Wait, Who's Maslow?

All I know is what he's known for: the hierarchy of needs. The idea is that there are different categories of needs people have. These needs can be displayed in a gorgeous yet illegible rainbow pyramid (see above). The most basic needs for survival are at the bottom of the pyramid, and the needs for emotional well-being end up toward the top. From bottom to top, the categories of needs look something like this:

  1. Physical. Food, water, sleep.
  2. Safety. Security of body, health, and family.
  3. Love. Friends, family, romance.
  4. Esteem. Respect of self and others.
  5. Self-Actualization. Living up to your potential.

And I Should Care Because...?

Suppose you have decided to write about conflict (because you know what the Wild Things know). Are all conflicts equal? How do you decide which one to choose? It occurred to me over the weekend that Maslow has suggested an answer: the closer to the bottom of the pyramid, the deeper the conflict.

Quick Brainstorming

Start at the bottom of the pyramid, with the physical needs, and work your way up through safety, love, esteem, and self-actualization. See if any conflicts come to mind. As soon as you encounter a category where you experienced conflict, stop and think. That conflict could make a good essay topic.

Good luck writing!


Jon Perkins holds a B.A. in English from Stanford University and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. He helps students with their college, law school, and medical school applications.