What Happens When You Skip a Stage (of Maslow's Hierarchy?)
Every single person is capable of living at the highest levels of self-actualization and self-transcendence.
The only thing that stops a person from progressing is when the needs on any given level aren’t met, or if something happens to threaten the needs at that level. When this happens, we drop back to being preoccupied with meeting those needs.
Before we get into what it looks like when a person doesn’t have their physiological or psychological needs met at a particular level, I want to point out that this has nothing to do with class, privilege, or entitlement. A person who grew up in a mud hut with a stick for a toy and a strong sense of self can progress through these levels faster and easier than a rich kid who grew up in a mansion with absent parents. Remember, these are psychological human needs that we all share, not material needs.
To find out what level you’re on, figure out what you’re preoccupied with.
For example, if you’re preoccupied with getting enough food to survive or finding water - you’re on that first level. You will have no energy to worry about what anyone else thinks of you; you will be in pure survival mode.
If you’re preoccupied with finding somewhere to sleep, or with how you’re going to pay your mortgage this month, you’re on the second level. I know this might sound weird to hear, but that means a homeless person and a person on the brink of bankruptcy in an affluent neighborhood are operating on the same level. Again, it’s a human level (the threat of security and safety), not a physical level.
If you are preoccupied with wanting to feel loved, accepted, or like you belong, you’re on the social level. It would be best if you connected to others and form relationships. It’s not about feeling popular or liked; it goes back to a fundamental need to be accepted and part of a group. To care for others and be cared for. To feel valued and like you are offering value. We are social creatures, and this is where this psychological need stems from.
If you’re preoccupied with what people think of you, you’re on the ‘lower’ esteem level because you are seeking validation from external sources. If you’re in a phase of building self-confidence or internal self-esteem, you’re on the ‘upper’ esteem level.
If you’re preoccupied with figuring out what to do with your life, you’re in the early stages of self-actualization. If you know your purpose and have a plan on how to bring it to life, and you’re preoccupied with fulfilling this, you’re in the upper levels of self-actualization.
If you’re in the upper level of self-actualization and you’re also starting to explore the idea of your spiritual self and how that’s connected to the universe and everything in it, you’re in early self-transcendence mode.
If you’re fully bringing your purpose to life confidently, you’re connected to your spiritual self as much as your physical self, and you’re aligning yourself with the universe to help you further this for the betterment of all people and things – you are a high vibing, self-transcending powerhouse.
Now, life is life, and some times and situations will knock you down. An example of this is a person on a high level of self-actualization who, for whatever reason, suddenly finds themselves fighting their way through level two. It happens.
Hopefully, if it does, you would have built a solid enough sense of self to pull yourself back up.
For example, you might sort out your security situation, and you might boost up your self-esteem just a little, and then you’re pretty much back on track.
Insanely successful people can bounce back seriously fast, and I believe it’s because they have built up such a strong sense of self and purpose that any knocks are temporary.
Permanent setbacks (and we’ve all seen people who have suffered a setback and just never recovered) usually mean there is a fundamental issue not being addressed, like the self-esteem level.
If you can remove the risk of falling back down to lower levels or reduce worries at any level, you’re going to be able to develop further and with fewer complications at those higher levels.
For example, having serious money worries is going to preoccupy your mind. It’s not impossible to develop at the self-actualization level. Still, those money worries are going to take up time, energy, and mental space that would otherwise be spent on personal development. If you were in a position of zero money worries, you’re going to have more time to focus on other things.
Most of us fall somewhere in-between, and that’s fine, but it’s worth being aware of, as you may find you can make little changes to reduce those worries.
So how do we move to higher levels?
We’re all human - we love shortcuts. I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but unfortunately, …there are none.
A person who tries to skip the personal development or esteem stage and jumps into the spiritual will struggle to truly ‘get it’ or to make use of it. It’s also not something a person can take control of for personal, egotistical, or selfish reasons - again; they just won’t ‘get it.’
When Needs Go Unmet
What happens when our basic physiological and psychological needs go unmet? Your unfulfilled needs will affect your perception of life, how you see the world and yourself. Let’s take a look at what unmet needs look like and how they may be affecting you.
Unmet Physiological Needs
• Illness (mental and physical)
Unmet Need for Peace (Certainty)
Unmet Need for Satisfaction (variety, contribution)
Unmet Need for Significance/Connection/Love
Focus on personal growth and self-development for as long as you need - the self-transcendence part will naturally evolve as you do.