Some would say that the only true human needs are biological: We only need to breathe, drink, eat, sleep, urinate, and defecate — everything else is some form of desire. Although that may be technically true, it’s not very helpful.
We all have intense desires that we experience as needs. I know that I have very real needs that go beyond basic survival. And I know that getting these needs met has a higher priority than getting my wants and desires satisfied.
When our desires are not met we may be disappointed, frustrated, and/or angry. When our needs are not met we can become physically, emotionally, or mentally incapacitated.
Do You Know Your Basic Needs?
All humans share a similar set of needs — much as we share our DNA — yet the details of each person’s need-set are unique. Your needs may have been shaped by an incident that happened in your childhood, or by something as recent as a breach of trust in your last relationship. Just as sometimes you don’t recognize one of your core values until you realize you’re not living in alignment with that value, sometimes you don’t know what your basic needs are until they are not met.
For example, my friend Leigh succinctly explained why she was breaking up with her boyfriend, “I need a boyfriend who remembers my birthday,” she declared. Obviously, the fact that he forgot her birthday was not the only reason she was breaking up with him, but this simple declaration expressed a basic need that she had realized was not being met: the need to feel special, to be known and seen, especially by someone she loved.
Our Needs are Naturally Prioritized
In the field of psychology much has been written on the subject of human needs. One of the most popular and most referenced scales of human needs was developed by Abraham Maslow, a professor of psychology at Brandeis University and a founder of humanistic psychology. Maslow said that once basic physical survival needs were met, humans had a hierarchy of other basic needs.
Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs states that we must satisfy each need in turn, starting with the first, which deals with the most obvious needs for survival itself. Once the lowest level of needs has been met, we can move on to the next level — safety and security — and so on up the pyramid.
If the things that satisfy our lower levels of needs are swept away, we will no longer be concerned with our higher level needs. For example, if an earthquake destroys your home, disrupts the distribution of food, and shatters the pipes that carry water through your town, you will not be concerned about your reputation at work.
Maslow's Hierarchy of Basic Needs
Biological needs: these include oxygen, food, water, sleep, and a relatively constant body temperature. They are the strongest needs and must be met first.
Safety and security: this includes personal security, financial security, health and well-being, and some sort of safety net in case of accidents, illness, or unemployment.
Love and belonging: these include social groups, professional associations, family relationships, friendships, intimate partnerships, extended families, sense of tribe, and close confidants.
Respect and esteem: the need to be accepted and valued by others. According to Maslow, there are two types of these needs: the need for status, attention, recognition, and respect from others; and the need for confidence, competence, independence, and self-respect.
Self-actualization: When all four of the preceding sets of needs are met, the need for self-actualization is activated. Maslow described self-actualization as a person's need to be and do that which the person was "born to do." It’s the desire to become more and more what one is, to become everything that one is capable of becoming.
Beyond the Basics: Other Human Needs
Beyond these five levels of basic needs, Maslow described higher levels of human needs, such as needs for understanding, esthetic appreciation, and spirituality.
Where does sex fit into all of this? Sex is often considered a biologically imperative need, however, unlike food, water, and oxygen, humans can survive without sexual activity — the human race cannot — but individual human beings can and do.
Over the course of human history, our expectations and needs for sex have changed. Sex has not been a purely procreative act for a long time. Sex has evolved into one of the ways we get many of our basic needs met — including safety and security, love and belonging, respect and esteem, and self-actualization.
Not all human needs around sex include the presence of other people. We have erotic needs that can be fulfilled outside of our relationships with partners and lovers. Yet as humans, we all have needs for relationships with others and most of us prefer to get our sexual needs met in a relationship.
Our relational needs influence how we contact and connect with other people. Simply put, my relational needs are what I need and want from you when I am in relationship with you.
©2012 by Barbara Carrellas. All Rights Reserved.
Published by Hay House, Inc. www.hayhouse.com
This article was adapted with permission from the book:
Ecstasy is Necessary: a practical guide
by Barbara Carrellas.
Using stories and simple exercises, Barbara Carrellas helps readers understand how they are wired for sex and relationships, what their personal warning signs look like, and what they need for optimum care. Plus, they’ll learn how to effectively communicate this information to others so that they can be loved more easily and effectively.
About the Author
Barbara Carrellas is an author, sex/life coach, sex educator, university lecturer, workshop facilitator, motivational speaker and theater artist. Her most recent books are "Urban Tantra: Sacred Sex for the Twenty-First Century" and "Luxurious Loving: Tantric Inspirations for Passion and Pleasure". Barbara currently offers inspiring and life-changing workshops, lectures, and keynotes on a variety of topics to individuals, schools, conferences, businesses, and the arts. Visit her website at http://barbaracarrellas.com.