MASLOW’s pyramid of NEEDS – Belonging (Level 3)

PREVIOUS: Maslow Level 2



Maslow’s Original PYRAMID  (cont)
Level 2. SAFETY
: This level is motivated by the human need to be accepted & belong. We are social beings, with the emotional desire to avoiding loneliness, depression & anxiety. We’re want to communicate with others & get positive responses, as a validation for our efforts to reach outside of ourselves. This requires an amount of mastery over levels 1 & 2, to have some control over getting these psychological needs met.

✦ admiration, acceptance, respect, trust
✦ companionship, affection, love, sexual & emotional intimacy
✦ extended family, friendship & other fulfilling relationships
• career satisfaction, work recognition & appreciation, belonging

ACTIONS: to marry, have our own family, talk to friends & strangers, be a part of communities & groups – professional, religious, fraternities, gangs, clubs, sports….. – & to contribute to society.

Providing social needs advances our tribal nature. Pamela Rutledge wrote that none of Levels 1-4 needs can be met without social connection & collaboration, without which there is no ‘continuing’ of the group. In the distant past small bands of humans could not have been able to build a secure structure, defeat a woolly mammoth, or care for children while hunting – without a team effort.

It’s even more true now. Our reliance on each other grows as societies have become more complex & specialized. Connection is a prerequisite for physical & emotional survival. (Social Networks: What Maslow Misses)

However – traditional social structures & support systems are rare in our modern society, making it very difficult to form & sustain long-term relationships. We’ve ignored or forgotten the importance to our well-being of safe & – encompassing, enjoyable, enlivening, encouraging – neighborhoods. The sexual revolution, increased mobility, unemployment & the breakdown of the family have left many feeling disconnected & unfulfilled.

Maslow said that unmet needs at Level 3 are the primary cause for mental disorders. “We have largely forgotten our deep animal tendencies to herd, to flock, to join, to belong.” These needs suggest why consumers gravitate to such events as Jimmy Buffett’s Parrotheads, or choose brands like the Harley H.O.G, which encourage a sense of connection & belonging.

Truly healthy family are a treasure – but rare. In 2016 an analysis of Maslow’s Level 3 revealed that most people have a great deal of generalized anxiety.
We see being part of a community (even an unhealthy one) as protection, so are deeply afraid of being rejected by whatever group is important to them. Unfortunately, fear-based stuckness – in unhealthy family, religious, work… environments – leads to a psychological dead-end street, preventing or slowing personal & social growth.

RESPONSES:  One way to foster connections & community is to teach young people social & emotional skills which will contribute to improved academic achievement, & later to participating more easily in whatever social settings they choose.
Todd Helmus in Science Daily wrote that (social visionaries) “contend that we need a ‘whole-child’ approach to education that aims to nurture the full range of skills & capacities that will help children of today become healthy, competent future adults……”

An evidence-based social & emotional learning (SEL) curriculum was given in inner city schools to children in grades 3-6. Many participating students showed improvement in reading, writing & math – on independently administered state mastery tests given in later grades (compared to students who had been in control groups). (PATHS: Promoting Alternative THinking Strategies) 


✦ An obvious response to our emotionally & physically shattered communal life – is the global passion for social media. The need for connection is so strong that we spend (too?) much of our time glued to tablets & iPhones. The irony is that the machine has displaced face-to-face interactions, but apps like Skype & WhatApp help

✦ At the same time – long-standing in-person groups such as all 12-Step Programs (AA, OA, GA, DA… & their companion groups Al-Anon,  O-anon, Gam-anon…..) have been highly successful both for their healing power & for emotions/social connectedness. Now, phone meetings are also available

MeetUp, started in NYC, is another successful in-person organization providing small group participation around hundreds of topics for like-minded adults (psychology, networking, dating, arts, food, sports…..)

Active synagogues, churches & mosques, as well as non-traditional spiritual or healing groups also fill the gap

NEXT: Maslow Level 4

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