Many years ago, before I was married, one of my husband’s friends used Maslov’s hierarchy of needs to convince him that it was okay to cheat on his then-girlfriend, which was me. I thought this was certainly a unique argument, though the motivations of his friend Billy were less than honorable, or unique.
I had heard of Maslov’s Pyramid, though had never explored the dogma of it until then. Once I gave it some thought I was pissed that someone would twist this load of garbage into a way to manipulate a friend.
Maslov’s pyramid consists of 5 levels with basic human needs for survival on the bottom. These would be the most primal, sex, food, water, etc. This is called the Physiological Level. Once those needs are met the human moves up to the next level. This next level is how he meets the needs of the first level. This level means he has a job, starts building a family, develops morals, etc.
Obviously, you can’t achieve one level without the other. Or can you? I have seen plenty of homeless folks that would argue this point with you. Level 2 is called the Safety Level. Level 3 is all about human interaction. Love, sex and acceptance. It’s called, oddly enough, the Love and Acceptance Level. I’m guessing that once you’re fed and watered and you feel safe, then it’s okay to accept and give love to another human being.
Am I to believe that those pot-bellied children, starving in war-torn, third world countries, don’t love their mothers? None of their needs are met according to the pyramid.
Level 4 is all about self esteem and respect for others.
Where does the observation “Hey dude, it’s okay to continue to explore your options regardless of your previous commitments. She’s just going to have to understand that you’re still a free agent” fit into the idea of Respect for Others?
Did I not deserve respect?
How was cheating on your mate going to help boost your self esteem? It feels to me that this is the opposite of self esteem because insecurity, fear and narcissism are usually the reasons people cheat on their mates.
Level 5 is the end all, be all according to Maslov. This level is where you want to be in life. The ever popular Self Actualization Level. Oh yes, once you’re there you’re living the life you’re meant to live. You’re moral, you’re creative, you’re prosperous, spontaneous, you’re not prejudiced and you see things as they are presented to you. No more magical thinking involved. This level does sound perfect.
Maslov refers to the bottom 4 layers of the pyramid as D-needs. “D” meaning deficient.
Can you imagine?
Take your own life as an example. Compare it to the pyramid. Everything you stand for, everything you believe and work for everyday was considered defective, inefficient and inadequate according to this scientist. How does that make you feel?
The problem with Billy the Bad Friend’s interpretation of the pyramid is that to reach Level 5 you have to conquer the other 4 levels. My then-boyfriend had already conquered those, but Billy disagreed. He spent hours trying to convince him otherwise.
I have a theory about why he would go to such great lengths.
I think that when Billy observed my then-boyfriend he saw in him everything he wished for himself. A home, a good job, moving upward in society, a loving girlfriend that put him first and took care of his needs and confidence in knowing that his life was very good. Billy’s envy, that covetous nature in him, made for a deadly breeding ground. For someone who kept claiming he was above everyone else, that he was indeed the self actualized human being, the meta-motivated man that was beyond the mere pyramid, Billy was really nothing more than a snake oil salesman with a deep seated need to tear anyone down he thought might already be happy.
My introduction to Maslov’s Pyramid was many, many years ago. You’ll notice that in the first paragraph I refer to my then-boyfriend as my husband. That’s because we eventually married and have been together for over two decades now.
When Billy came into our lives we had only been a couple for three years. Billy worked with my husband back then so I had only met him a half dozen times. I didn’t even know him, had never shared a meal with him or even had a conversation with him that lasted more than five minutes. But I will never forget him.
He contacted my husband a few years after he left the company. He was living with his girlfriend on a farm raising chickens. I had my say then. I told him he was a toxic person and he had no place in our lives and he needed to go away. His response was almost apologetic. I wasn’t interested in his remorse.
We’ve never heard from him again.
Maslov’s Pyramid is rooted in the field of Social Science, the field I have worked in for over 20 years. His theories were all gathered from field research subjects over a period of time., but Maslov only studied a select segment and not the masses. He studied the elite and the normal, or who he assumed were normal.
Take for instance Albert Einstein. He was one of Maslov’s top subjects for this study. It has been suggested that Albert Einstein suffered from a form of Autism, Asperger Syndrome. People suffering with Asperger Syndrome have trouble with Social Interactions. That’s not the norm in any given segment of population.
Maslov’s criteria and his protocol were flawed.
In my professional opinion, Maslov’s Pyramid is rubbish.