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Discussion 6

This week, critically think about the theories that were developed by Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow as well as the humanistic approach. Familiarize yourself with the Module 6 objectives, introduction, videos, articles, and all other content in the module. For primary references, use our readings for the week, then utilize the Saint Leo Online Library for peer reviewed sources and to find relevance to the topic this week.

1. Think about the content of our readings by Rogers and Maslow. Explain both Rogers and Maslow’s views on human behavior. How are their theories similar and how are they different?

2. How have Rogers’ views on client-centered therapy and Maslow’s theories on motivation stood the test of time today? Which aspects of their views do you believe influenced the humanistic approach the least?


Maslow, A. H. (1943). A theory of human motivation. Psychological Review, 50, 370-396. [The first published description of the “hierarchy of needs.”]

Rogers, C. R. (1946). Significant aspects of client-centered therapy. American Psychologist, 1, 415-422

Rogers, C. R. (1947). Some observations on the organization of personality. American Psychologist, 2, 358-368. [Rogers’ APA Presidential Address.]

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Significant Aspects of Client-Centered Therapy [1]

Carl R. Rogers (1946)

University of Chicago

First published in American Psychologist, 1, 415-422

Posted March 2000

In planning to address this group, I have considered and discarded several possible topics. I was tempted to describe the process of non-directive therapy and the counselor techniques and procedures which seem most useful in bringing about this process. But much of this material is now in writing. My own book on counseling and psychotherapy contains much of the basic material, and my recent more popular book on counseling with returning servicemen tends to supplement it. The philosophy of the client-centered approach and its application to work with children is persuasively presented by Allen. The application to counseling of industrial employees is discussed in the volume by Cantor. Curran has now published in book form one of the several research studies which are throwing new light on both process and procedure. Axline is publishing a book on play and group therapy. Snyder is bringing out a book of cases. So it seems unnecessary to come a long distance to summarize material which is, or soon ·n-ill be. obtainable in written form.

Another tempting possibility, particularly in this setting, was to discuss some of the roots from which the client-centered approach has sprung. It would have been interesting to show how in its concepts of repression and release, in its stress upon catharsis and insight, it has many roots in Freudian thinking, and to acknowledge that indebtedness. Such an analysis could also have shown that in its concept of the individual’s ability to organize his own experience there is an even deeper indebtedness to the work of Rank, Taft, and Allen. In its stress upon objective research, the subjecting of fluid attitudes to scientific investigation, the willingness to submit all hypotheses to a verification or disproof by research methods, the debt is obviously to the whole field of American psychology, with its genius for scientific methodology. It could also have been pointed out that although everyone in the clinical field has been heavily exposed to the eclectic “team” approach to therapy of the child guidance movement, and the somewhat similar eclecticism of the Adolf Meyers — Hopkins school of thought, these eclectic viewpoint have perhaps not been so fruitful in therapy and that little from these sources has been retained in the non-directive approach. It might also have been pointed out that in its basic trend away from guiding and directing the client. the non-directive approach is deeply rooted in practical clinical experience, and is in accord with the experience of most clinical workers, so much so that one of the commonest reactions of experienced therapists is that “You have crystallized and put into words something that I have been groping toward in my own experience for a long time.”

Such an analysis, such a tracing or root ideas, needs to be made, but I doubt my own ability to make it. I am also doubtful that anyone who is deeply concerned with a new development knows with any degree of accuracy where his ideas came from.

Consequently I am, in this presentation. Adopting a third pathway. While I shall bring in a brief description of process and procedure. and while I shall acknowledge in a general way our indebtedness to many root sources, and shall recognize the many common elements shared by client-centered therapy and other approaches, I believe it will be to our mutual advantage if I stress primarily those aspects in which nondirective[*] therapy differs most sharply and deeply from other therapeutic procedures. I hope to point out some of the basically significant ways in which the client-centered viewpoint differs from others, not only in its present principles, but in the wider divergencies which are implied by the projection of its central principles. [p. 416]


The first of the three distinctive elements of client-centered therapy to which I wish to call your attention is the predictability of the therapeutic process in this approach. We find, both clinically and statistically, that a predictable pattern of therapeutic development takes place. The assurance which we feel about this was brought home to me recently when I played a recorded first interview for the graduate students in our practicum immediately after it was recorded, pointing out the characteristic aspects, and agreeing to play later interviews for them to let them see the later phases of the counseling process. The fact that I knew with assurance what the later pattern would be before it had occurred only struck me as I thought about the incident. We have become clinically so accustomed to this predictable quality that we take it for granted. Perhaps a brief summarized description of this therapeutic process will indicate those elements of which we feel sure.

It may be said that we now know how to initiate a complex and predictable chain of events in dealing with the maladjusted individual, a chain of events which is therapeutic, and which operates effectively in problem situations of the most diverse type. This predictable chain of events may come about through the use of language as in counseling, through symbolic language, as in play therapy, through disguised language as in drama or puppet therapy. It is effective in dealing with individual situations, and also in small group situations.

It is possible to state with some exactness the conditions which must be met in order to initiate and carry through this releasing therapeutic experience. Below are listed in brief form the conditions which seem to be necessary, and the therapeutic results which occur.

This experience which releases the growth forces within the individual will come about in most cases if the following elements are present.

(1) If the counselor operates on the principle that the individual is basically responsible for himself, and is willing for the individual to keep that responsibility.

(2) If the counselor operates on the principle that the client has a strong drive to become mature, socially adjusted. independent, productive, and relies on this force, not on his own powers, for therapeutic change.

(3) If the counselor creates a warm and permissive atmosphere in which the individual is free to bring out any attitudes and feelings which he may have, no matter how unconventional, absurd, or contradictory these attitudes may be. The client is as free to withhold expression as he is to give expression to his feelings.

(4) If the limits which are set are simple limits set on behavior, and not limits set on attitudes. (This applies mostly to children. The child may not be permitted to break a window or leave the room. but he is free to feel like breaking a window, and the feeling is fully accepted. The adult client may not be permitted more than an hour for an interview, but there is full acceptance of his desire to claim more time.)

(5) If the therapist uses only those procedures and techniques in the interview which convey his deep understanding of the emotionalized attitudes expressed and his acceptance of them. This under standing is perhaps best conveyed by a sensitive reflection and clarification of the client’s attitudes. The counselor’s acceptance involves neither approval nor disapproval.

(6) If the counselor refrains from any expression or action which is contrary to the preceding principles. This means reframing from questioning, probing, blame, interpretation, advice, suggestion, persuasion, reassurance.

If these conditions are met. then it may be said with assurance that in the great majority of cases the following results will take place.

(1) The client will express deep and motivating attitudes.

(2) The client will explore his own attitudes and reactions more fully than he has previously done and will come to be aware of aspects of his attitudes which he has previously denied.

(3) He will arrive at a clearer conscious realization of his motivating attitudes and will accept himself more completely. This realization and this acceptance will include attitudes previously denied. He may or may not verbalize this clearer conscious understanding of himself and his behavior.

(4) In the light of his clearer perception of himself he will choose, on his own initiative and on his own [p. 417] responsibility, new goal which are more satisfying than his maladjusted goals.

(5) He will choose to behave in a different fashion in order to reach these goals, and this new behavior will be in the direction of greater psychological growth and maturity. It will also be more spontaneous and less tense, more in harmony with social needs of others, will represent a more realistic and more comfortable adjustment to life. It will be more integrated than his former behavior. It will be a step forward in the life of the individual.

The best scientific description of this process is that supplied by Snyder. Analyzing a number of cases with strictly objective research techniques, Snyder has discovered that the development in these cases is roughly parallel, that the initial phase of catharsis is replaced by a phase in which insight becomes the most significant element, and this in turn by a phase marked by the increase in positive choice and action

Clinically, we know that sometimes this process is relatively shallow, involving primarily a fresh reorientation to an immediate problem, and in other instances so deep as to involve a complete reorientation of personality. It is recognizably the same process whether it involves a girl who is unhappy in a dormitory and is able in three interviews to see something of her childishness and dependence, and to take steps in a mature direction, or whether it involves a young man who is on the edge of a schizophrenic break, and who in thirty interviews works out deep insights in relation to his desire for his father’s death, and his possessive and incestuous impulses toward is mother, and who not only takes new steps but rebuilds his whole personality in the process. Whether shallow or deep, it is basically the same.

We are coming to recognize with assurance characteristic aspects of each phase of the process. We know that the catharsis involves a gradual and more complete expression of emotionalized attitudes. We know that characteristically the conversation goes from superficial problems and attitudes to deeper problems and attitudes. We know that this process of exploration gradually unearths relevant attitudes which have been denied to consciousness. We recognize too that the process of achieving insight is likely to involve more adequate facing of reality as it exists within the self, as well as external reality; that it involves the relating of problems to each other, the perception of patterns of behavior; that it involves the acceptance of hitherto denied elements of the self, and a reformulating of the self-concept; and that it involves the making of new plans.

In the final phase we know that the choice of new ways of behaving will be in conformity with the newly organized concept of the self; that first steps in putting these plans into action will be small but symbolic; that the individual will feel only a minimum degree of confidence that he can put his plans into effect, that later steps implement more and more completely the new concept of self, and that this process continues beyond the conclusion of the therapeutic interviews.

If these statements seem to contain too much assurance, to sound “too good to be true,” I can only say that for many of them we now have research backing, and that as rapidly as possible we are developing our research to bring all phases of the process under objective scrutiny. Those of us working clinically with client-centered therapy regard this predictability as a settled characteristic, even though we recognize that additional research will be necessary to fill out the picture more completely.

It is the implication of this predictability which is startling. Whenever, in science, a predictable process has been discovered, it has been found possible to use it as a starting point for a whole chain of discoveries. We regard this as not only entirely possible, but inevitable, with regard to this predictable process in therapy. Hence, we regard this orderly and predictable nature of nondirective therapy as one of its most distinctive and significant points of difference from other approaches. Its importance lies not only in the fact that it is a present difference. but in the fact that it points toward a sharply different future, in which scientific exploration of this known chain of events should lead to many new discoveries, developments. and applications.


Naturally the question is raised, what is the reason for this predictability in a type of therapeutic procedure in which the therapist serves only a catalytic function? Basically the reason for the predictability [p. 418] of the therapeutic process lies in the discovery — and I use that word intentionally — that within the client reside constructive forces whose strength and uniformity have been either entirely unrecognized or grossly underestimated. It is the clearcut and disciplined reliance by the therapist upon those forces within the client, which seems to account for the orderliness of the therapeutic process, and its consistency from one client to the next.

I mentioned that I regarded this as a discovery. I would like to amplify that statement. We have known for centuries that catharsis and emotional release were helpful. Many new methods have been and are being developed to bring about release, but the principle is not new. Likewise, we have known since Freud’s time that insight, if it is accepted and assimilated by the client, is therapeutic. The principle is not new. Likewise we have realized that revised action patterns, new ways of behaving, may come about as a result of insight. The principle is not new.

But we have not known or recognized that in most if not all individuals there exist growth forces, tendencies toward self-actualization, which may act as the sole motivation for therapy. We have not realized that under suitable psychological conditions these forces bring about emotional release in those areas and at those rates which are most beneficial to the individual. These forces drive the individual to explore his own attitudes and his relationship to reality. and to explore these areas effectively. We have not realized that the individual is capable of exploring his attitudes and feelings, including those which have been denied to consciousness, at a rate which does not cause panic, and to the depth required for comfortable adjustment. The individual is capable of discovering and perceiving, truly and spontaneously, the interrelationships between his own attitudes, and the relationship of himself to reality. The individual has the capacity and the strength to devise, quite unguided, the steps which will lead him to a more mature and more comfortable relationship to his reality. It is the gradual and increasing recognition of these capacities within the individual by the client-centered therapist that rates, I believe, the term discovery. All of these capacities I have described are released in the individual if a suitable psychological atmosphere is provided.

There has, of course, been lip service paid to the strength of the client, and the need of utilizing the urge toward independence which exists in the client. Psychiatrists, analysts, and especially social case workers have stressed this point. Yet it is clear from what is said, and even more clear from the case material cited. that this confidence is a very limited confidence. It is a confidence that the client can take over, if guided by the expert, a confidence that the client can assimilate insight if it is first, given to him by the expert, can make choices providing guidance is given at crucial points. It is, in short, the same sort of attitude which the mother has toward the adolescent. that she believes in his capacity to make his own decisions and guide his own life, providing he takes the directions of which she approves.

This is very evident in the latest book on psychoanalysis by Alexander and French. Although many of the former views and practices of psychoanalysis are discarded, and the procedures are far more nearly in line with those of nondirective therapy, it is still the therapist who is definitely in control. He gives the insights. he is ready to guide at crucial points. Thus while the authors state that the aim of the therapist is to free the patient to develop his capacities, and to increase his ability to satisfy his needs in ways acceptable to himself and society; and while they speak of the basic conflict between competition and cooperation as one which the individual must settle for himself; and speak of the integration of new insight as a normal function of the ego, it is clear when they speak of procedures that they have no confidence that the client has the capacity to do any of these things. For in practice, “As soon as the therapist takes the more active role we advocate, systematic planning becomes imperative. In addition to the original decision as to the particular sort of strategy to be employed in the treatment of any case, we recommend the conscious use of various techniques in a flexible manner, shifting tactics to fit the particular needs of the moment. Among these modifications of the standard technique are; using not only the method of free association but interviews of a more direct character, manipulating the frequency of the interviews, giving [p. 419] directives to the patient concerning his daily life, employing interruptions of long or short duration in preparation for ending the treatment, regulating the transference relation-hip to meet the specific needs of the case, and making use of real-life experiences as an integral part of therapy” (1). At least this leaves no doubt as to whether it is the client’s or the therapist’s hour; it is clearly the latter. The capacities which the client is to develop are clearly not to be developed in the therapeutic sessions.

The client-centered therapist stands at an opposite pole, both theoretically and practically. He has learned that the constructive forces in the individual can be trusted. and that the more deeply they are relied upon, the more deeply they are released. He has come to build his procedures upon these hypotheses, which are rapidly becoming established as facts; that the client knows the areas of concern which he is ready to explore; that the client is the best judge as to the most desirable frequency of interviews; that the client can lead the way more efficiently than the therapist into deeper concerns; that the client will protect himself from panic by ceasing to explore an area which is becoming too painful; that the client can and will uncover all the repressed elements which it is necessary to uncover in order to build a comfortable adjustment; that the client can achieve for himself far truer and more sensitive and accurate insights than can possibly be given to him; that the client is capable of translating these insights into constructive behavior which weigh his own needs and desires realistically against the demands of society; that the client knows when therapy is completed and he is ready to cope with life independently. Only one condition is necessary for all these forces to be released, and that is the proper psychological atmosphere between client and therapist.

Our case records and increasingly our research bear out these statements. One might suppose that there would be a generally favorable reaction to this discovery, since it amounts in effect to tapping great reservoirs of hitherto little-used energy. Quite the contrary is true, however, in professional groups. There is no other aspect of client-centered therapy which comes under such vigorous attack. It seems to be genuinely disturbing to many professional people to entertain the thought that this client upon whom they have been exercising their professional skill actually knows more about his inner psychological self than they can possibly know, and that he possesses constructive strengths which make the constructive push by the therapist seem puny indeed by comparison. The willingness fully to accept this strength of the client, with all the re-orientation of therapeutic procedure which it implies, is one of the ways in which client-centered therapy differs most sharply from other therapeutic approaches.


The third distinctive feature of this type of therapy is the character of the relationship between therapist and client. Unlike other therapies in which the skills of the therapist are to be exercised upon the client. in this approach the skills of the therapist are focussed upon creating a psychological atmosphere in which the client can work. If the counselor can create a relationship permeated by warmth, understanding, safety from any type of attack, no matter how trivial, and basic acceptance of the person as he is, then the client will drop his natural defensiveness and use the situation. As we have puzzled over the characteristics of a successful therapeutic relationship, we have come to feel that the sense of communication is very important. If the client feels that he is actually communicating his present attitudes, superficial, confused, or conflicted as they may be, and that his communication is understood rather than evaluated in any way, then he is freed to communicate more deeply. A relationship in which the client thus feels that he is communicating is almost certain to be fruitful.

All of this means a drastic reorganization in the counselor’s thinking, particularly if he has previously utilized other approaches. He gradually learns that the statement that the time is to be “the client’s hour” means just that, and that his biggest task is to make it more and more deeply true.

Perhaps something of the characteristics of the relationship may be suggested by excerpts from a paper written by a young minister who has spent several months learning client-centered counseling procedures. [p. 420]

“Because the client-centered, nondirective counseling approach has been rather carefully defined and clearly illustrated, it gives the “Illusion of Simplicity.” The technique seems deceptively easy to master. Then you begin to practice. A word is wrong here and there. You don’t quite reflect feeling, but reflect content instead. It is difficult to handle questions; you are tempted to interpret. Nothing seems so serious that further practice won’t correct it. Perhaps you are having trouble playing two roles — that of minister and that of counselor. Bring up the question in class and the matter is solved again with a deceptive ease. But these apparently minor errors and a certain woodenness of response seem exceedingly persistent.

“Only gradually does it dawn that if the technique is true it demands a feeling of warmth. You begin to feel that the attitude is the thing. Every little word is not so important if you have the correct accepting and permissive attitude toward the client. So you bear down on the permissiveness and acceptance. You will permiss[sic] and accept and reflect the client, if it kills you!

[§]’But you still have those troublesome questions from the client. He simply doesn’t know the next step. He asks you to give him a hint, some possibilities, after all you are expected to know something, else why is he here! As a minister, you ought to have some convictions about what people should believe, how they should act. As a counselor, you should know something about removing this obstacle — you ought to have the equivalent of the surgeon’s knife and use it. Then you begin to wonder. The technique is good, but … does it go far enough! does it really work on clients? is it right to leave a person helpless, when you might show him the way out?

“Here it secms to me is the crucial point. “Narrow is the gate” and hard the path from here on. So one else can give satisfying answers and even the instructors seem frustrating because they appear not to be helpful in your specific case. For here is demanded of you what no other person can do or point out — and that is to rigorously scrutinize yourself and your attitudes towards others. Do you believe that all people truly have a creative potential in them? That each person is a unique individual and that he alone can work out his own individuality? Or do you really believe that some persons are of “negative value” and others are weak and must be led and taught by “wiser,” “stronger” people.

“You begin to see that there is nothing compartmentalized about this method of counseling. It is not just counseling, because it demands the most exhaustive, penetrating, and comprehensive consistency. In other methods you can shape tools, pick them up for use when you will. But when genuine acceptance and permissiveness are your tools it requires nothing less than the whole complete personality. And to grow oneself is the most demanding of all.”

He goes on to discuss the notion that the counselor must be restrained and “self-denying.” He concludes that this is a mistaken notion.

“Instead of demanding less of the counselor’s personality in the situation, client-centered counseling in some ways demands more. It demands discipline, not restraint. It calls for the utmost in sensitivity, appreciative awareness. channeled and disciplined. It demands that the counselor put all he has of these precious qualities into the situation, but in a disciplined, resfined manner. It is restraint only in the sense that the counselor does not express himself in certain areas that he may use himself in others.

“Even this is deceptive, however. It is not so much restraint in any area as it is a focusing, sensitizing one’s energies and personality in the direction of an appreciative and understanding attitude.”

As time has gone by we have come to put increasing stress upon the “client-centeredness” of the relationship, because it is more effective the more completely the counselor concentrates upon trying to understand the client as the client seems to himself. As I look back upon some of our earlier published cases — the case of Herbert Bryan in my book, or Snyder’s case of Mr. M. — I realize that we have gradually dropped the vestiges of subtle directiveness which are all too evident in those cases. We [p. 421] have come to recognize that if we can provide understanding of the way the client seems to himself at this moment, he can do the rest. The therapist must lay aside his preoccupation with diagnosis and his diagnostic shrewdness, must discard his tendency to make professional evaluations, must cease his endeavors to formulate an accurate prognosis, must give up the temptation subtly to guide the individual, and must concentrate on one purpose only; that of providing deep understanding and acceptance of the attitudes consciously held at this moment by the client as he explores step by step into the dangerous areas which he has been denying to consciousness.

I trust it is evident from this description that this type of relationship can exist only if the counselor is deeply and genuinely able to adopt these attitudes. Client-centered counseling, if it is to be effective, cannot be a trick or a tool. It is not a subtle way of guiding the client while pretending to let him guide himself. To be effective, it must be genuine. It is this sensitive and sincere “client-centeredness” in the therapeutic relationship that I regard as the third characteristic of nondirective therapy which sets it distinctively apart from other approaches.


Although the client-centered approach had its origin purely within the limits of the psychological clinic, it is proving to have implications, often of a startling nature, for very diverse fields of effort. I should like to suggest a few of these present and potential implications.

In the field of psychotherapy itself, it leads to conclusions that seem distinctly heretical. It appears evident that training and practice in therapy should probably precede training in the field of diagnosis. Diagnostic knowledge and skill is not necessary for good therapy, a statement which sounds like blasphemy to many, and if the professional worker, whether psychiatrist, psychologist or caseworker, received training in therapy first he would learn psychological dynamics in a truly dynamic fashion, and would acquire a professional humility and willingness to learn from his client which is today all too rare.

The viewpoint appears to have implications for medicine. It has fascinated me to observe that when a prominent allergist began to use client-centered therapy for the treatment of non-specific allergies, he found not only very good therapeutic results, but the experience began to affect his whole medical practice. It has gradually meant the reorganization of his office procedure. He has given his nurses a new type of training in understanding the patient. He has decided to have all medical histories …

Classics in the History of Psychology

An internet resource developed by

Christopher D. Green

York University, Toronto, Ontario

ISSN 1492-3173

(Return to Classics index)

Some Observations on the Organization of Personality

Carl R. Rogers (1947)

Address of the retiring President of the American Psychological Association the September 1947 Annual Meeting.

First published in American Psychologist, 2, 358-368.

Posted March 2000

In various fields of science rapid strides have been made when direct observation of significant processes has become possible. In medicine, when circumstances have permitted the physician to peer directly into the stomach of his patient, understanding of digestive processes has increased and the influence of emotional tension upon all aspects of that process has been more accurately observed and understood. In our work with nondirective therapy we often feel that we are having a psychological opportunity comparable to this medical experience — an opportunity to observe directly a number of the effective processes of personality. Quite aside from any question regarding nondirective therapy as therapy, here is a precious vein of observational material of unusual value for the study of personality.

Characteristics of the Observational Material

There are several ways in which the raw clinical data to which we have had access is unique in its value for understanding personality. The fact that these verbal expressions of inner dynamics are preserved by electrical recording makes possible a detailed analysis of a sort not heretofore possible. Recording has given us a microscope by which we may examine at leisure, and in minute detail, almost every aspect of what was, in its occurrence, a fleeting moment impossible of accurate observation.

Another scientifically fortunate characteristic of this material is the fact that the verbal productions of the client are biased to a minimal degree by the therapist. Material from client-centered interviews probably comes closer to being a “pure” expression of attitudes than has yet been achieved through other means. One can read through a complete recorded case or listen to it, without finding more than a half-dozen instances in which the therapist’s views on any point are evident. One would find it impossible to form an estimate as to the therapist’s views about personality dynamics. One could not determine his diagnostic views, his standards of behavior, his social class. The one value or standard held by the therapist which would exhibit itself in his tone of voice, responses, and activity, is a deep respect for the personality and attitudes of the client as a separate person. It is difficult to see how this would bias the content of the interview, except to permit deeper expression than the client would ordinarily allow himself. This almost complete lack of any distorting attitude is felt, and sometimes expressed by the client. One woman says:

It’s almost impersonal. I like you — of course I don’t know why I should like you or why I shouldn’t like you. It’s a peculiar thing. I’ve never had that relationship with anybody before and I’ve often thought about it…. A lot of times I walk out with a feeling of elation that you think highly of me, and of course at the same time I have the feeling that “Gee, he must think I’m an awful jerk” or something like that. But it doesn’t really-those feelings aren’t so deep that I can form an opinion one way or the other about you.

Here it would seem that even though she would like to discover some type of evaluational attitude, she is unable to do so. Published studies and research as yet unpublished bear out this point that counselor responses which are in any way evaluational or distorting as to content are at a minimum, thus enhancing the worth of such interviews for personality study.

The counselor attitude of warmth and understanding, well described by Snyder (9) and Rogers (8), also helps to maximize the freedom of expression by the individual. The client experiences sufficient interest in him as a person, and sufficient acceptance, to enable him to talk openly, not only about surface attitudes, but increasingly about intimate attitudes and feelings hidden even from himself. Hence in these recorded interviews we have material of very considerable depth so far as personality dynamics is concerned, along with a freedom from distortion.

Finally the very nature of the interviews and the techniques by which they are handled give us a rare opportunity to see to some extent through the eyes of another person-to perceive the world as it appears to him, to achieve at least partially, the internal frame of reference of another person. We see his behavior through his eyes, and also the psychological meaning which it had for him. We see also changes in personality and behavior, and the meanings which those changes have for the individual. We are admitted freely into the backstage of the person’s living where we can observe from within some of the dramas of internal change, which are often far more compelling and moving than the drama which is presented on the stage viewed by the public. Only a novelist or a poet could do justice to the deep struggles which we are permitted to observe from within the client’s own world of reality.

This rare opportunity to observe so directly and so clearly the inner dynamics of personality is a learning experience of the deepest sort for the clinician. Most of clinical psychology and psychiatry involves judgments about the individual, judgments which must, of necessity, be based on some framework brought to the situation by the clinician. To try continually to see and think with the individual, as in client-centered therapy, is a mindstretching experience in which learning goes on apace because the clinician brings to the interview no pre-determined yardstick by which to judge the material.

I wish in this paper to try to bring you some of the clinical observations which we have made as we have repeatedly peered through these psychological windows into personality, and to raise with you some of the questions about the organization of personality which these observations have forced upon us. I shall not attempt to present these observations in logical order, but rather in the order in which they impressed themselves upon our notice. What I shall offer is not a series of research findings, but only the first step in that process of gradual approximation which we call science, a description of some observed phenomena which appear to be significant, and some highly tentative explanations of these phenomena.

The Relation of the Organized Perceptual Field to Behavior

One simple observation, which is repeated over and over again in each successful therapeutic case, seems to have rather deep theoretical implications. It is that as changes occur in the perception of self and in the perception of reality, changes occur in behavior. In therapy, these perceptual changes are more often concerned with the self than with the external world. Hence we find in therapy that as the perception of self alters, behavior alters. Perhaps an illustration will indicate the type of observation upon which this statement is based.

A young woman, a graduate student whom we shall call Miss Vib, came in for nine interviews. If we compare the first interview with the last, striking changes are evident. Perhaps some features of this change may be conveyed by taking from the first and last interviews all the major statements regarding self, and all the major statements regarding current behavior. In the first interview, for example, her perception of herself may be crudely indicated by taking all her own statements about herself, grouping those which seem similar, but otherwise doing a minimum of editing, and retaining so far as possible, her own words. We then come out with this as the conscious perception of self which was hers at the outset of counseling.

I feel disorganized, muddled; I’ve lost all direction; my personal life has disintegrated.

I sorta experience things from the forefront of my consciousness, but nothing sinks in very deep; things don’t seem real to me; I feel nothing matters; I don’t have any emotional response to situations; I’m worried about myself.

I haven’t been acting like myself; it doesn’t seem like me; I’m a different person altogether from what I used to be in the past.

I don’t understand myself; I haven’t known what was happening to me.

I have withdrawn from everything, and feel all right only when I’m all alone and no one can expect me to do things.

I don’t care about my personal appearance.

I don’t know anything anymore.

I feel guilty about the things I have left undone.

I don’t think I could ever assume responsibility for anything.

If we attempt to evaluate this picture of self from an external frame of reference various diagnostic labels may come to mind. Trying to perceive it solely from the client’s frame of reference we observe that to the young woman herself she appears disorganized, and not herself. She is perplexed and almost unacquainted with what is going on in herself. She feels unable and unwilling to function in any responsible or social way. This is at least a sampling of the way she experiences or perceives herself.

Her behavior is entirely consistent with this picture of self. If we abstract all her statements describing her behavior, in the same fashion as we abstracted her statements about self, the following pattern emerges — a pattern which in this case was corroborated by outside observation.

I couldn’t get up nerve to come in before; I haven’t availed myself of help.

Everything I should do or want to do, I don’t do.

I haven’t kept in touch with friends; I avoid making the effort to go with them; I stopped writing letters home; I don’t answer letters or telephone calls; I avoid contacts that would be professionally helpful; I didn’t go home though I said I would.

I failed to hand in my work in a course though I had it all done: I didn’t even buy clothing that I needed; I haven’t even kept my nails manicured.

I didn’t listen to material we were studying; I waste hours reading the funny papers; I can spend the whole afternoon doing absolutely nothing.

The picture of behavior is very much in keeping with the picture of self, and is summed up in the statement that “Everything I should do or want to do, I don’t do.” The behavior goes on, in ways that seem to the individual beyond understanding and beyond control.

If we contrast this picture of self and behavior with the picture as it exists in the ninth interview, thirty-eight days later, we find both the perception of self and the ways of behaving deeply altered. Her statements about self are as follows:

I’m feeling much better; I’m taking more interest in myself.

I do have some individuality, some interests.

I seem to be getting a newer understanding of myself. I can look at myself a little better.

I realize I’m just one person, with so much ability, but I’m not worried about it; I can accept the fact that I’m not always right.

I feel more motivation, have more of a desire to go ahead.

I still occasionally regret the past, though I feel less unhappy about it; I still have a long ways to go; I don’t know whether I can keep the picture of myself I’m beginning to evolve.

I can go on learning — in school or out.

I do feel more like a normal person now; I feel more I can handle my life myself; I think I’m at the point where I can go along on my own.

Outstanding in this perception of herself are three things — that she knows herself, that she can view with comfort her assets and liabilities, and finally that she has drive and control of that drive.

In this ninth interview the behavioral picture is again consistent with the perception of self. It may be abstracted in these terms.

I’ve been making plans about school and about a job; I’ve been working hard on a term paper; I’ve been going to the library to trace down a topic of special interest and finding it exciting.

I’ve cleaned out my closets; washed my clothes.

I finally wrote my parents; I’m going home for the holidays.

I’m getting out and mixing with people: I am reacting sensibly to a fellow who is interested in me — seeing both his good and bad points.

I will work toward my degree; I’11 start looking for a job this week.

Her behavior, in contrast to the first interview, is now organized, forward-moving, effective, realistic and planful. It is in accord with the realistic and organized view she has achieved of her self.

It is this type of observation, in case after case, that leads us to say with some assurance that as perceptions of self and reality change, behavior changes. Likewise, in cases we might term failures, there appears to be no appreciable change in perceptual organization or in behavior.

What type of explanation might account for these concomitant changes in the perceptual field and the behavioral pattern? Let us examine some of the logical possibilities.

In the first place, it is possible that factors unrelated to therapy may have brought about the altered perception and behavior. There may have been physiological processes occurring which produced the change. There may have been alterations in the family relationships, or in the social forces, or in the educational picture or in some other area of cultural influence, which might account for the rather drastic shift in the concept of self and in the behavior.

There are difficulties in this type of explanation. Not only were there no known gross changes in the physical or cultural situation as far as Miss Vib was concerned, but the explanation gradually becomes inadequate when one tries to apply it to the many cases in which such change occurs. To postulate that some external factor brings the change and that only by chance does this period of change coincide with the period of therapy, becomes an untenable hypothesis.

Let us then look at another explanation, namely that the therapist exerted, during the nine hours of contact, a peculiarly potent cultural influence which brought about the change. Here again we are faced with several problems. It seems that nine hours scattered over five and one-half weeks is a very minute portion of time in which to bring about alteration of patterns which have been building for thirty years. We would have to postulate an influence so potent as to be classed as traumatic. This theory is particularly difficult to maintain when we find, on examining the recorded interviews, that not once in the nine hours did the therapist express any evaluation, positive or negative, of the client’s initial or final perception of self, or her initial or final mode of behavior. There was not only no evaluation, but no standards expressed by which evaluation might be inferred.

There was, on the part of the therapist, evidence of warm interest in the individual, and thoroughgoing acceptance of the self and of the behavior as they existed initially, in the intermediate stages, and at the conclusion of therapy. It appears reasonable to say that the therapist established certain definite conditions of interpersonal relations, but since the very essence of this relationship is respect for the person as he is at that moment, the therapist can hardly be regarded as a cultural force making for change.

We find ourselves forced to a third type of explanation, a type of explanation which is not new to psychology, but which has had only partial acceptance. Briefly it may be put that the observed phenomena of changes seem most adequately explained by the hypothesis that given certain psychological conditions, the individual has the capacity to reorganize his field of perception, including the way he perceives himself, and that a concomitant or a resultant of this perceptual reorganization is an appropriate alteration of behavior. This puts into formal and objective terminology a clinical hypothesis which experience forces upon the therapist using a client-centered approach. One is compelled through clinical observation to develop a high degree of respect for the ego-integrative forces residing within each individual. One comes to recognize that under proper conditions the self is a basic factor in the formation of personality and in the determination of behavior. Clinical experience would strongly suggest that the self is, to some extent, an architect of self, and the above hypothesis simply puts this observation into psychological terms.

In support of this hypothesis it is noted in some cases that one of the concomitants of success in therapy is the realization on the part of the client that the self has the capacity for reorganization. Thus a student says:

You know I spoke of the fact that a person’s background retards one. Like the fact that my family life wasn’t good for me, and my mother certainly didn’t give me any of the kind of bringing up that I should have had. Well, I’ve been thinking that over. It’s true up to a point. But when you get so that you can see the situation, then it’s really up to you.

Following this statement of the relation of the self to experience many changes occurred in this young man’s behavior. In this, as in other cases, it appears that when the person comes to see himself as the perceiving, organizing agent, then reorganization of perception and consequent change in patterns of reaction take place.

On the other side of the picture we have frequently observed that when the individual has been authoritatively told that he is governed by certain factors or conditions beyond his control, it makes therapy more difficult, and it is only when the individual discovers for himself that he can organize his perceptions that change is possible. In veterans who have been given their own psychiatric diagnosis, the effect is often that of making the individual feel that he is under an unalterable doom, that he is unable to control the organization of his life. When however the self sees itself as capable of reorganizing its own perceptual field, a marked change in basic confidence occurs. Miss Nam, a student, illustrates this phenomenon when she says, after having made progress in therapy:

I think I do feel better about the future, too, because it’s as if I won’t be acting in darkness. It’s sort of, well, knowing somewhat why I act the way I do … and at least it isn’t the feeling that you’re simply out of your own control and the fates are driving you to act that way. If you realize it, I think you can do something more about it.

A veteran at the conclusion of counseling puts it more briefly and more positively: “My attitude toward myself is changed now to where I feel I can do something with my self and life.” He has come to view himself as the instrument by which some reorganization can take place.

There is another clinical observation which may be cited in support Of the general hypothesis that there is a close relationship between behavior and the way in which reality is viewed by the individual. It has many cases that behavior changes come about for the most part Imperceptibly and almost automatically, once the perceptual reorganization has taken place. A young wife who has been reacting violently to her maid, and has been quite disorganized in her behavior as a result of this antipathy says:

After I … discovered it was nothing more than that she resembled my mother, she didn’t bother me any more. Isn’t that interesting? She’s still the same.

Here is a clear statement indicating that though the basic perceptions have not changed, they have been differently organized, have acquired a new meaning, and that behavior changes then occur. Similar evidence is given by a client, a trained psychologist, who after completing a brief series of client-centered interviews, writes:

Another interesting aspect of the situation was in connection with the changes in some of my attitudes. When the change occurred, it was as if earlier attitudes were wiped out as completely as if erased from a blackboard…. When a situation which would formerly have provoked a given type of response occurred, it was not as if I was tempted to act in the way I formerly had but in some way found it easier to control my behavior. Rather the new type of behavior came quite spontaneously, and it was only through a deliberate analysis that I became aware that I was acting in a new and different way.

Here again it is of interest that the imagery is put in terms of visual perception and that as attitudes are “erased from the blackboard” behavioral changes take place automatically and without conscious effort.

Thus we have observed that appropriate changes in behavior occur when the individual acquires a different view of his world of experience, including himself; that this changed perception does not need to be dependent upon a change in the “reality,” but may be a product of internal reorganization; that in some instances the awareness of the capacity for reperceiving experience accompanies this process of reorganization; that the altered behavioral responses occur automatically and without conscious effort as soon as the perceptual reorganization has taken place, apparently as a result of this.

In view of these observations a second hypothesis may be stated, which is closely related to the first. It is that behavior is not directly influenced or determined by organic or cultural factors, but primarily (and perhaps only), by the perception of these elements. In other words the crucial element in the determination of behavior is the perceptual field of the individual. While this perceptual field is, to be sure, deeply influenced and largely shaped by cultural and physiological forces, it is nevertheless important that it appears to be only the field as it is perceived, which exercises a specific determining influence upon behavior. This is not a new idea in psychology, but its implications have not always been fully recognized.

It might mean, first of all, that if it is the perceptual field which determines behavior, then the primary object of study for psychologists would be the person and his world as viewed by the person himself. It could mean that the internal frame of reference of the person might well constitute the field of psychology, an idea set forth persuasively by Snygg and Combs in a significant manuscript as yet unpublished. It might mean that the laws which govern behavior would be discovered more deeply by turning our attention to the laws which govern perception.

Now if our speculations contain a measure of truth, if the specific determinant of behavior is the perceptual field, and if the self can reorganize that perceptual field, then what are the limits of this process? Is the reorganization of perception capricious, or does it follow certain laws? Are there limits to the degree of reorganization? If so, what are they? In this connection we have observed with some care the perception of one portion of the field of experience, the portion we call the self.

The Relation of the Perception of the Self to Adjustment

Initially we were oriented by the background of both lay and psychological thinking to regard the outcome of successful therapy as the solution of problems. If a person had a marital problem, a vocational problem, a problem of educational adjustment, the obvious purpose of counseling or therapy was to solve that problem. But as we observe and study the recorded accounts of the conclusion of therapy, it is clear that the most characteristic outcome is not necessarily solution of problems, but a freedom from tension, a different feeling about, and perception of, self. Perhaps something of this outcome may be conveyed by some illustrations.

Several statements taken from the final interview with a twenty year old young woman, Miss Mir, give indications of the characteristic attitude toward self, and the sense of freedom which appears to accompany it.

I’ve always tried to be what the others thought I should be, but now I am wondering whether I shouldn’t just see that I am what I am.

Well, I’ve just noticed such a difference. I find that when I feel things, even when I feel hate, I don’t care. I don’t mind. I feel more free somehow. I don’t feel guilty about things.

You know it’s suddenly as though a big cloud has been lifted off. I feel so much more content.

Note in these statements the willingness to perceive herself as she is, to accept herself “realistically,” to perceive and accept her “bad” attitudes as well as “good” ones. This realism seems to be accompanied by a sense of freedom and contentment. Miss Vib, whose attitudes were quoted earlier, wrote out her own feelings about counseling some six weeks after the interviews were over, and gave the statement to her counselor. She begins:

The happiest outcome of therapy has been a new feeling about myself. As I think of it, it might be the only outcome. Certainly it is basic to all the changes in my behavior that have resulted.

In discussing her experience in therapy she states:

I was coming to see myself as a whole. I began to realize that I am one person. This was an important insight to me. I saw that the former good academic achievement, job success, ease in social situations, and the present withdrawal, dejection, apathy and failure were all adaptive behavior, performed by me. This meant that I had to reorganize my feelings about myself, no longer holding to the unrealistic notion that the very good adjustment was the expression of the real “me” and this neurotic behavior was not. I came to feel that I am the same person, sometimes functioning maturely, and sometimes assuming a neurotic role in the face of what I had conceived as insurmountable problems. The acceptance of myself as one person gave me strength in the process of reorganization. Now I had a substratum, a core of unity on which to work

As she continues her discussion there are such statements as:

I am getting more happiness in being myself. I approve of myself more, and I have so much less anxiety.

As in the previous example, the outstanding aspects appear to be the realization that all of her behavior “belonged” to her, that she could accept both the good and bad features about herself and that doing so gave her a release from anxiety and a feeling of solid happiness. In both instances there is only incidental reference to the serious “problems” which had been initially discussed.

Since Miss Mir is undoubtedly above average intelligence and Miss Vib is a person with some psychological training, it may appear that such results are found only with the sophisticated individual. To counteract this opinion a quotation may be given from a statement written by a veteran of limited ability and education who had just completed counseling, and was asked to write whatever reactions he had to the experience. He says:

As for the consoleing [sic] I have had I can say this, It really makes a man strip his own mind bare, and when he does he knows then what he realy [sic] is and what he can do. Or at least thinks he knows himself party well. As for myself, I know that my ideas were a little too big for what I realy [sic] am, but now I realize one must try start out at his own level.

Now after four visits, I have a much clearer picture of myself and my future. It makes me feel a little depressed and disappointed, but on the other hand, it has taken me out of the dark, the load seems a lot lighter now, that is I can see my way now, I know what I want to do, I know about what I can do, so now that I can see my goal, I will be able to work a whole lot easyer [sic], at my own level.

Although the expression is much simpler one notes again the same two elements — the acceptance of self as it is, and the feeling of easiness, of lightened burden, which accompanies it.

As we examine many individual case records and case recordings, it appears to be possible to bring together the findings in regard to successful therapy by stating another hypothesis in regard to that portion of the perceptual field which we call the self. It would appear that when all of the ways in which the individual perceives himself — all perceptions of the qualities, abilities, impulses, and attitudes of the person, and all perceptions of himself in relation to others — are accepted into the organized conscious concept of the self, then this achievement is accompanied by feelings of comfort and freedom from tension which are experienced as psychological adjustment.

This hypothesis would seem to account for the observed fact that the comfortable perception of self which is achieved is sometimes more positive than before, sometimes more negative. When the individual permits all his perceptions of himself to be organized into one pattern, the picture is sometimes more flattering than he has held in the past, sometimes less flattering. It is always more comfortable.

It may be pointed out also that this tentative hypothesis supplies an operational type of definition, based on the client’s internal frame of reference, for such hitherto vague terms as “adjustment,” “integration,” and “acceptance of self.” They are defined in terms of perception, in a way which it should be possible to prove or disprove. …

Classics in the History
of Psychology

An internet resource developed by

Christopher D. Green

York University, Toronto, Ontario

ISSN 1492-3713

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A Theory of Human Motivation

A. H. Maslow (1943)

Originally Published in Psychological Review, 50, 370-396.

Posted August 2000


In a previous paper (13) various propositions were
presented which would have to be included in any theory of human motivation
that could lay claim to being definitive. These conclusions may be briefly
summarized as follows:

1. The integrated wholeness of the organism must be one of
the foundation stones of motivation theory.

2. The hunger drive (or any other physiological drive) was rejected
as a centering point or model for a definitive theory of motivation. Any
drive that is somatically based and localizable was shown to be atypical
rather than typical in human motivation.

3. Such a theory should stress and center itself upon ultimate or basic
goals rather than partial or superficial ones, upon ends rather than means
to these ends. Such a stress would imply a more central place for unconscious
than for conscious motivations.

4. There are usually available various cultural paths to the same goal.
Therefore conscious, specific, local-cultural desires are not as fundamental
in motivation theory as the more basic, unconscious goals.

5. Any motivated behavior, either preparatory or consummatory, must
be understood to be a channel through which many basic needs may be simultaneously
expressed or satisfied. Typically an act has more than one motivation.

6. Practically all organismic states are to be understood as motivated
and as motivating.

7. Human needs arrange themselves in hierarchies of pre-potency. That
is to say, the appearance of one need usually rests on the prior satisfaction
of another, more pre-potent need. Man is a perpetually wanting animal.
Also no need or drive can be treated as if it were isolated or discrete;
every drive is related to the state of satisfaction or dissatisfaction
of other drives.

8. Lists of drives will get us nowhere for various theoretical
and practical reasons. Furthermore any classification of motivations [p.
371] must deal with the problem of levels of specificity or generalization
the motives to be classified.

9. Classifications of motivations must be based upon goals rather than
upon instigating drives or motivated behavior.

10. Motivation theory should be human-centered rather than animal-centered.

11. The situation or the field in which the organism reacts must be
taken into account but the field alone can rarely serve as an exclusive
explanation for behavior. Furthermore the field itself must be interpreted
in terms of the organism. Field theory cannot be a substitute for motivation

12. Not only the integration of the organism must be taken into account,
but also the possibility of isolated, specific, partial or segmental reactions.
It has since become necessary to add to these another affirmation.

13. Motivation theory is not synonymous with behavior theory. The motivations
are only one class of determinants of behavior. While behavior is almost
always motivated, it is also almost always biologically, culturally and
situationally determined as well.

The present paper is an attempt to formulate a positive theory of motivation
which will satisfy these theoretical demands and at the same time conform
to the known facts, clinical and observational as well as experimental.
It derives most directly, however, from clinical experience. This theory
is, I think, in the functionalist tradition of James and Dewey, and is
fused with the holism of Wertheimer (19), Goldstein
(6), and Gestalt Psychology, and with the dynamicism
of Freud (4) and Adler (1). This fusion
or synthesis may arbitrarily be called a ‘general-dynamic’ theory.

It is far easier to perceive and to criticize the aspects in motivation
theory than to remedy them. Mostly this is because of the very serious
lack of sound data in this area. I conceive this lack of sound facts to
be due primarily to the absence of a valid theory of motivation. The present
theory then must be considered to be a suggested program or framework for
future research and must stand or fall, not so much on facts available
or evidence presented, as upon researches to be done, researches suggested
perhaps, by the questions raised in this paper.[p. 372]


The ‘physiological’ needs. — The needs that are usually taken
as the starting point for motivation theory are the so-called physiological
drives. Two recent lines of research make it necessary to revise our customary
notions about these needs, first, the development of the concept of homeostasis,
and second, the finding that appetites (preferential choices among foods)
are a fairly efficient indication of actual needs or lacks in the body.

Homeostasis refers to the body’s automatic efforts to maintain a constant,
normal state of the blood stream. Cannon (2) has described this process
for (1) the water content of the blood, (2) salt content, (3) sugar content,
(4) protein content, (5) fat content, (6) calcium content, (7) oxygen content,
(8) constant hydrogen-ion level (acid-base balance) and (9) constant temperature
of the blood. Obviously this list can be extended to include other minerals,
the hormones, vitamins, etc.

Young in a recent article (21) has summarized the
work on appetite in its relation to body needs. If the body lacks some
chemical, the individual will tend to develop a specific appetite or partial
hunger for that food element.

Thus it seems impossible as well as useless to make any list of fundamental
physiological needs for they can come to almost any number one might wish,
depending on the degree of specificity of description. We can not identify
all physiological needs as homeostatic. That sexual desire, sleepiness,
sheer activity and maternal behavior in animals, are homeostatic, has not
yet been demonstrated. Furthermore, this list would not include the various
sensory pleasures (tastes, smells, tickling, stroking) which are probably
physiological and which may become the goals of motivated behavior.

In a previous paper (13) it has been pointed out
that these physiological drives or needs are to be considered unusual rather
than typical because they are isolable, and because they are localizable
somatically. That is to say, they are relatively independent of each other,
of other motivations [p. 373] and of the organism as a whole, and secondly,
in many cases, it is possible to demonstrate a localized, underlying somatic
base for the drive. This is true less generally than has been thought (exceptions
are fatigue, sleepiness, maternal responses) but it is still true in the
classic instances of hunger, sex, and thirst.

It should be pointed out again that any of the physiological needs and
the consummatory behavior involved with them serve as channels for all
sorts of other needs as well. That is to say, the person who thinks he
is hungry may actually be seeking more for comfort, or dependence, than
for vitamins or proteins. Conversely, it is possible to satisfy the hunger
need in part by other activities such as drinking water or smoking cigarettes.
In other words, relatively isolable as these physiological needs are, they
are not completely so.

Undoubtedly these physiological needs are the most pre-potent of all
needs. What this means specifically is, that in the human being who is
missing everything in life in an extreme fashion, it is most likely that
the major motivation would be the physiological needs rather than any others.
A person who is lacking food, safety, love, and esteem would most probably
hunger for food more strongly than for anything else.

If all the needs are unsatisfied, and the organism is then dominated
by the physiological needs, all other needs may become simply non-existent
or be pushed into the background. It is then fair to characterize the whole
organism by saying simply that it is hungry, for consciousness is almost
completely preempted by hunger. All capacities are put into the service
of hunger-satisfaction, and the organization of these capacities is almost
entirely determined by the one purpose of satisfying hunger. The receptors
and effectors, the intelligence, memory, habits, all may now be defined
simply as hunger-gratifying tools. Capacities that are not useful for this
purpose lie dormant, or are pushed into the background. The urge to write
poetry, the desire to acquire an automobile, the interest in American history,
the desire for a new pair of shoes are, in the extreme case, forgotten
or become of sec-[p.374]ondary importance. For the man who is extremely
and dangerously hungry, no other interests exist but food. He dreams food,
he remembers food, he thinks about food, he emotes only about food, he
perceives only food and he wants only food. The more subtle determinants
that ordinarily fuse with the physiological drives in organizing even feeding,
drinking or sexual behavior, may now be so completely overwhelmed as to
allow us to speak at this time (but only at this time) of pure hunger drive
and behavior, with the one unqualified aim of relief.

Another peculiar characteristic of the human organism when it is dominated
by a certain need is that the whole philosophy of the future tends also
to change. For our chronically and extremely hungry man, Utopia can be
defined very simply as a place where there is plenty of food. He tends
to think that, if only he is guaranteed food for the rest of his life,
he will be perfectly happy and will never want anything more. Life itself
tends to be defined in terms of eating. Anything else will be defined as
unimportant. Freedom, love, community feeling, respect, philosophy, may
all be waved aside as fripperies which are useless since they fail to fill
the stomach. Such a man may fairly be said to live by bread alone.

It cannot possibly be denied that such things are true but their generality
can be denied. Emergency conditions are, almost by definition, rare in
the normally functioning peaceful society. That this truism can be forgotten
is due mainly to two reasons. First, rats have few motivations other than
physiological ones, and since so much of the research upon motivation has
been made with these animals, it is easy to carry the rat-picture over
to the human being. Secondly, it is too often not realized that culture
itself is an adaptive tool, one of whose main functions is to make the
physiological emergencies come less and less often. In most of the known
societies, chronic extreme hunger of the emergency type is rare, rather
than common. In any case, this is still true in the United States. The
average American citizen is experiencing appetite rather than hunger when
he says “I am [p. 375] hungry.” He is apt to experience sheer life-and-death
hunger only by accident and then only a few times through his entire life.

Obviously a good way to obscure the ‘higher’ motivations, and to get
a lopsided view of human capacities and human nature, is to make the organism
extremely and chronically hungry or thirsty. Anyone who attempts to make
an emergency picture into a typical one, and who will measure all of man’s
goals and desires by his behavior during extreme physiological deprivation
is certainly being blind to many things. It is quite true that man lives
by bread alone — when there is no bread. But what happens to man’s desires
when there is plenty of bread and when his belly is chronically filled?

At once other (and ‘higher’) needs emerge and these, rather than
physiological hungers, dominate the organism. And when these in turn are
satisfied, again new (and still ‘higher’) needs emerge and so on. This
is what we mean by saying that the basic human needs are organized into
a hierarchy of relative prepotency.

One main implication of this phrasing is that gratification becomes
as important a concept as deprivation in motivation theory, for it releases
the organism from the domination of a relatively more physiological need,
permitting thereby the emergence of other more social goals. The physiological
needs, along with their partial goals, when chronically gratified cease
to exist as active determinants or organizers of behavior. They now exist
only in a potential fashion in the sense that they may emerge again to
dominate the organism if they are thwarted. But a want that is satisfied
is no longer a want. The organism is dominated and its behavior organized
only by unsatisfied needs. If hunger is satisfied, it becomes unimportant
in the current dynamics of the individual.

This statement is somewhat qualified by a hypothesis to be discussed
more fully later, namely that it is precisely those individuals in whom
a certain need has always been satisfied who are best equipped to tolerate
deprivation of that need in the future, and that furthermore, those who
have been de-[p. 376]prived in the past will react differently to current
satisfactions than the one who has never been deprived.

The safety needs. — If the physiological needs are relatively
well gratified, there then emerges a new set of needs, which we may categorize
roughly as the safety needs. All that has been said of the physiological
needs is equally true, although in lesser degree, of these desires. The
organism may equally well be wholly dominated by them. They may serve as
the almost exclusive organizers of behavior, recruiting all the capacities
of the organism in their service, and we may then fairly describe the whole
organism as a safety-seeking mechanism. Again we may say of the receptors,
the effectors, of the intellect and the other capacities that they are
primarily safety-seeking tools. Again, as in the hungry man, we find that
the dominating goal is a strong determinant not only of his current world-outlook
and philosophy but also of his philosophy of the future. Practically everything
looks less important than safety, (even sometimes the physiological needs
which being satisfied, are now underestimated). A man, in this state, if
it is extreme enough and chronic enough, may be characterized as living
almost for safety alone.

Although in this paper we are interested primarily in the needs of the
adult, we can approach an understanding of his safety needs perhaps more
efficiently by observation of infants and children, in whom these needs
are much more simple and obvious. One reason for the clearer appearance
of the threat or danger reaction in infants, is that they do not inhibit
this reaction at all, whereas adults in our society have been taught to
inhibit it at all costs. Thus even when adults do feel their safety to
be threatened we may not be able to see this on the surface. Infants will
react in a total fashion and as if they were endangered, if they are disturbed
or dropped suddenly, startled by loud noises, flashing light, or other
unusual sensory stimulation, by rough handling, by general loss of support
in the mother’s arms, or by inadequate support.[1][p.

In infants we can also see a much more direct reaction to bodily illnesses
of various kinds. Sometimes these illnesses seem to be immediately and
se threatening and seem to make the child feel unsafe. For instance,
vomiting, colic or other sharp pains seem to make the child look at the
whole world in a different way. At such a moment of pain, it may be postulated
that, for the child, the appearance of the whole world suddenly changes
from sunniness to darkness, so to speak, and becomes a place in which anything
at all might happen, in which previously stable things have suddenly become
unstable. Thus a child who because of some bad food is taken ill may, for
a day or two, develop fear, nightmares, and a need for protection and reassurance
never seen in him before his illness.

Another indication of the child’s need for safety is his preference
for some kind of undisrupted routine or rhythm. He seems to want a predictable,
orderly world. For instance, injustice, unfairness, or inconsistency in
the parents seems to make a child feel anxious and unsafe. This attitude
may be not so much because of the injustice per se or any particular
pains involved, but rather because this treatment threatens to make the
world look unreliable, or unsafe, or unpredictable. Young children seem
to thrive better under a system which has at least a skeletal outline of
rigidity, In which there is a schedule of a kind, some sort of routine,
something that can be counted upon, not only for the present but also far
into the future. Perhaps one could express this more accurately by saying
that the child needs an organized world rather than an unorganized or unstructured

The central role of the parents and the normal family setup are indisputable.
Quarreling, physical assault, separation, divorce or death within the family
may be particularly terrifying. Also parental outbursts of rage or threats
of punishment directed to the child, calling him names, speaking to him
harshly, shaking him, handling him roughly, or actual [p. 378] physical
punishment sometimes elicit such total panic and terror in the child that
we must assume more is involved than the physical pain alone. While it
is true that in some children this terror may represent also a fear of
loss of parental love, it can also occur in completely rejected children,
who seem to cling to the hating parents more for sheer safety and protection
than because of hope of love.

Confronting the average child with new, unfamiliar, strange, unmanageable
stimuli or situations will too frequently elicit the danger or terror reaction,
as for example, getting lost or even being separated from the parents for
a short time, being confronted with new faces, new situations or new tasks,
the sight of strange, unfamiliar or uncontrollable objects, illness or
death. Particularly at such times, the child’s frantic clinging to his
parents is eloquent testimony to their role as protectors (quite apart
from their roles as food-givers and love-givers).

From these and similar observations, we may generalize and say that
the average child in our society generally prefers a safe, orderly, predictable,
organized world, which he can count, on, and in which unexpected, unmanageable
or other dangerous things do not happen, and in which, in any case, he
has all-powerful parents who protect and shield him from harm.

That these reactions may so easily be observed in children is in a way
a proof of the fact that children in our society, feel too unsafe (or,
in a word, are badly brought up). Children who are reared in an unthreatening,
loving family do not ordinarily react as we have described above (17).
In such children the danger reactions are apt to come mostly to objects
or situations that adults too would consider dangerous.[2]

The healthy, normal, fortunate adult in our culture is largely satisfied
in his safety needs. The peaceful, smoothly [p. 379] running, ‘good’ society
ordinarily makes its members feel safe enough from wild animals, extremes
of temperature, criminals, assault and murder, tyranny, etc. Therefore,
in a very real sense, he no longer has any safety needs as active motivators.
Just as a sated man no longer feels hungry, a safe man no longer feels
endangered. If we wish to see these needs directly and clearly we must
turn to neurotic or near-neurotic individuals, and to the economic and
social underdogs. In between these extremes, we can perceive the expressions
of safety needs only in such phenomena as, for instance, the common preference
for a job with tenure and protection, the desire for a savings account,
and for insurance of various kinds (medical, dental, unemployment, disability,
old age).

Other broader aspects of the attempt to seek safety and stability in
the world are seen in the very common preference for familiar rather than
unfamiliar things, or for the known rather than the unknown. The tendency
to have some religion or world-philosophy that organizes the universe and
the men in it into some sort of satisfactorily coherent, meaningful whole
is also in part motivated by safety-seeking. Here too we may list science
and philosophy in general as partially motivated by the safety needs (we
shall see later that there are also other motivations to scientific, philosophical
or religious endeavor).

Otherwise the need for safety is seen as an active and dominant mobilizer
of the organism’s resources only in emergencies, e. g., war, disease,
natural catastrophes, crime waves, societal disorganization, neurosis,
brain injury, chronically bad situation.

Some neurotic adults in our society are, in many ways, like the unsafe
child in their desire for safety, although in the former it takes on a
somewhat special appearance. Their reaction is often to unknown, psychological
dangers in a world that is perceived to be hostile, overwhelming and threatening.
Such a person behaves as if a great catastrophe were almost always impending,
i.e., he is usually responding as if to an emergency. His safety needs
often find specific [p. 380] expression in a search for a protector, or
a stronger person on whom he may depend, or perhaps, a Fuehrer.

The neurotic individual may be described in a slightly different way
with some usefulness as a grown-up person who retains his childish attitudes
toward the world. That is to say, a neurotic adult may be said to behave
‘as if’ he were actually afraid of a spanking, or of his mother’s disapproval,
or of being abandoned by his parents, or having his food taken away from
him. It is as if his childish attitudes of fear and threat reaction to
a dangerous world had gone underground, and untouched by the growing up
and learning processes, were now ready to be called out by any stimulus
that would make a child feel endangered and threatened.[3]

The neurosis in which the search for safety takes its dearest form is
in the compulsive-obsessive neurosis. Compulsive-obsessives try frantically
to order and stabilize the world so that no unmanageable, unexpected or
unfamiliar dangers will ever appear (14); They hedge
themselves about with all sorts of ceremonials, rules and formulas so that
every possible contingency may be provided for and so that no new contingencies
may appear. They are much like the brain injured cases, described by Goldstein
(6), who manage to maintain their equilibrium by avoiding
everything unfamiliar and strange and by ordering their restricted world
in such a neat, disciplined, orderly fashion that everything in the world
can be counted upon. They try to arrange the world so that anything unexpected
(dangers) cannot possibly occur. If, through no fault of their own, something
unexpected does occur, they go into a panic reaction as if this unexpected
occurrence constituted a grave danger. What we can see only as a none-too-strong
preference in the healthy person, e. g., preference for the familiar,
becomes a life-and-death. necessity in abnormal cases.

The love needs. — If both the physiological and the safety needs
are fairly well gratified, then there will emerge the love and affection
and belongingness needs, and the whole cycle [p. 381] already described
will repeat itself with this new center. Now the person will feel keenly,
as never before, the absence of friends, or a sweetheart, or a wife, or
children. He will hunger for affectionate relations with people in general,
namely, for a place in his group, and he will strive with great intensity
to achieve this goal. He will want to attain such a place more than anything
else in the world and may even forget that once, when he was hungry, he
sneered at love.

In our society the thwarting of these needs is the most commonly found
core in cases of maladjustment and more severe psychopathology. Love and
affection, as well as their possible expression in sexuality, are generally
looked upon with ambivalence and are customarily hedged about with many
restrictions and inhibitions. Practically all theorists of psychopathology
have stressed thwarting of the love needs as basic in the picture of maladjustment.
Many clinical studies have therefore been made of this need and we know
more about it perhaps than any of the other needs except the physiological
ones (14).

One thing that must be stressed at this point is that love is not synonymous
with sex. Sex may be studied as a purely physiological need. Ordinarily
sexual behavior is multi-determined, that is to say, determined not only
by sexual but also by other needs, chief among which are the love and affection
needs. Also not to be overlooked is the fact that the love needs involve
both giving and receiving love.[4]

The esteem needs. — All people in our society (with a few pathological
exceptions) have a need or desire for a stable, firmly based, (usually)
high evaluation of themselves, for self-respect, or self-esteem, and for
the esteem of others. By firmly based self-esteem, we mean that which is
soundly based upon real capacity, achievement and respect from others.
These needs may be classified into two subsidiary sets. These are, first,
the desire for strength, for achievement, for adequacy, for confidence
in the face of the world, and for independence and freedom.[5]
Secondly, we have what [p. 382] we may call the desire for reputation or
prestige (defining it as respect or esteem from other people), recognition,
attention, importance or appreciation.[6] These needs
have been relatively stressed by Alfred Adler and his followers, and have
been relatively neglected by Freud and the psychoanalysts. More and more
today however there is appearing widespread appreciation of their central

Satisfaction of the self-esteem need leads to feelings of self-confidence,
worth, strength, capability and adequacy of being useful and necessary
in the world. But thwarting of these needs produces feelings of inferiority,
of weakness and of helplessness. These feelings in turn give rise to either
basic discouragement or else compensatory or neurotic trends. An appreciation
of the necessity of basic self-confidence and an understanding of how helpless
people are without it, can be easily gained from a study of severe traumatic
neurosis (8).[7]

The need for self-actualization. — Even if all these needs are
satisfied, we may still often (if not always) expect that a new discontent
and restlessness will soon develop, unless the individual is doing what
he is fitted for. A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet
must write, if he is to be ultimately happy. What a man can be,
he must be. This need we may call self-actualization.

This term, first coined by Kurt Goldstein, is being used in this paper
in a much more specific and limited fashion. It refers to the desire for
self-fulfillment, namely, to the tendency for him to become actualized
in what he is potentially. This tendency might be phrased as the desire
to become more and more what one is, to become everything that one is capable
of becoming.[p. 383]

The specific form that these needs will take will of course vary greatly
from person to person. In one individual it may take the form of the desire
to be an ideal mother, in another it may be expressed athletically, and
in still another it may be expressed in painting pictures or in inventions.
It is not necessarily a creative urge although in people who have any capacities
for creation it will take this form.

The clear emergence of these needs rests upon prior satisfaction of
the physiological, safety, love and esteem needs. We shall call people
who are satisfied in these needs, basically satisfied people, and it is
from these that we may expect the fullest (and healthiest) creativeness.[8]
Since, in our society, basically satisfied people are the exception, we
do not know much about self-actualization, either experimentally or clinically.
It remains a challenging problem for research.

The preconditions for the basic need satisfactions. — There
are certain conditions which are immediate prerequisites for the basic
need satisfactions. Danger to these is reacted to almost as if it were
a direct danger to the basic needs themselves. Such conditions as freedom
to speak, freedom to do what one wishes so long as no harm is done to others,
freedom to express one’s self, freedom to investigate and seek for information,
freedom to defend one’s self, justice, fairness, honesty, orderliness in
the group are examples of such preconditions for basic need satisfactions.
Thwarting in these freedoms will be reacted to with a threat or emergency
response. These conditions are not ends in themselves but they are almost
so since they are so closely related to the basic needs, which are apparently
the only ends in themselves. These conditions are defended because without
them the basic satisfactions are quite impossible, or at least, very severely
endangered.[p. 384]

If we remember that the cognitive capacities (perceptual, intellectual,
learning) are a set of adjustive tools, which have, among other functions,
that of satisfaction of our basic needs, then it is clear that any danger
to them, any deprivation or blocking of their free use, must also be indirectly
threatening to the basic needs themselves. Such a statement is a partial
solution of the general problems of curiosity, the search for knowledge,
truth and wisdom, and the ever-persistent urge to solve the cosmic mysteries.

We must therefore introduce another hypothesis and speak of degrees
of closeness to the basic needs, for we have already pointed out that any
conscious desires (partial goals) are more or less important as they are
more or less close to the basic needs. The same statement may be made …

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