Hugh Willard, LPC, writes an interesting piece on needs.
Abraham Maslow was a seminal figure in psychology. He created his Hierarchy of Needs, which details the upward movement for individuals from the most basic requisite need of the essentials for survival, through safety and security, to emotional connection, esteem and respect, and finally the pinnacle of self-actualization. One will always default to the lowest level of unmet need, Maslow posits. With great respect for Dr. Maslow, while I agree with his idea that we will orient to the most primary unmet needs first, I disagree with his order.
Time and again, we see the behavior of others, or ourselves, being driven by the need for true connection. We may even settle for tenuous or superficial belonging and work really hard to make ourselves believe it to be authentic. We will forgo the more traditional basic needs of food, clothing, and shelter if it entails a relationship for which we assign the value of real connection. The starkest demonstration of this I have witnessed personally is a terminally ill person moving through the process of dying. Subjectively, there is a distinct difference for the dying person who feels truly connected to others. There is greater peace and acceptance. Because of the mercurial nature of humankind, we often make choices in the pursuit of securing or maintaining a bond, that produce disastrous results. Co-dependency is the oft cited word used to describe such behaviors.
If it is true that belonging is more essential than safety, then realistically, we are all somewhere on the continuum of co-dependency. It’s when we tilt over in the direction of being too defined by forces outside of us that we get into trouble. We would do well to be vigilant in our relationships to ensure we are nurturing healthy connections. We cannot live well without them.
Hugh Willard LPC