Every day we see situations that seem normal and spontaneous to us, yet, on a closer look, they seem to be more sophisticated than they appear.
Kids exploring the world instead of silently sitting alone, a little girl thriving because of her daddy’s new gift, sad people turning thrilled and happy because they fell in love, or an old man feeling young at heart because of his ongoing contribution.
Do these scenes seem familiar?
Do you meet these people in the corners of your life?
Is there anything in common among them?
Are they just being human or could there possibly be an explanation behind all their feelings and actions?
Why is it that some people seem happy and energized while others are indifferent and mischievous?
Can we analyze people’s behavior and actions to come up with a happiness formula?
Do you think we are born with the drive to find happiness or is it something some people find along the way while?
Though, these may seem like simple questions, yet, scientists, psychologists as well as regular people have been searching for their answers for long.
A Closer Look at Our Hard-Wired Nature
People, as well as animals, are born with a tendency to minimize threats and maximize rewards.
That is why deer run at full speed when chased by lions, and dolphins perform impressively in exchange for treats.
This hard-wiring is what many experts call “motivation”.
Motivation, however, is not the primitive driver to human behavior.
It is, in itself, fuelled by something else; needs.
A need in its basic definition is a motivating factor for human behavior.
It is what arouses an organism into action-oriented towards a goal, giving it a sense of purpose and direction.
As we evolved from hunters to modern age workers, our needs also evolved with us.
Our most primitive needs, however, were to survive, replicate, and thrive.
Our ancestors’ reward system was mostly programmed around these three needs.
The Need to Survive:
It is their ability to eat, drink and breathe fresh air, their ability to fight danger and win over it, and their ability to handle risks and cope with different threatening situations.
The Need to Replicate:
Because no one wants to live alone, once we guarantee our basic safety, we look for partners to share our lives with.
Our need to be together and pass on parts of ourselves through reproducing was our second most primitive need.
To do that, our ancestors learned how to attract partners, compete to win them and eventually get together to bring babies.
They also knew how to protect their babies and see through their growth to young men and women.
The Need to Thrive
It is a built-in need that we humans always want the best for ourselves and those we care about.
Same applied for our grandfathers, they too looked for ways to live longer, ensure their safety as well as their children’s and increase their chances in meaningful relationships.
They did so through connecting, sharing and belonging.
This is when tribalism first appeared.
These tribes evolved later to more advanced societies and communities.
Not only that, but they also learned how to develop their set of skills to become better at what they do, and hence increase their chances of winning and succeeding.
They learned how to utilize and control the resources around them as well.
This led to the appearance of the hierarchy of power among humans.
Our ancestors also had the need to explore beyond their worlds, which resulted in humanity evolving and spreading over the earth.
Evolution of Human Needs
As societies further developed so did human needs.
The more our basic needs are satisfied, the more our needs advanced.
As a person who lacks basic survival needs will never look for higher belonging issues.
When communities and societies started forming, our need to belong, to feel loved, to be appreciated, to interact and communicate, to express ourselves started to evolve.
Furthermore, our need to feel accomplished, and actualized evolved.
However, as innate as it sounds, our needs evolution was captured by a lot of psychological theories.
Theory of Human Need of Doyal and Gough (THN)
Professor Lan Gough and professor Len Doyal viewed human needs driven by a person’s motive to avoid any harm preventing him from achieving what he thinks is good.
For them, every person needs to possess physical health and personal autonomy to be able to have the right to choose.
In order to realize this personal autonomy, a person needs mental health, cognitive skills and the chance to be an active member of the society.
For them, these needs are categorized into twelve intermediate needs:
- Adequate nutritious food and water
- Adequate protective housing
- A safe work environment
- A supply of clothing
- A safe physical environment
- Appropriate health care
- Security in childhood
- Meaningful primary relations with others
- Physical security
- Economic security
- Safe birth control and child-bearing
- Appropriate basic and cross-cultural education
Self-Determination Theory of Deci and Ryan (SDT)
This theory was developed by Edward L. Deci and Richard M. Ryan.
It is a theory of human motivation.
It looks into the motivation behind human actions and choices.
SDT defines three innate human needs:
1. Competence: People’s need to achieve mastery through managing outcomes
2. Relatedness: People’s need to communicate, interact, and connect with others
3. Autonomy: People’s need to align their actions to their values, reaching self-integrity
Maslow’s Famous Hierarchy of Needs
In his famous model, Maslow categorizes human needs into:
1- Physiological Needs
The survival needs required by human beings include food, shelter, clothing, sex.
Without them, a person would be malfunctioning.
2- Safety Needs
These are the element of safety and security, including financial security, employability, health, and accessibility to resources
3- Love and Belonging Needs
Our intrinsic needs for intimacy, friendship, family, support,
4- Esteem Needs
These needs are divided into, needs for oneself, including independence, dignity, achievement, and need for reputation and respect from others.
5- Self Actualization Needs
The top of Maslow’s pyramid includes the need for meaning, purpose, creativity, realizing one’s potential, personal growth, and peak experiences.
Though as famous as this model is, it is not the most accurate nor complete model as it bypasses several important needs.
Maslow’s Evolutionary Pyramid
Although Maslow did introduce his hierarchy of needs very close to our psychology yet, he overlooked some very important needs.
The Need for Parenting:
Maslow did mention sex as a psychological need at the bottom of his pyramid, yet, parenting much more than having sex.
It is a need on its own.
A need to connect with our offspring and do our best to turn them into beautiful individuals, inside and out.
Also, Maslow considered the human being as individuals, disregarding the impact of cultures and societies on their needs and motives.
Though, our needs are to some extent hierarchal, yet, they still overlap at times.
Human Needs and Societies
In the theory of classical conditioning human being’s reaction is conditioned to behave in a certain manner when triggered by a certain condition.
Like a cat is conditioned to salivate every time it hears a bell because it signals food coming.
Such conditioning utilizes its brain wiring to maximize rewards.
A little child also avoids electricity because every time because of the harm accompanied his action.
Such triggers, however, are not only found in laboratories experiments, but they are also everywhere in our lives.
Our needs are essential to our existence, development, and happiness, yet, unfortunately, they are influenced by external factors.
Because of these factors, our needs haunt us.
1- Wars and Basic Needs
Though access to food, drink, shelter, and clothing are basic human rights, sadly they are not granted to all.
Owing to never-ending wars, many people around the globe are still asking and wishing for their most basic needs.
Such communities are never expected to produce or flourish beyond survival.
Even if we are not part of the affected communities, the idea of persisting scarcity disturbs our well-being as well.
We are always scared that we might come next.
Thus, the reality is we are safe, emotionally we are not.
2- Families, Relationships, Love and Belonging
The need to feel loved and belong to something is nowadays one of the very sought after needs.
An unfulfilled need and the reason for many modern psychological diseases.
From family abuse to uncaring parents and abusive relationships, if anything is suffering the most in the modern world, it is our capacity to give and receive love.
Emotional hunger is devastating to all of us.
Although love is a warm light in a very dark night, emotional hunger is its monster.
It eats up our ability to withstand challenges longer, our capacity to care for others, our motivation to reach further.
In short, it paralyzes our human potential of greatness.
Even worse, we suffer its toll silently, because we were never taught to ask for love.
Our hearts may be bleeding, yet, our tongues are tied.
Eventually, our need haunts us at night, every night.
3- Self-Esteem, Judgments, and Stereotypes
Since our very first realization of the world around us, we have been looking for our status.
We turn to our parents to applaud our little achievements, our teachers to acknowledge our effort and intelligence, our friend to celebrate us and later on our community to accept us.
Unfortunately, though, the world is not as perfect as we want it.
While we wait for appreciation and applaud we mostly get judgment and criticism.
Most of our effort pass by unnoticed.
And many of our traits are labeled or stereotyped.
While our instinct strives for esteem, the world frustrates us badly.
When we constantly don’t feel appreciated, by the time this impacts our self-worth.
We start feeling unworthy of appreciation and hence our self-esteem is impacted.
We do more and expect nothing in return until we burn ourselves out.
It is very important, however, to realize that people’s validation for who you are and what you do is not an indication for your self-worth.
You are by default a being worthy of love, appreciation, and applause even if the world turns its back on you.
4- Self- Realization and Developing Worlds
In a world of knowledge, wisdom, and progression, self-realization became a persisting need.
We all want to feel useful and of impact.
We want to leave a print in what we do.
However, if you are living in a developing world, your needs are suppressed or even killed.
You are always left out with the never-ending question how can I realize my potential and where can I start.
Your need for self-realization turns into a reason for disappointment and frustration.
You feel like you are living in a building too small, and your wings are captured when they are meant to fly.
You lack a sense of purpose and meaning for your life though you are striving for it.
However, the good side is in a developing world there is an opportunity in every corner to make a difference.
Indeed, it is very dissimilar to what you have in mind, but it’s not about going big, it’s about leaving an impact in someone’s life.
If you associate self-actualization to big applauded achievements, then this need of yours can turn into a permanent misery.
Release this association and humble yourself to really actualize in meanings, not in magnitude
In the End
It’s very important to understand our physiological and psychological needs and pay attention to their calls.
Yet, it is even more important to not let them turn against us.
Needs are the motives for our actions and choices, so it is in our actions and choices that meaning lays.
Don’t let your source of motivation become your source of misery and dissatisfaction.
And, know well that in order to jump up the stairs, you need to go one step at a time or you risk falling.
Same goes for your needs, you need to take care of the most primitive first then head for the more advanced.
Because if you start to self-actualize when you are financially insecure you would not go anywhere and you would probably end up depressed.