So what is happiness? How can someone reach their full potential?
What are the needs that all humans share in common? In the last video I talked about psychology and psychiatry and how they mainly emphasize the negative side of mental health, and I said I would be doing a video later on what Maslow’s definition of what mental health is. That’s what I’m going to be talking about today.
What is mental health really?
Abraham Maslow belonged to a school of psychology called humanistic psychology.
What humanistic psychology is is the, it focuses on the full potential of a human being. You could call this positive psychology. Instead of focusing on the negative aspect like mental disorders or psychosis, you would focus on the positive side like making a person better, or how could you make someone reach their full potential. Maslow is most known for his theory of human hierarchy of needs.
That’s what we’re going to be discussing today.
Behind me is the chart for Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. You may have seen this chart in high school or college in a psychology class, but I’m going to point out a few things
that you probably not taught in school. What I’m going to do is go through each level and I’m going to give you a few examples, but what I want you to do is compare these to your own personal experience and see if you haven’t observed these in your own life.
We have a pyramid, and there are five levels. Each level represents human needs. At the top we have a person who has achieved his full potential, or actual mental health. Maslow calls this self-actualization.
Now in order to achieve self-actualization you need to fulfill the needs of all levels because if you at any time fail to fulfill the needs of a level you get stuck at that level. Let me give you an example. At the top you have creativity and personal expression. Let’s say we have a ballerina. She is really awesome. She is at the height of her career. Now, a natural disaster happens and she can’t find any food.
At this point she drops down to the very bottom level and is only concerned with raw survival. She has to put aside her art and creativity.
At the bottom we have physiological needs; breathing, food, water, sex, sleep and excretion. This is pretty simple. If you need help and you’re really hungry, your entire existence becomes finding food. If you need air and you’re swimming in a pool, and you need air, you’ll do whatever you can so you can get above water where you can get a breath of air. If you need to go to the bathroom you’ll put everything on hold so you can get to a restroom. At the bottom we have needs for immediate survival. Either these needs are met, or you die. If these needs aren’t met they become the entire focus of your existence. At this level you have primitive man; hunters and gatherers and nomads. They spent all of their time trying to find food. They didn’t have time for anything else, so their existence was focused on this first level.
The next one is safety needs. Security of body, of employment, of resources, of family, of health and of property. These are still survival needs, but they are not immediate survival needs. They are a little more long term, but still, if these needs aren’t met you feel that your survival is threatened.
Here’s an example:
The bills keep piling up but you don’t have the money to pay them, so your attention is on finding a job because if you don’t find a job your survival is threatened.
Also at this level is your physical health. I’m sure you can remember a time when you’ve been sick, and you may not die in the next five minutes, but if you didn’t handle your sickness you would eventually die. Also at this level we have the safety and security of your family. If someone threatens your child that becomes your priority. If your physiological needs are met, your immediate survival is taken care of, and your safety needs are met so that your survival is guaranteed over time, then you have time to concentrate on something a little higher than just mere survival.
This is love and belonging needs. including friendship, family and sexual intimacy.
You start to concentrate on relationships. You start making friends. You start to date to maybe meet a mate. Maybe you can even join a club. Now remember, anytime the survival of the lower levels isn’t being met you would go down to that level until it gets handled. I’m sure you’ve heard of a couple getting together and then one of them loses their job and it starts to affect the relationship. How many times have you seen a married couple fight over the income of jobs.
When people’s social needs aren’t met people are usually unhappy, and this leads up to loneliness, isolation, social anxiety and depression. Notice the difference between humanistic psychology and conventional psychiatry. In psychiatry, if you’re depressed or you have social anxiety, you’re given an antidepressant or you’re given a medication for anxiety. For humanistic psychology they would assume your social needs aren’t being met and they would find you people to be with. So you may be thinking,
“Whoa, whoa. Social anxiety is a real thing.”
I’m going to give you a real example. I have a friend who is really, really shy. He had total social anxiety surrounding women. Then he went and met a woman at work and started to date her, and his social needs had become met. They were starting to become met. Soon enough he had no more social anxiety around women. He no longer cared what women thought because his social needs were being met.
The next level is esteem needs. Self esteem, confidence, achievement, respect of others, respect by others. This is how people feel about you and how you feel about yourself.
It would be self esteem and reputation. Probably the easiest way to explain this level would be to give some examples of people trying to fulfill these needs. For instance, have you ever seen how much attention a teenage girl puts on her clothes? Have you ever seen someone trying to keep their good reputation? Have you ever had a friend who was really embarrassed in public and was concerned about being embarrassed? And when someone’s esteem needs aren’t being met, they can suffer from low self-esteem, or an inferiority complex.
So take a look at your life, at someone who is always worried about what others think and worried about their self-esteem, and you’ll get a concept of what esteem needs are.
The last one is self-actualization. This is when someone has achieved their full potential. It includes morality, creativity, spontaneity, problem solving, lack of prejudice and acceptance of facts.
Maslow had a list of fifteen characteristics that a self-actualized person has.
I don’t have time to go over it in this video. That will be the next video, but that is actually the definition of what mental health really is. At least Maslow’s definition.
Now, here’s something you probably didn’t know. Maslow came up with another level above self-actualization. He came up with a level called transcendence, and from that came the school of psychology called
Transpersonal Psychology, but, that’s another video.
In another video coming up, Maslow came up with eight things a person could do to become self-actualized. What are those eight things?
Thanks for watching my video. I really appreciate all the people that comment and rate my videos, so thanks again for that and please continue to do so.
If you have any questions let me know. I’ll see you next time.
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