Friday, May 8, 2009

Maslow - Deficiency vs. Growth Motivation

Maslow theorized two different kinds of motivation: Motivation to satisfy a Deficiency, and Motivation towards Growth. He came up with this theory of two kinds of motivation to explain a difference he saw between a psychology of sickness and a psychology of health.

Maslow believed that at the core of every neurosis was an unfulfilled need. If a person did not have a way to meet their basic needs for safety, belonging, love and respect, that person would create a neurotic symptom to attempt to satisfy in some way this unmet need. He found that when his patients' needs were met, their neuroses disappeared.

Maslow, though, was not interested exclusively with why people became neurotic, but looked for answers to what motivated such things as a child's growth, healing after brain trauma, creativity, and even psychotherapy itself, because there was something in people motivating them to move beyond their current situations into new understanding and new life which could not be understood as maintenance of homeostasis. He called this motivation "Growth Motivation" and used it to explain the tendency of people to grow.

He saw this Growth Motivation as natural and foundational, because it was exhibited in children in the joy they found in new discovery, and not only children, but also those individuals who he referred to as "self actualized" who continued to be motivated by the continuous joy of learning, exploring, and growing. He also agreed with those psychoanalytic theorists of the time (Eric Fromm and Karen Horney) who believed that neuroses could only be explained in terms of a tendency toward growth, and that they were merely the patients' ways of trying to continue to grow despite conditions which impeded their natural growth. This tendency for Growth, he believed, was as important to understanding the healthy functioning of people as unmet needs were to understanding the development of illness.

Like grass underneath an inflatable pool, which turns pale, and grows sideways and outward to try and find the sun with all of its energies, humans, too, are constantly oriented to growth. The only difference is that we humans are not only motivated by physical growth, but also by mental emotional, and even spiritual growth, and despite obstacles there is a voice inside each of us which continually calls for us to become everything that we can be.

Maslow, A. (1968). Toward a Psychology of Being. New York: D. Van Norstrand Co.