Mr. Maslow & the Needs of Newcomers

Have you ever been hungry when you were trying to get your work done? Ever been exhausted with a deadline coming down on you? What about feeling a lack of confidence in your ability to complete a task with which you have been charged or feeling like you don’t fit in when you’re part of group that has been given an important assignment?

In the end, all of these needs are part of a systemic labyrinth of requirements necessary to reach the frame of mind needed to draw out the best from within us. When well fed, well rested, confident, believing in our own possibilities, and feeling accepted by those around us, we flourish and begin to seek out that which we most desire to accomplish. From lower order needs, like thirst or hunger, to higher order needs, like esteem and self worth, we find ourselves on a Socratic, Bloomzy rise towards a high-level sense of being. Here however, is where Mr. Maslow and his hierarchy of needs take centre stage.

Abraham Maslow’s psychological based personality theory has profoundly influenced Bloom’s Taxonomy, (there seems less and less original about old Bloom’s work these days) due in large part to the practicality of his approach. Maslow, like most any humanist psychologist, believed humans instinctually strive for upper-level potential. Further still, humans seek the frontiers of their potential only when the base-level needs are met and then work their way up through a pyramid of necessity, until attaining the state of fully-functioning individual, or as Maslow referred to it as a "self-actualizing person."

Below is Maslow’s hierarchy of basic needs. According to Maslow, an individual does not feel the second need, until the burden of the first has been fulfilled, nor the third, until the second, and so on.

Physiological Needs - air, food, drink, shelter, warmth, sleep
Safety Needs - protection from elements, security, order, law, limits, stability
Needs of Love, Affection and Belongingness - work group, family, affection, relationships
Needs for Esteem - self-esteem, achievement, mastery, independence, status, dominance, prestige, responsibility
Needs for Self-Actualization - realizing personal potential, self-fulfillment, seeking personal growth and peak experiences, knowing who you are, where you’re going and what you want to accomplish

Like many hierarchical theories, Maslow’s ideas are often represented as a pyramid, with the larger, lower levels representing the lower needs, and the upper point representing the need for self-actualization. Maslow believed people don’t move in the direction of self-actualization, due to obstructions placed in their way by society and cited inadequate education as being one of these obstructions.

In applying his thoughts towards newcomers to Canada and the settlement sector as a whole, it could be argued that Maslow is pointing those within in it towards being better counsellors. In the end, settlement practitioners are no doubt part counsellor, part psychologist and part mentor, not to mention educators. It is important to always keep in mind newcomer clients look to those in the sector for support, acceptance and care at a time in their lives when they are in the midst a grandiose odyssey towards purpose and identity, place and self; and in today’s fast-paced, mechanically organic, gig-a-minute world the challenge to do so is greater than ever. Newcomers to Canada have been forging their identities from birth, but as immigrants the pressure to commit to a new Canadian identity can, at times, be overwhelming. Those within the sector should never lose sight of this fact. Assimilation often forces the demanding and often unpredictable synthesis of one's cultural identity and the newly forming immigrant and eventual, Canadian self, all the while this is simultaneously downloaded upon the ever-expanding hard drive of an assimilating mind. Then, like newfound applications, they apply them, and thus themselves, to their own personal and very dynamic social networks of their new Canadian life.

Long philosophical story short - this writer is of the opinion that those within the settlement sector carry out profoundly important work, not only within those individual lives who seek out their services, but within the grandiose confines of the future of our country as a whole.