Creative Hierarchy of Needs

Cindy Cisneros, LCPC-S, LPC on Jan 06, 2023 in Mood and Feelings

Let’s delve again into the world of self-care: the psychological concept of taking good care of — you guessed it — yourself. Today we will explore Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and make some adjustments for your creative self.

Abraham Maslow wrote a paper in 1943 called The Theory of Human Motivation in which he introduced a hierarchy of human needs. According to Maslow, there are five levels of needs: physiological, safety, love/belonging, esteem, and self-actualization. The levels are often depicted on a pyramid, with physiological at the bottom and self-actualization at the top. As the theory goes, the needs on the bottom level of the pyramid must be fully met before the next layer can be addressed, and so on. Importance is roughly associated with the needs at the bottom of the pyramid first and the top of the pyramid last.

As theorists do in psychology, they have debated Maslow’s ideas over the years, some agreeing, others disagreeing, and most somewhere in between. In my experience, the top three layers of the pyramid (self-actualization, esteem, and love and belonging) can overlap and change order depending on any number of personal variables. 

But the bottom two, physiological and safety, stay fairly consistently primary needs that must be satisfied before the other three. Physiological needs are generally where I categorize some of the self-care fundamentals I teach my patients, like eating three meals a day, sleeping seven hours each night, keeping your body healthy and active, and so on. In accordance with Maslow, I maintain that these needs must be met before much progress can be made anywhere else (Need to improve a relationship? Make sure you are meeting your own basic needs first!).

Maslow’s hierarchy places creativity in the highest category of self-actualization. In other words, Maslow essentially believed that physiological, safety, love/belonging, and esteem needs had to be met and prioritized before creativity could be addressed and achieved. I can imagine circumstances in which this is true. 

However, I work with you, a creative person. My research and clinical practice tell me that if you place this level of priority on your creativity, you will suffer. Being creative for you, dear creative, should be in the same group as your physiological and safety needs. Seem extreme? Maybe — but probably also accurate. In session, I will encourage you in the same breath as getting enough food and sleep to be creative. Your creative soul needs to create to be well, be safe, feel loved, have self-esteem, and self-actualize!

In summary, do not underestimate the power and importance of being creative. Feeling down? Ask yourself how creative you have been. Think about some of your happier and more fulfilled periods in life. How creative were you then? Creativity is your superpower and your gasoline. In your next session, evaluate the level of creativity in your life and strategize how to use it to heal and be well!

Cindy Cisneros is a Licensed Professional Counselor in Sykesville, MD.

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