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Abraham Maslow and the Hierarchy of Human Needs

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Abraham Harold Maslow was born on April 1, 1908 in Brooklyn, New York. He was the oldest of seven children born to his parents, who were uneducated Jewish immigrants from Russia. His parents, wanting the best for their children in the "new world", pushed him hard in his academic studies. He was smart but shy, and remembered his childhood as being lonely and rather unhappy. He sought refuge in his books and studies. His father hoped he would study as a lawyer, and Maslow enrolled in the City College of New York. After three semesters at CCNY, he transferred to Cornell and then back to CCNY again. He married his first cousin Bertha, against his parents wishes and moved to Wisconsin, where he would attend the University of Wisconsin for graduate school. Here he met his chief mentor Professor Harry Harlow, and became interested in psychology, and his schoolwork began to improve dramatically. He pursued a new line of research, investigating primate dominance behavior and sexuality. He received

his BA in 1930, his MA in 1931, and his PhD in 1934, all in the field of psychology, all from the University of Wisconson. Ayear after he graduated he returned to New York to work with E.L. Thorndike at Colombia, where he studied similar topics. From 1937 to 1951, Maslow worked full-time on staff at Brooklyn College. In NY he found two more mentors, anthropologist Ruth Benedict and Gestalt psychologist Max Wertheimer, whom he he admired both professionally and personally. These two people were so accomplished in what they did and such "wonderful human beings", that Maslow began taking notes about them and their behavior. This would be the foundation for his lifelong research and thinking about mental health and human potential. He wrote extensively on the subject, taking ideas from other psychologists and adding significannot

ly to them, especially the concepts of a hierarchy of human needs, metaneeds, self-actualizing persons, and peak experiences. Maslow became the leader of the humanistic school of psychology that emerged in the 1950's and 1960's, which he referred to as the "third force", beyond Freudian theory and behaviorism. Also during this period of his life, he came into contact with the many European intellectuals that were immigrating to the United States, Brooklyn in particular, people like Adler, Fromm, Horney, as as well as several Gestalt and Freudian psychologists. In 1951, Maslow served as the chair of the psychology department at Brandeis for 10 years, where he met Kurt Goldstein, who introduced him to the idea of self-actualzation, and helped him begin his own theoretical work. It was also here that he began his crusade for a humanistic psychology, something ultimately much more important to him than his own theorizing. In, 1969 he became a resident fellow of the Laughlin Institute in California. A year later after several years of ill health he died of a heart-attack on June 8th.

One of the many interesting things that Maslow noticed, while early in his career working with monkeys, was that some needs take precedence over others. For example, if you are hungry and thirsty, you will tend to try and take care of the thirst first. After all, you can live without food for several weeks, but you can only live a few days without water. Maslow took this idea and created his now famous Hierarchy of human needs. Beyond the details of air, water, food, and sex, he laid out five broader layers. These layers are physiological needs, safety and security needs, the needs for loving and belonging, esteem needs, and self-actualzation, in that order. The physiological needs include the needs we have for oxygen, water, protein, salt, sugar, calcium, and other minerals and vitamins. They also include the need to maintain a pH balance and temperature. There are also the needs to be active, to sleep, to get rid of wastes, to avoid pain, and to have sex. Maslow believed that these are in fact individual needs, and that a lack there of, say vitamin C for example, will lead to very specific hunger for things which have, in the past, provided that vitamin C, for instance orange juice. When physiological needs are largely taken care of, the second layer, or the safety and security needs layer, comes into play. You will become increasingly interested in finding safe circumstances, stability, and protection. You might develop a need for structure, for order, or some limits. Looking at it negatively, you may become concerned, not with needs like hunger or thirst, but with your fears and anxieties. In the ordinary American adult, this set of needs manifest themselves in the form of our urges to have a home in a safe neighborhood, a little job security, a good retirement plan, a bit of insurance, and so on. When physiological and safety needs are mostly taken care of a new layer starts to show, this is the love and belonging



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