Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs comprises of a five-tier model of human needs, often depicted as levels within a pyramid. Needs lower down the hierarchy must be satisfied before individuals can attend to needs higher up. From the bottom of the hierarchy upwards, the needs are as follows:
- Physiological: these are biological requirements for human survival, e.g. air, food, drink, shelter, clothing, warmth, sex, sleep.
- Safety: protection from elements, security, order, law, stability, and freedom from fear.
- Love and Belonging: encompassing both feeling loved and feeling love towards others, these are social interaction and romantic relationships, e.g. friendship, intimacy, trust, and acceptance; as well as being part of a group (family, friends, work).
- Esteem: this can be classified into two categories:
- esteem for oneself, e.g dignity, achievement, mastery, independence.
- the desire for reputation or respect from others, e.g., status, prestige.
- Self-actualization: realizing personal potential, self-fulfilment, seeking personal growth and peak experiences.
Terror Management Theory posits that while humans share with all life-forms a biological predisposition toward self-preservation in the service of reproduction, we are unique in our capacity for symbolic thought, which fosters self-awareness and the ability to reflect on the past and ponder the future. This spawns the realization that death is inevitable and can occur at any time for reasons that cannot be anticipated or controlled.
This awareness of death engenders potentially debilitating terror that is “managed” by the development and maintenance of cultural worldviews: humanly constructed beliefs about reality shared by individuals that minimize existential dread by conferring meaning and value. All cultures provide a sense that life is meaningful by offering an account of the origin of the universe, prescriptions for appropriate behaviour, and assurance of immortality for those who behave in accordance with cultural dictates. Literal immortality is afforded by souls, heavens, afterlives, and reincarnations associated with all major religions. Symbolic immortality is obtained by being part of a great nation, amassing great fortunes, noteworthy accomplishments, and having children.
Psychological equanimity also requires that individuals perceive themselves as persons of value in a world of meaning. This is accomplished through social roles with associated standards. Self-esteem is the sense of personal significance that results from meeting or exceeding such standards.
Three lines of research provide empirical support for Terror Management Theory:
- The anxiety-buffering function of self-esteem is established by studies where momentarily elevated self-esteem results in lower self-reported anxiety and physiological arousal.
- Making death salient by asking people to think about themselves dying (or viewing graphic depictions of death, being interviewed in front of a funeral parlor, or subliminal exposure to the word “dead” or “death”) intensifies strivings to defend their cultural worldviews by increasing positive reactions to similar others, and negative reactions toward those who are different.
- Research verifies the existential function of cultural world-views and self-esteem by demonstrating that non-conscious death thoughts come more readily to mind when cherished cultural beliefs or self-esteem is threatened.
Terror Management Theory was developed in 1986 by social psychologists Jeff Greenberg, Tom Pyszczynski, and Sheldon Solomon based upon Ernest Becker’s ideas. Terror Management Theory has generated empirical research (currently more than 500 studies) examining a host of other forms of human social behaviour, including aggression, stereotyping, needs for structure and meaning, depression and psychopathology, political preferences, creativity, sexuality, romantic and interpersonal attachment, self-awareness, unconscious cognition, martyrdom, religion, group identification, disgust, human-nature relations, physical health, risk taking, and legal judgments.
In 2015, Greenberg, Pyszczynski and Solomon published The Worm at the Core, which reviews this vast body of research supporting Becker’s central claim that the fear of death is “the mainspring of human activity.”
Psychosomatic Trauma Theory is defined by the degree of sensory information experienced by the sensory organs and their effect on conscious and subsequently, the subconscious. Although trauma is often classified as any experience that is thought to have a profound influence on the mental state of the individual, in reality, trauma accounts for all experiences a person goes through; from a complicated death of a loved one to the simple experience of eating. This is because as humans grow up, the mental state of the individual establishes a baseline or normality, and any experience that differs from the norm, whether it is interpreted as a good thing or a bad thing, is in essence a traumatic experience.
There are two types of sensory trauma, acute and prolonged. Acute trauma is any differing experience one feels at an instant; like witnessing the sudden death of a pet or winning the lottery. Prolonged trauma is any differing experience felt over a long period of time; like working a mindless, soul-killing job or being in a long loving relationship with someone. In both instances, the conscious is first affected, and this could result in any recognizable emotion; and then subsequently, the subconscious; and this could be interpreted as anything from an addiction or fear, or in some extreme cases, a mental illness.
All mental illness is caused by either biological or psychological factors. Biological mental illnesses are caused by the death or dysfunction of certain brain cells, and this could result in anything from Alzheimer’s to Autism. Psychological mental illnesses on the other hand are caused by a combination of terror management and an inability to conform to one’s cultural world view.
Psychosomatic Trauma Theory is a term invented by the founder. This description is poor and needs elaboration.