No theory forbids me to say "Ah!" or "Ugh!", but it forbids me the bogus theorization of my "Ah!" and "Ugh!" - the value judgments. - Theodor Julius Geiger (1960)

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

I like books that bust a common myth. Transcend by Scott Barry Kaufman does.


  • Maslow drew his Hierarchy of Needs as a pyramid.
  • Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs progresses in locksteps, like completing levels in a video game.


  • Maslow never drew his Hierarchy of Needs as a pyramid. The commonly depicted pyramid of Maslow's hierarchy was created by a management consultant in the 1960s. Maslow's view of self-actualization is more nuanced than the pyramid portrays.
  • Maslow's theory is a dynamic and ongoing process of becoming, with an integrated hierarchy of needs that can influence each other.  Maslow’s hierarchy distinguishes between deficiency needs, which arise from a lack of satisfaction of e.g. food, safety and belonging; and growth needs that focus on self-actualization and transcendence. Integrating both types of needs is needed for wholeness.

    Our brains are designed to prioritize safety and security concerns over the desire for personal growth. Maslow differentiated between ‘defensive-wisdom’ related to safety needs and ‘growth-wisdom’ which involves a clearer lens on reality and focuses on choices that lead to greater integration and wholeness rather. Maslow believed that everyone is capable of self-actualization, which involves a dialectical balance between safety and growth.
  • Exploration, love, and purpose are seen as integral components of growth, ultimately leading to transcendence—unity and harmony with oneself and the world.

    As excessive psychological entropy, driven by factors like uncertainty, can adversely affect mental health, cultivating a healthy self-esteem - rooted not only in feeling good but in genuine accomplishment, intimate connections, and personal growth- is important. Facing the unknown, managing uncertainty, and embracing challenges are crucial for individual development. Shedding defensive mechanisms, even if providing a sense of protection, is essential for genuine growth.

    Adventure seeking involves risking safety for novel, intense experiences. Balancing security and growth is vital in becoming a whole person, and adventure seeking is linked to increased resilience, particularly among those who have experienced trauma. Low anxiety levels coupled with low experiential avoidance enhance post-traumatic growth and meaning in life.

    Openness to experience and intellect play crucial roles in problem-solving, reality monitoring, and truth-seeking. Reduced latent inhibition (openness), results in experiences less shaped by prior ones.

    The light triad personality traits—Kantianism, Humanism, and Faith in Humanity—represent a loving and beneficent orientation toward others. Added to this, caring for oneself is essential for overall well-being.

    Viewing a job as a calling is linked to higher life and job satisfaction, emphasizing the importance of a purpose built on a foundation of security, belonging, connection, healthy self-esteem, exploration, and love. Knowing when to move on from an inhibiting occupation or purpose is essential, as uncomfortable experiences are not necessarily negative for personal development.

    Explorations of mortality reveal a renewed sense of wonder, joy, and well-being among participants of a “end of life-game”. Confronting the ultimate unknown can lead to transformative experiences, prompting a shift from material needs to existential and spiritual aspects. Exercises to achieve this shift include avoiding familiarization, seeking out new experiences, meditation, accepting and embracing the past, contemplating life from different perspectives, and cultivating a sense of the miraculous.

  • This book shows how important it is to go back to the original source. Inspired by it, I read some of Maslow's original papers.