Identify which basic human needs are most alive for you today. 

Actively consider which basic needs are priorities for others around you.



Brad:  Three weeks ago, after living in Italy with my Italian girlfriend for four months, I returned to Burlington for a two-week visit with my mother.  I found out that I could not take all of my classes online that I need to graduate this spring as I had planned, so I decided to stay home for a semester to finish college.  Marie and I have been taking the stress of this unexpected change out on each other by fighting. 


Last week, I was angered by a nasty e-mail and was planning a vicious response, when I began my homework for this class.  Afterwards, instead of writing back to scold her for the things she had done and not done, I wrote asking her what she needed from me at the moment and what she needed from our relationship.  Then I expressed my needs.  This was incredibly freeing for me because I got to the heart of the problems without any mean words or putdowns.  We had been fighting for a week straight and for the first time in awhile, her response was nice and caring.


Jenny:  It happened again—10 minutes before the class was over, everyone started to put on their jackets and close their notebooks.  Professor Fraser must have thought we were rude!  The good thing was that she expressed her feelings and needs—her sadness at losing the last 10 minutes of class to teach something she thought was very important.  She then asked about our experience. 


Our feelings and needs were clear! It was an evening class and not one of us 19 students had eaten before the class.  So now we all felt very hungry and tired of sitting.  We decided to take turns bringing some snacks for the class, which made Professor Fraser and all her students satisfied.  Now no one is in a hurry to leave the classroom before the ending time.


According to humanistic psychologists, such as Carl Rogers, Abraham Maslow, Rollo May, and Marshall Rosenberg, needs are the energy of life, the fundamental motivation for all behaviors.  Other words for needs may be “values,” “longings,” “drives,” “hungers,” or “dreams.”  Feelings are the emotions of the moment, while needs are the river, the underlying flow of our lives.


Around the world, all people have the same basic needs and these needs are natural, healthy, and honorable.  We will differ on the needs that are “most alive” to us at the moment.  We may differ on the strategies we devise to meet our needs.  Certainly some of our strategies to meet our needs are effective and other strategies are partially or totally counterproductive.  Behind every action, by every person, every time, there is a hunger to meet one or more of these healthy needs.

The Business majors in our class knew a lot about needs, as their job is based on meeting needs.  Several students observed that advertising tries to convince people that they will meet basic human needs by buying material goods.  “Buy X and people will like you.”  “Buy Y to celebrate.”  “Buy Z to express your independence or your leadership or your uniqueness or ….”  Our universal human needs are translated into products to buy!


Abraham Maslow noticed that Freud formulated his theory of human personality by studying people in mental institutions.  Maslow decided it would be more accurate to gather data from people doing particularly well in life and, therefore, he studied that group.  In 1943, he listed five needs.  Later he added Cognition, Aesthetic, and Self-Transcendent Needs.  Rosenberg refers to similar categories of needs.  As you can see, there is overlap on the lists.  Some prefer the slightly more international list formulated by Manfred Max-Neef.  A website for his list is on the next page. 


Please notice that needs are not in clearly defined boxes.  One activity can meet several needs. 





Physical Needs—air, food, water

Safety Needs—shelter, safety from environment and other humans

Belonging Needs—affiliation, connection with others—particular ones and community

Esteem Needs—achievement, competence, self-esteem, recognition by others

Cognitive Needs—understanding of a subject, exploration of an unknown

Aesthetic Needs—symmetry, order, beauty

Self-Actualization Needs—realization of one’s potential, comfortable acceptance of oneself and the world, identification of that which one most deeply hungers to do and action to be doing it


Self-Transcendent Needs—connection to something beyond oneself, helping others find self-fulfillment or realization of their potential





Physical Well-being Needs—air, food, water, shelter, rest, movement, touch, sexual expression


Autonomy Needs—choice of dreams / goals / values, choice in plans for fulfilling them


Integrity Needs—authenticity, meaning, purpose, self worth, way to contribute to life


Celebration Needs—honoring small successes and big successes, mourning losses of loved ones and dreams


Interdependence / Connection Needs—acceptance, appreciation, consideration, community, emotional safety, honesty, love, respect, reassurance, support, trust, understanding


Recreation / Play Needs—creativity, fun, laughter, relaxing activities


Spiritual Needs—beauty, harmony, inspiration, order, peace




Manfred Max-Neef, a Chilean economist who studied the problems in the Third World, devised a way to measure real poverty and wealth, in terms of how well a culture meets its citizens’ fundamental needs.  He proposes a slightly different list of needs and discusses the qualities, things, actions, and settings that would accompany each.  Max-Neef reflects that needs are basic across cultures, but strategies for meeting them vary.


Here are three more models of how well a country is meeting the needs of its citizens. The Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI) has been around for 20 years.  The Gross National Happiness (GNH) scale and the Happy Planet Index (HPI) are more recent efforts.  Google these for more info.


Another group, The Search Institute, has focused on how well a community meets the needs of its youth.  They list experiences (Forty Developmental Assets) that are helpful for children and have produced many studies to show that children who get more of these needs met have many fewer social and health problems.


The Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument, with parallel to Myers-Briggs Interest Inventory, suggests there are four major clusters of needs and that our brains are hardwired to be focused on one or more clusters.  Testing and training is offered for the business world.



MEETING NEEDS:  What is one way you meet each of these needs?  Example by Daphne

Physical well-being / safety

Not smoking cigarettes


Getting a part time job that relates to future career


Going to dinner for friend’s birthday


I am a hospice volunteer

Interdependence /

Connection with others

Calling my family whenever I get a chance

Recreation / play

Hanging out with friends

Spiritual  (beauty)

Getting my nails done



MEETING NEEDS:  What is one way you meet each of these needs?

Physical well-being / safety












Interdependence /

Connection with others


Recreation / play