Maslow's heirarchy of needs has been around since 1943. It is a powerful and influential idea: that the most basic human needs are physical - water, air, warmth, and food - and build up towards the goal of 'self-actualisation' by way of safety, love and belonging and esteem.
The Human Givens approach focusses on emotional needs , and does not place them in a hierarchy. Instead we talk about 9 basic human emotional needs ranging from safety through to meaning and purpose ("stretching") and notice that it is meeting these needs in balance that is the key to thriving and good emotional and mental health. Our needs aren't all the same: feeling unsafe is a different experience than feeling a lack of meaning or purpose in life. Yet if either need is not met, or any of the other emotional needs, we will tend to experience difficulty or distress.
Visiting an old friend in London recently we spotted this version of Maslow's Hierarchy pyramid painted on the wall of a cafe.
Yes it makes us smile, but also gives us pause for thought.
Wifi and Instagram are scarcely more important than food, water, shelter and air. Are they? But in a world where many of us have been able to take such things for granted for a long time, our idea of what we need may become distorted, so that loss of signal becomes a huge strain. Or maybe this is a sign that the internet is now the medium through which many of us attempt to meet our needs.
Safety: where am I and can I call for help? Autonomy: the ease of apparently endless choice making Attention: that most basic of human currencies monetised by tech corporations Emotional Connection: craved but stripped of its embodied essence and intimacy Status: Have you updated yours? How instagrammable is this life? Do you feel part of a community? Would that be IRL or online?
Needs that would once have been met by hunter-gatherers simply by getting on with all the things their group needed to do to survive and thrive in their often challenging environments have been channelled through technology, and for many can only be met if we have signal.
So it seems. Have we got things upside down?.