal lives. The concept is illustrated in a pyramid form addressing the matters of health, stability and personal fulfillment.
The lowest level, which constitutes the base or foundation, consists of our basic primal needs. These are the physiological necessities that guarantee our survival such as food, water, warmth and shelter. The next category, still considered critical to the wellbeing of humanity, is safety. Safety can mean different things to different people. For some of us it is as simple as a deadbolt lock on our front door or an audible alarm on our car. Others require assurance in the form of money or fame. Children, it seems, find their greatest security in the presence of caring, protective parents...and believe it or not, a structured system of discipline and reward.
The mid-section of the pyramid is devoted to psychological needs. First, is the desire to belong and to experience acceptance. This need is initially met by the family unit and later by friends and other intimate relationships. Beyond the childhood need for recognition and approval is the adult pursuit of reciprocal love. The standards we set and the successes we achieve in those areas will be directly influenced and reflective of how well our early needs were fulfilled.
The tip of the psychological needs category is the matter of personal esteem. Our individual quality of life and love is linked to our self-esteem and confidence. Feelings of accomplishment, success, achievement and performance are all represented in this slice of the pyramid chart. The word "esteem" is often associated with respect and appreciation but in the context of personal assessment it means "to attach a high value". We, as parents, are responsible to teach our children to hold themselves in high esteem as their ability to accept love and respect from others will hinge on this esteem.
At the very top of the chart is the need to be self-fulfilled. It represents the achievement of one's full potential in whatever areas they feel matter most. This can vary from education or the acquisition of possessions or it might be about idealized relationships, careers or social advancement. These priorities and goals change as life progresses.
A review of the levels of necessity or importance makes it clear that our foundational needs are indespensible and must be met to sustain life. Further up the pyramid they are less imperative for physical survival but more critical to our development as well balanced individuals in society. Maslow introduced his theory in 1943, but its simplicity and pertinance are still significant for today's blended family relationships.