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When Will Your Needs Finally Be Met?
Written By: Jennifer Doerr

I set out to better understand my different levels of needs. I found an expert who put me on a good start! Abraham Maslow was famous in the world of psychology for his study on the needs that are to be met in people in order to feel complete and satisfied. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs states that each need must be met before being able to successfully move on to the next level --with a final need being self-actualization. Self-actualization is when you realize your personal potential, you feel self-fulfillment, and you are seeking personal growth and positive experiences. In order to achieve this, you must meet the needs that lead you there. The five-stage model that Maslow developed known as the “hierarchy of needs” starts with physiological needs such as food, drink, shelter, warmth, and sleep. If these biological needs are met, the next level is to feel safe. Safety needs include feeling protected from the elements, having security, order, stability, and feeling free from fear. The next level is love and belongingness, or social needs that include friendships, intimacy, affection, family, acceptance and romantic love. Finally, before you can reach self-actualization, certain esteem needs must be met such as achievement, mastering something like your career, or having independence and respect. Abraham Maslow stated that human motivation is based on people seeking fulfillment and change through personal growth. Self-actualized people are those who were fulfilled and doing all they were capable of (Maslow, 1954).

So what happens when we really didn’t get these needs met in our childhood and adolescence? You may come from a home where you were physically taken care of: your parents provided you with a home, food, water, a bed to sleep in, and education. For many who may read this, we should acknowledge this level because they did not feel safe in their homes--they were instilled with fear by one or both of their parents. However, most will start getting stuck at the next level because although they didn’t feel fearful in their own home, they did feel a lack of belongingness, acceptance or affection from their parents and/or siblings. For me, this is where I got stuck because my older brother was the favored child, and there would be nothing I could ever do in life to live up to him. Therefore, I was not granted the feeling of belongingness and acceptance. Instead, I felt unworthy, incapable, and flawed. Should you be so lucky to have had your physiological, safety, and social needs met, you may get stuck on the esteem needs. If I judge Maslow’s theory based on my own life, it makes sense to me that I could not reach a sense of achievement or respect due to the fact that Maslow says we cannot move on to the next level until we meet each level of needs.

If we didn’t get our needs met are we now just screwed? We can never achieve self-actualization? The answer is “NO”. We are capable of filling these needs ourselves and through relationships with others, especially your significant other. The needs that were or are not met in your life do not diminish just because you are now an adult. These needs won’t subside just because you hold down a job, you are well-educated, or because you’ve produced offspring. There’s really no way around meeting these needs and the good news is that it’s never too late to readdress them. To me, my needs often feel like a huge hole that sits in my soul. I have tried to fill it with knowledge in books, research on why I feel the way I feel; I’ve tried to fill it with the love from a man, success at my job, sometimes even drinking and smoking has made the list of fillers. There is no quick fix. It took time to build the hole, and it will take time to fill it. I realized I had to go back to the level of needs that were neglected as a child, the lack of belongingness and acceptance, in order to meet those needs myself and with the help of my husband, in order to truly move on to work on my esteem and reach true self-actualization. For you, try to understand your need levels—and either start or continue on your path to recovery.

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This article was authored by Family Tree Counseling Associates, a marriage, individual and family counseling center serving the Indianapolis, Carmel, Fishers, Westfield and Noblesville communities in Indiana. If you would like to contact us, please fill out a contact us form or call us at 317-844-2442.
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