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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Maslow's Hierarchy of Human Needs

In doing some research on basic human needs and hierarchies of needs, I found out that there are different ideas and debates on the topic. I will attempt to break a few of the different theories down over a series of posts. 
Today, let's discuss Abraham Maslow.  It seems as if his theory is one of the more well known ones. It has been altered some with the addition of a few steps on the pyramid since it's debut in Maslow's 1943 paper, A Theory of Human Motivation, but let's focus on the original theory for now.
First, what does Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs say...
To lay it down gently, "this hierarchy suggests that people are motivated to fulfill basic needs before moving on to other, more advanced needs."
In the diagram below, you can see how Maslow breaks these needs down...
Our most basic needs begin at the bottom with Physiological needs.  Physiological needs include the needs that are critical for survival (food, water, air, sleep).  Maslow believed that all other needs are secondary until the physiological needs are met.
Safety/Security needs are important for survival but are not as critical as physiological needs.  Examples of these types of needs include desire for steady employment, living in safe neighborhood, and shelter from the environment.
Social needs "include needs for belonging, love, and affection. Maslow described these needs as less basic than physiological and security needs. Relationships such as friendships, romantic attachments, and families help fulfill this need for companionship and acceptance, as does involvement in social, community, or religious groups."
"After the first three needs have been satisfied, esteem needs becomes increasingly important. These include the need for things that reflect on self-esteem, personal worth, social recognition, and accomplishment."
"Self-Actualizing needs are the highest level of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Self-actualizing people are self-aware, concerned with personal growth, less concerned with the opinions of others, and interested fulfilling their potential."

Again, in order to reach the top of the pyramid of needs, the step below it must first be fulfilled.  Sometimes this can be challenging for some to achieve.
My thoughts.... I am still reading and researching other theories, but I am interested in where this desire that I have for a home fall in this pyramid?  It is there I think in the safety/security needs as well as in social needs.  I guess before I can determine the answer to that, I have to ask...
What is home?  Is it a place?  Is it a feeling???  Is it family? Friends? Relationships?  Is it on Earth?
I think, I long for a place. A physical place.  That is home, but so are the people and the feelings and the relationships.  I don't think I am the only one who experiences these feelings. 
I have recently reconnected with someone who is becoming a very dear friend to me.  I knew this person from a previous and brief meeting 3 years ago, but didn't really know much else about this person.  Yet, there was something about this person that was comfortable. We hit it off immediately!  I felt like I had known this person for my entire life.  I could be honest and chat.  It felt safe.  This person felt the same way about me.  This person said to me, "it feels like home with you."  The feelings were mutual. I felt the same way, but what a way to put it, "it feels like home with you."
Hmmm... that has gotten me to thinking about what home means even more.  I wrote in a previous post, that I found comfort in the objects that dear people in my life had given to me.  Notes. Tins. Pottery. Postcards.  I wrote that those things brought me comfort, because they were the people that were closest to me in my life.  They were like my family.  So I am still asking the question is home a place, friends, family, feelings?  Maybe it is just a combination of all of these things?  I have this feeling and notion that it is something that will never be completely fulfilled here.  Yet, we continue to search for it.... Why and what is that?
According to Maslow and other psychologists as I will explore further later, these things we desire are basic human needs.
Works Cited



Monday, October 20, 2014

Success is counted sweetest

Success is counted sweetest
By those who ne'er succeed.
To comprehend a nectar
Requires sorest need.

Not one of all the purple Host
Who took the Flag today
Can tell the definition
So clear of victory

As he defeated – dying –
On whose forbidden ear
The distant strains of triumph
Burst agonized and clear!
I recall reading this poem in my American Literature class in high school.  I memorized it.  It stuck.  What is Dickinson saying? 
The loser understands victory more than the winner? 
I am learning that this is true for many other things in life. Notice I said learning. I don't know all the answers. I don't understand everything.  I am seeking for the answers and understanding and only hope that I will continue to do so throughout my life...
 In a previous post, I referenced Rybczynski's book, Home: A Short History of an Idea.  Rybcznski spoke about comfort.  How do we know what comfort is if we have not experienced discomfort?  I think this poem illustrates the same concept.  We can receive full understanding of something when we have experienced its opposite. 
My thoughts... how does this affect our desire for a home?  Our desire for a place. Is it attainable here? Has anyone experienced it yet?

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Comfort and Well-being

In reading some excerpts from the book, Home: A Short History of an Idea by Witold Rybczynski (recommended by a fellow artist, Kate Fisher), I immediately found myself reading the last chapter of the book on "comfort" and "well-being."  Usually, when I think about home, I think about these things so it seemed fitting for me to get down to business and immediately read that chapter.  Well, after I read the foreword and chapter 1 on "Nostalgia."  At any rate, Rybczynski hooked me at the beginning of chapter 10 when he said,

"Domestic well-being is a fundamental human need that is DEEPLY rooted in us, and that must be satisfied."

As an architect, he goes on to explain that we should not confuse the idea of comfort with décor.  Décor does not necessarily make a house comfortable.  Then he breaks down the history of different floor plans and how they have evolved over time to accommodate our comfort and needs and on and on and on...

However, what struck me the most interesting is the idea of measuring comfort.  How do you do that? Rybczynski thinks that maybe the only way we can measure comfort is by measuring discomfort.  Discomfort is much more measureable.  He says, "the simplest response would be that comfort is physiology -- feeling good."

I know when something feels good, right? My pillow sure does feel good when I lay my head on it every night, but would I know that it felt good if I had not experienced what felt bad?  My head did not feel good when it was resting on the dentist's chair for 3 hours on Friday.  That did not feel good at all.  I could definitely measure that much more accurately than I can measure the comfort my pillow gives me. The way Rybczynski sums it up in the end is perfect. He gives the example that most people say,

"I may not know why I like it, but I know what I like."

He continues to say,

"This recognition involves a combination of sensations -- many of them subconscious -- and not only physical, but also emotional as well as intellectual, which makes comfort difficult to explain and impossible to measure."

All of this makes me think of the longing we have for home and place.  We have this stuff.  Pictures.  Cushy pillows and blankets.  Fluffy rugs.  Pottery.  All this stuff that we fill our houses with trying to make it home. Trying to make it comfortable.  We are searching for comfort.  For the past 3 summers, I have lived in Colorado.  My room there is this generic room in a building of other generic rooms. They all look the same. They all have the same furniture. They all have the same stark walls.  I can't stand it.  I want it to be my "home" not just the place that I sleep.  So what do I do? I take photos of FRIENDS and FAMILY and favorite pieces of pottery that remind me of the PEOPLE who made them.  A Nestle chocolate tin can that my FRIEND gave me.  I hang special postcards and notes on the wall by my bed that special PEOPLE in my life wrote to me.  All of the stuff that I take there is related to people and that is what brings me comfort.  They are my friends. My family.  Is this longing that we have for home and comfort really a longing for family?  Is it family that brings you comfort?  Can we measure it accurately if we have not experienced the discomfort of missing parts of a family?  

Works Cited
Rybczynski, Witold. Home: A Short History of an Idea. New York: Penguin Books, 1987. Print.

Monday, September 15, 2014


I have found a German word that seems to describe the feeling of longing that we have and that I am referring to perfectly - Sehnsucht.

You may listen to how this word is pronounced here -

According to, sehnsucht is yearning; wistful longing. However, there is much much more to be said about this word in many psychology journals.  Here, the Developmental Psychology journal goes in depth about the term.

Additionally, there are plays and movies on the subject. Hope to find some of those and read/watch them.

I am currently reading more about this and plan to contact some psychologists on the subject.

Stay tuned... more to come on Sehnsucht later!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Thoughts on Lewis

In doing some googling and reading on the concept of humans longing for home or place, I stumbled upon some of C.S. Lewis' writings that were also once given to me by my undergraduate lead professor and mentor.  In Lewis' sermon, The Weight of Glory, he talks about a longing that we have for some place.  A place that we crave and cannot attain here. Though many of us try. In trying to find it and identify this longing, by calling it Romanticism, Nostalgia, and Beauty, Lewis comments on William Wordsworth:

"Wordsworth's expedient was to identify it with certain moments in his own past. But all that is a cheat. If Wordsworth had gone back to those moments in the past, he would not have found the thing itself, but only the reminder of it; what he remembered would turn out to be itself a remembering."

I will continue to quote Lewis because he said it better than I ever will:

"The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not IN them, it only came THROUGH them, and what came through them was longing. These things -- the beauty, the memory of our own past -- are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshippers.  For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited."

Yet, still we try to attain this place here on Earth.  A home. A place. I want it too.  A house with a wrap around porch. A swing in a yard filled with big oak trees that are homes to the tree frogs and cicadas that chirp at night all plopped down in rural Tennessee. I can envision it and taste it and hear it, but is that really the ideal? Hmmm... I don't think it is. I can't fathom it, yet I believe it is there.

I am reminded of an Emily Dickinson poem that I had to memorize in high school...

I never saw a moor

I never saw a moor,
I never saw the sea;
Yet know I how the heather looks,
And what a billow be.

I never spoke with God,
Nor visited in heaven;
Yet certain am I of the spot
As if the checks were given.

In the end, I want to talk with people. Interview them and ask them these things... What is it that you long for in your home? What is ideal for you? What is your dream? I want to take their answers and investigate them. Compare them and see what I find. I think I will find that will all desire the same thing even though we all may not realize it.

Works Cited

Dickinson, Emily. I never saw a moor. (from memory)

Lewis, C.S. The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses. New York: The MacMillan Company, 1949. Print.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

New techniques

I am enrolled in Digital Fabrication this semester. This course teaches us how to use computer programs and software that will operate a CNC router, laser cutters, and 3D printers. I am excited to see how these new skills and techniques will inform my work.  Here is some of my technical research for this project.  Continuing to use this stereotypical house form because I feel it is often used to reference the ideal, I am working on making new dies for the extruder which will expedite my building process and make elements for clay pieces and entire pieces using mixed medias. Here is some of the technical research in the works...
Check the laser cutter out in action...

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Research Project Proposal

I would like to investigate and research the universal desire and longing that people have for a home.  I think it is universal for us as humans to want to have a place that is ours.  A place that is safe and familiar and comforting.  Each person has a different idea about what that place is for them.  What are those ideas?

I feel that I am currently struggling in my work to figure out what I am really trying to say.  I know there is a theme, but I am having a hard time trying to figure out exactly what that is.  I have these ideas about the importance of preserving the traditional family unit based on my Christian worldview.  However, then I want to express the hope and grace that is available for those of us who have not had the fortune of growing up in that traditional family unit.  I believe there can be forgiveness, re-growth, and healing despite trials and wrong decisions that we may face.  Then, I am still so wrapped up in the longing that I have for a place – a home – a physical house.  I just want to figure out how all of these things go together.  They do. I believe they can and they will.  It is my goal that this research project will help me get one step closer to figuring it all out.