By Dr. Anthony Policastro

With the recent increase in the cost of things, many people are stressed. They have to decide how to budget among their many needs. 

I have written in the past about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, published in 1943. He divided needs into five levels.

The first level is filling basic physiological needs. These needs include food. They include clothing. They include shelter. People need to have those basic needs met. The needs need to be met on an ongoing basis.

Some people are hungry. They tend to focus on food. Some people are homeless. They tend to focus on shelter. Other needs are put aside. This means that they are not really concerned about going to a movie. They are not really concerned about investing money. The basic needs have to be met first.

The second level is that of consistency or safety. That might mean getting a permanent house. It might mean getting a full time job. It might mean worrying about health. Health care is a step up from basic physiology.

The third level can be addressed once there is a level of safety. It is a societal level. The individual can look to being part of a society. That might be a small society like family. It might be a larger community. However, individuals can not care about those things if their more basic needs are not met.

The fourth level described by Maslow is related to esteem. Once the individual is part of society, there is a need to do something for that society. The result will be recognition of that. Giving to charity can do that. Being a volunteer can do that. Accomplishments on the job can do that.

Maslow felt that the highest level is called self actualization. This is when the individual can spend time being creative. The individual can spend time solving problems. It is more of a mindful state.

In today’s economic environment, basic needs cannot always be taken for granted. Money needs to be used to put food on the table. It needs to be used to purchase appropriate clothing. It needs to be used to pay for housing. There are members of our society who struggle at having even those needs met. There are also many people who are struggling to meet the second level of consistency or safety that follow that. 

The result is that the cohesiveness that comes with the third level is often absent. There are groups that confine themselves to a society that has the same belief systems that they do. That creates a lot of divisiveness in a nation which was built on cohesiveness. 

During World War II everyone in this country had a single purpose. They came together to fight against a common enemy. Over the years, there has become less of that single purpose. That has been driven by people having to focus on Level 1 and Level 2 needs. Societal needs become less important when you struggle to meet the basics.

Unfortunately, we do not always understand this. Our understanding of society becomes narrower because it is not our primary focus. It makes it very difficult to advance to Levels 4 and 5. 

Maslow would have understood this very well.