Published on March 10, 2014
Binge Eating and Your Hierarchy of Needs
What motivates behavior? According to humanist psychologist Abraham Maslow, our actions are motivated in order achieve certain needs.
Maslow first introduced his concept of a hierarchy of needs in his 1943 paper "A Theory of Human Motivation" and his subsequent book Motivation and Personality. This hierarchy suggests that people are motivated to fulfill basic needs before moving on to other, more advanced needs.
This hierarchy is most often displayed as a pyramid. The lowest levels of the pyramid are made up of the most basic needs, while the more complex needs are located at the top of the pyramid.
Needs at the bottom of the pyramid are basic physical requirements including the need for food, water, sleep, and warmth. Once these lower-level needs have been met, people can move on to the next level of needs, which are for safety and security.
As people progress up the pyramid, needs become increasingly psychological and social. Soon, the need for love, friendship, and intimacy become important. Further up the pyramid, the need for personal esteem and feelings of accomplishment take priority.
Maslow believed that these needs are similar to instincts and play a major role in motivating behavior. Physiological, security, social, and esteem needs are deficiency needs meaning that these needs arise due to deprivation. Satisfying these lower-level needs is important in order to avoid unpleasant feelings or consequences.
Physiological Needs These include the most basic needs that are vital to survival, such as the need for water, air, food, and sleep. Maslow believed that these needs are the most basic and instinctive needs in the hierarchy because all needs become secondary until these physiological needs are met.
Security Needs These include needs for safety and security. Security needs are important for survival, but they are not as demanding as the physiological needs. Examples of security needs include a desire for steady employment, health care, safe neighborhoods, and shelter from the environment.
Social Needs These include needs for belonging, love, and affection. Maslow described these needs as less basic than physiological and security needs. Relationships such as friendships, romantic attachments, and families help fulfill this need for companionship and acceptance, as does involvement in social, community, or religious groups.
Esteem Needs After the first three needs have been satisfied, esteem needs becomes increasingly important. These include the need for things that reflect on self-esteem, personal worth, social recognition, and accomplishment.
Self-actualizing Needs This is the highest level of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Self- actualizing people are self-aware, concerned with personal growth, less concerned with the opinions of others, and interested fulfilling their potential.
Changes to the original five-stage model are highlighted and include a seven-stage model and a eight-stage model, both developed during the 1960's and 1970s. 1. Biological and Physiological needs - air, food, drink, shelter, warmth, sex, sleep, etc. 2. Safety needs - protection from elements, security, order, law, limits, stability, etc. 3. Social Needs - Belongingness and Love, - work group, family, affection, relationships, etc. 4. Esteem needs - self-esteem, achievement, mastery, independence, status, dominance, prestige, managerial responsibility, etc. 5. Cognitive needs - knowledge, meaning, etc. 6. Aesthetic needs - appreciation and search for beauty, balance, form, etc. 7. Self-Actualization needs - realizing personal potential, self-fulfillment, seeking personal growth and peak experiences. 8. Transcendence needs - helping other people achieve self-actualization.
Every person is capable and has the desire to move up the hierarchy toward a level of self-actualization. Unfortunately, progress is often disrupted by failure to meet lower level needs. Life experiences including divorce and loss of job may cause an individual to fluctuate between levels of the hierarchy.
How does this relate to overcoming regular overeating or binge eating?
If you are trying to transform your behavior and relationship with food but some of your basic needs are not being met, your subconscious drives will continue to motivate you towards something that gives you pleasure, relief or security...like food.
For example, if I have my basic biological and safety needs met but don't feel loved by my family or a partner, or I feel alone or like I don't belong, it's easy to use food to find comfort and pleasure.
Or, another example, if I have biological, safety, social and self esteem needs met but feel bored or like I'm not mentally challenged in my life, food can be a way to feel like there's something to look forward to.
Often it's hard to see what needs you might be missing because you're trying to look at your life while being in your life. However, with self-reflection, practicing mindfulness or coaching with a mentor, you can find and work on those areas.
For further resources, tips, a free course and programs to overcome binge eating, visit www.bingeeatingbreakthrough.com
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