What is Transcendence: The pinnacle of Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs?

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In this blog we will discuss what the pinnacle of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: Transcendence is.

We will also briefly touch upon what Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is and how the need for transcendence was included in the hierarchy.

What is Transcendence: The pinnacle of Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs?

According to Abraham Maslow, Transcendence or Self-transcendence refers to,

“… the very highest and most inclusive or holistic levels of human consciousness, behaving and relating, as ends rather than means, to oneself, to significant others, to human beings in general, to other species, to nature, and to the cosmos.”(Maslow, 1971, p. 269).

In simpler words it refers to the realisation and acceptance that you are part of a whole that is much greater than yourself and that it is important that we take responsibility for our role within this greater whole. 

Maslow believed that it is only by putting others and the whole before ourselves, by shifting focus from ourselves to others is a mark that one has reached self-transcendence.

This means that your focus shifts from one that is self-centred or selfish towards one that considers the needs of other people, this shift is what allows people to reach actual self-actualisation. 

This highest level of hierarchy in the Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is not as well known as the other lower levels and was only introduced in the later part of his life, infact, just before his death.

This level came about Maslow’s own doubts about his own model and was unhappy with his own model that pushed self-actualisation as the final need in human development; this encouraged him to develop his own self-criticism of his model which he had planned to publish. 

He believed that the concept of self-actualisation that he had introduced earlier was almost shallow and that self actualization was in fact a selfish pursuit towards self-fulfilment which meant that the focus was still on one’s self. 

He realised that the paradox of seeking self-actualisation by a selfish pursuit to feel self-fulfilled is in fact the very thing that will hinder your progress towards self-actualisation- that by focusing on reaching self-actualization you can’t ever truly attain it.

He later realised and pushed the idea that self-actualisation can only be attained by focusing externally; on others and the world. It came to be developed as a concept that involves working towards transcending the self to focus on something “bigger”. 

This means that what you value is no longer the needs and wants and achievements of the self but rather something bigger and greater to one’s self- another person, society as a whole, the universe, etc.

For Maslow, he conceptualised that people who experience self actualisation by self-transcendence feel intense positive feelings, experience a sense of well-being, and have a heightened awareness about the unity of all things.

According to Vikor Frankle, Austrian existential philosopher, neurologist, psychiatrist, and holocaust survivor, in his book “Yes to life in spite of Everything” he writes that people’s experiences in the concentration camp showed that the higher needs rather than basic needs was related to survival. 

To this, Maslow also agreed and pushed the idea that the purpose of living is finding meaning that is greater than one’s self is what is needed for self-actualisation and it is also this same purpose driven life that prevents neurosis in modern societies that have had their basic needs met. 

One example of attaining self transcendence towards self actualisation is building our career not just to meet our basic needs but also as a tool with which you strive to bring about a positive impact on the world, for the greater good of mankind.

What is Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs?

The Hierarchy of Needs was first introduced by Abraham Maslow in 1943. His model proposed the idea that human motivation- their driving force for the way they act, think, feel, are a result of their attempts to fulfil basic needs that are in the form of a hierarchy. 

This means that, within this heriary, the lower level needs must be met first before the higher needs can be met. Originally there were five needs; however, a sixth pinnacle was introduced by Maslow himself towards the end of his life. 

The first four needs are what he considered to be “deficiency needs” which must be met- if these needs are not met it could lead to negative circumstances such as ill health or ill psychological health. 

The fifth and sixth needs have to do with finding great pleasure and satisfaction and are considered as “growth needs” where the motivation is more about meeting life satisfaction and purpose. 

Here is a brief introduction into the needs as streamlined by Maslow:

Physiological needs

According to Maslow the first need that must be met is physiological needs which include things like- access to food, water, shelter, clothing and sleep- which are crucial for survival. 

At this level of need, our focus is more on survival rather than the bigger picture of things- this need must be satisfied and because we are in a state of survival, we are unable to focus on other needs that are at a higher level on the pyramid.

Safety need

The second need can only be met when the basic need for survival is met and it refers to one’s need for safety and security in one’s life. 

  • To meet this need, one must feel or have a sense of security and well-being. This includes: feeling physically safe such as safe from abuse, from violence, from conflict 
  • Economic security includes having money for needs, having savings and/or investments, and having a financial retirement plan. 
  • Personal safety such as protection of human rights, emotional safety etc. 

At this stage of needs, one is assumed to have everything you need to survive and this allows one to think about economic security like saving and investments, as well as establishing a space for physical safety like a secure housing. 

Love/Belonging need

The need for love/belonging is one of the first “spiritual needs” and is considered a social need. 

This need must be met in order for an individual to feel like they belong and avoid feeling alone, isolated or depressed. 

This need is especially important for children and often develops into something stronger as the child begins to deal with group acceptance and social development. Often when this need is not met, it might become a hindrance in personal growth and professional growth as well.

For example, if an employee does not feel like they are accepted, supported, and they belong within an organisation, they might be unmotivated which impacts their performance as well. 

Esteem need

The fourth need is the need for self-esteem that is derived from the need for respect and validation from others as well as a feeling of self-respect and internal validation.

Here, we seek to focus on things that are worthwhile and look into ways we can progress our careers and our personal lives as well. It is where we begin to focus on the “Why” rather than the “What” when it comes to our motivation to live and flourish. 

Self-Actualization need

The fifth need refers to the needs to reach self-actualisation. Here the focus is on personal growth and seeking positive emotions and feelings by accepting ourselves for who we are. 

It is the process by which we become self-accepting and authentic in the way we live and build our lives with meaningful and purposeful choices that aid in personal development and/or contribute to society.

Self transcendence need

Self transcendence needs refers to the realisation and acceptance that you are part of a whole that is much greater than yourself and that it is important that we take responsibility for our role within this greater whole. 

Maslow believed that it is only by putting others and the whole before ourselves, by shifting focus from ourselves to others is a mark that one has reached self-transcendence.

This means that your focus shifts from one that is self-centred or selfish towards one that considers the needs of other people, this shift is what allows people to reach actual self-actualisation. 

This highest level of hierarchy in the Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is not as well known as the other lower levels and was only introduced in the later part of his life, infact, just before his death.

How to attain self transcendence?

According to Forbes council member Oyejoke Coker, the most effective way to achieve  self-transcendence requires mindfulness and intentionality.

There are a few things you can do to start working towards self transcendence, and attaining this psychological need is not a goal rather it is a byproduct of the process of  living mindful and intentional lives.

Reflect

Take time to reflect on our current reality and be honest/authentic in the way you make a daily note of your experiences.

Here you make an intentional and mindful effort to develop gratitude for the things around you, for the people in your life, yourself, the world, and other people. 

Here the focus is on positive feelings about your life with the intention to focus on other people and how they bring about positive experiences in your life and what you can do for them to feel joy and serenity.

Select

The next step is to choose or mindfully choose to focus on one thing, one positive experience at the end of each day-week-month-year and meditate on it. 

Practising meditation is an active process that allows you to transcend beyond self-absorption or self-centeredness and instead focus on what is present around you.

Impart

The next thing that you can do is to share your learning with other people and by doing so help them to experience positive feelings, get connected with the world around them, as well as help them move beyond themselves.

Impact

Another thing that you can do is to focus on truly helping others and in doing so practice acts of kindness and empathy that can leave an impact on their lives and make the world a better place to live in. 

Here it requires you to take action based on your authentic beliefs that are geared towards something greater than yourself and something that you believe can bring about a positive impact in the life of someone. 

Review

Finally, it is important for you to review what is being done that is part of your journey towards self-actualisation and self-transcendence. 

It is important that you review so that your focus is sharpened, the meaning behind your action is clearer, and that you regulate yourself to remain focused on the people around you and the world that you want to make an impact on. 

Conclusion

In this blog we have discussed what the pinnacle of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: Transcendence is.

We have also briefly touched upon what Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is and how the need for transcendence was included in the hierarchy.

References

Davis.M.Maslow’s forgotten pinnacle: Self-transcendence. BigThink. Retrieved on 9th march 2022. https://bigthink.com/neuropsych/maslow-self-transcendence/

Ackerman.C. What is Self-Transcendence? Definition and 6 Examples (+PDF). Positive Psychology. Retrieved on 9th march 2022. https://positivepsychology.com/self-transcendence/#examples-self-transcendence

Harper.H.Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs… and His Big Revision. The Career Project. Retrieved on 9th march 2022. https://www.thecareerproject.org/blog/maslows-hierarchy-of-needs/

What is Transcendence? The True Top of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Sloww. Retired on 9th March 2022. https://www.sloww.co/transcendence-maslow/#:~:text=%E2%80%9CTranscendence%20 refers%20the%20very%20 highest,nature%2C%20and%20to%20the%20 cosmos.

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