self-transcendence needs may emerge.
Hierarchy is considered a bad word in today’s pluralistic culture. But it’s actually a term that is not only important but essential in understanding how we humans operate. Unless our most basic needs for air, water, food, and shelter are met, we cannot survive and we certainly won’t be thinking elevated thoughts.
We must have some kind of rule-based structure in order to feel safe—with groups/tribes being the most fundamental way of maintaining that structure. Even animals form into family groups and herds—some with very sophisticated hierarchical structures, such as the wolf pack.
You are probably aware that psychologist Abraham H. Maslow (1908-1970) outlined the developmental hierarchy of human needs, which places self-actualization as the top level of human development.
This model is still considered Maslow’s seminal work (1943, 1954) that was based on extensive observation of psychologically healthy individuals.
He defined self-actualization this way:
It refers to the [person’s] desire for self-fulfillment, namely, to the tendency for him to become actualized in what he is potentially. The specific form that these needs will take will, of course, vary greatly from person to person. ”
In other words, each of us has unique talents that potentially can be developed far beyond the perspective of social groups, and even beyond a need for approval from those groups. And for many people, fulfilling their potential is the driving force of their lives.
In the last three years of Maslow’s life (1967-1970), he concluded that self-actualization is actually not the top of the hierarchy of human needs.
For many people—whether or not they have maximized their human potential—self-transcendence needs (often called intrinsic values) may emerge.
These are values such as truth, goodness, beauty, perfection, excellence, simplicity or elegance.
There is also the need for transcendent or peak experiences that include a feeling of unitive consciousness and a need for sacralized work that involves service to others.
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