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Thursday, April 8, 2010

T3 - Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs - Safety Needs

Last week, we covered the Basic Needs that form the foundation of Maslow's pyramid. This week, the next step up is to Safety Needs.

Safety Needs encompasses the need for security, stability, and protection. After Basic needs are taken care of in order to survive, it frees a person's mind to think about "higher" order concerns, fears, or anxieties. People generally want some structure, order, and limits in their world. They want predictability and familiarity.

At this level, most adults focus on the four types of safety/security:

1) Their person and/or family/belongings. This is when people put alarm systems on their house or car or when they implement a neighborhood watch system. They might feel the need to carry a firearm or conceal one at their home. You might install motion detection lights outside your front door and password-protect your laptop. Some will keep safes hidden away under tables or behind pictures or will keep a lock box at a bank where they'll put their most precious belongings. People also appreciate grievance procedures developed on many different levels (government, work, church) that are in place to protect an individual from maltreatment.

2) Their financial security. Adults generally seek out jobs that will give them the most security, and if that comes along with making the most money possible, even better. People will save money in savings account, invest in mutual funds, start a ROTH IRA, or horde a nest egg away on their own in a piggy bank masquerading as a book in their library.

3) Their health/well-being. You only get one body, and while you can alter it considerably with surgeries and the like, you better have dang good insurance to do so. In order to protect themselves again the adverse effects of being really ill, or breaking bones, or having cancer, people have to have insurance or some other social program (Obama's health care reform hadn't exactly been envisioned by Maslow at this time) to fall back on.

4) Their future. The argument could be made that all of the above greatly effect a person's future, and you'd be right. People seem to enjoy planning for when the time will come when they won't have to work and can just enjoy their lives doing what they want to do. In order to do this, though, things have to be put in place while they are still working, like having a good retirement plan. Its important to have a safety net (or as Dave Ramsey likes to say, an "emergency fund") for when there might be a major accident or illness that would have negative impacts.

So how does this apply to writers?

The importance of the two levels we covered last week and today is this: a person can't fully give of themselves to others (in true friendship, romantic love, and intimacy) before these needs are met. It wouldn't make sense for a character to only pines for love when they don't have a basic need or safety need met beforehand.

If you think back to what you've written in previous books or manuscripts, you'll likely see that you've already done this. You probably have heroines/heroes who already have stable jobs and ready access to food (ha! I'm sure most have never put thought to this!) before they look to get romantically involved. :)

But the higher we go on the pyramid, the more interesting the nuances become for writers. Stay tuned!

Q4U: Can you think of any characters from books or movies that bypassed one of the first two levels on the pyramid to seek out romantic love?

One that comes to my mind is Bella Swan from Twilight. Any other takers?

Wordle: signature


Susan R. Mills said...

This is really interesting. Without knowing it, my crit partners gave me feedback in this regard. They didn't say in so many words that my MC needed to meet her other needs before going after love, but in essence that's what it boils down to.

Jeannie Campbell, LMFT said...

Cool, Susan. Thanks for giving a real-life, fictional example. :)

Hayley E. Lavik said...

An exception to this I see a lot is when a romance starts to bud while characters are in some form of extended peril. The characters endure taxing, low food/sleep, safety endangering situations as they flee villains, struggle through the wilds, etc (House of Flying Daggers comes to mind, but I'm not sure how many people have seen that, also Kushiel's Dart for fiction), and in the midst of this form a strong attraction. Quite often the acknowledgement of deep feelings comes during some respite in this, but well before they're actually safe and have their needs met.

It's an interesting exception, but I don't think it's unrealistic. Sharing harrowing circumstances is bound to form a connection, or at least camaraderie, and I think half the reason romantic scenes spring up in the midst of this is out of the need for comfort, safety, etc. If you can't have a shelter over your head, at least another human body can offer protection and warmth. In a lot of these situations, the actual romance doesn't take hold until later, when the danger has properly passed and more needs are met, but the impetus of it springs up when those first two levels of the pyramid are at threat.

Unknown said...

Only in Science-fiction ; )

Raquel Byrnes said...

Very interesting, Jeannie. I have some thinking to do about this. I always love your insightful posts. Great job.

Jeannie Campbell, LMFT said...

hayley--i think you can have budding romance during tragedy or trauma. there is something to be said about bonding during that a survival mechanism, too.

i think it does happen in genres other than science fiction. :) remember, it's just a theory.

thanks raquel. you're comments are always encouraging and i appreciate them. :)

Linda Glaz said...

Were just talking about this at work. She is without a doubt the neediest, whiniest character in anything I've ever watched. She simply flows from guy to guy, sucking the life out of them. I came to the conclusion, SHE is the real vampire, sucking out the life so that she can have a personality.

Livia Blackburne said...

Jeannie -- I was thinking -- perhaps rather than ruling out all cases where characters jump the pyramid, the theory explains rather why it's so interesting or so admirable when they do. Girls swoon over Edward Cullen *because* he breaks the expectations of the pyramid -- ignoring his need for food in order to meet a "higher" need. In the same way, we admire a monk who fasts for a month in order to get religious enlightenment.

Jumping the pyramid makes you larger than life -- and in some cases, storyworthy.

Elizabeth Mueller said...

Jeannie! Very interesting post! I can see how this works. If the pyramid is skipped for certain romance books, it feels forced, fake, cheesy almost...

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Both comments and questions are welcome. I hope you enjoyed your time on the couch today.