Psychology of our Basic Needs

We as human beings all have basic needs in order to live, to feel alive, and to thrive. I will be discussing two sets of basic needs and how they correlate, as well as the needs of the spirit. The first set is what we need in order to both feel and be alive in this world, and the second set to feel like we are thriving in it.

Often, we use addictions and crutches to attempt to meet our needs, but the truth is they are only illusions of our needs being met. If you think anyone or anything but yourself can meet your needs, you will be sorely disappointed. Sure, others can be outlets for the fulfillment of our needs, as are all things external, but they cannot meet them for us.

Five Basic Needs

five basic needs


So, the first set of basic needs are from what is known as choice theory, coined by William Glasser based on his work in the fields of psychology and counseling. By his assumption these needs are genetic, meaning they are inherent to us by our very makeup, the first of which is survival, which can be broken up into six subcategories: food, clothing, shelter, breathing, personal safety, and security. This need is a physical need.

The other four are psychological needs, and they are as follows: love and belonging, power, freedom, and fun. Before I go into depth about each of the four psychological needs, it is important to mention that they are also genetic, according to Glasser’s choice theory, and that they are not necessary for survival, but they are necessary to feel alive, or a part of what he calls our “Quality World.”

Love and Belonging

To elaborate on the four psychological needs, love and belonging is the need for connection and to feel a part of something. It is usually the need that drives behaviors such as developing friendships and intimate relationships with others, as well as joining organizations. If you feel lonely or even alone, then you are not meeting your own love and belonging need very effectively.


Power is the need for achievement, the need for self-esteem and to feel good about the choices we make. It is the need that often moves our careers and physical lives forward. If you are constantly feeling down on yourself or like you aren’t good enough, then you are not meeting your need for power effectively enough.


Freedom is the need for movement, independence, and autonomy. It is the need to be able to make choices. According to Victor Frankl, author of Man’s Search for Meaning and survivor of a Nazi concentration camp, in every situation, even the direst, we still retain one single most important choice: how to respond. Freedom is generally the need that pushes us to make money and to develop ourselves. If you feel trapped or hindered by the circumstances of your life, then you are not meeting your own freedom need effectively.


Fun is the need for pleasure, play, and laughter. It is the intrinsic reward for learning, the need for creativity, and is the result of work when it is what we are truly passionate about. When you were a kid you learned many life lessons by playing and having fun, and that childlike drive is a deeply engrained need to feel alive. To have fun is typically the impetus to play sports and learn new and interesting things. If you feel jaded or dull about your life, then you are not effectively meeting your need for fun.

Six Basic Human Needs

six basic human needs

The second set of basic needs were coined by Tony Robbins, and he calls them our “six basic human needs.” They are all psychological needs in order to feel like we are thriving in the world. To feel alive is not enough for a life of fulfillment.

We must meet our needs for comfort or certainty, variety or uncertainty, significance, love and connection, growth, and contribution, if we are to thrive. Each of the six relate and interrelate with each of the five basic needs. See if you can spot the relationships.


We all have a need to feel a measure of certainty about the future as to have a sense of security. Notice how security is one of the six needs for survival. Certainty is the need to have comfort, to avoid pain, and to experience pleasure. Avoiding pain and seeking pleasure are innate needs we are all born with. If you are certain you will experience more pleasure and less pain by the choices you make today, you are more likely to make the ones you set out to do.


We also have a need for uncertainty or variety, which is to have change or be surprised. It is also our need for exploration and adventure. If you are certain that tomorrow is going to be exactly as it is today, you are more likely to make choices today that are not conducive to a better tomorrow.


Significance is the need to feel important, special, or unique. We all desire to have an individual identity, something that sets us apart from everyone else. If the locus of your identity is external, you are clearly not meeting this need very effectively.

Love and Connection

Love and connection is the adverse, the need to feel one with others, or similar to them. Clearly this need coincides to the need mentioned above, love and belonging.


The first four needs are psychological, as the four above, while the last two are what Tony calls “needs of the spirit.” Also stating “When these needs are met, we feel truly fulfilled.” Growth is the need for expansion and self-improvement. It relates to our need for power.


Contribution is the need to have something of value to give to others. Often times, the need for growth is propelled by our need for contribution, because if we grow then we will have something more to give.

Needs of the Spirit

needs of the spirit

Now let’s talk about the needs of the spirit. I agree with Tony that our spirit needs growth and contribution to feel fulfilled. In addition to that, it needs love. Not romantic love. Not brotherly love. Not even platonic love. But self-love. You have to learn to love yourself, because until you do nothing and no one will feel as good or be as fulfilling as when you do.


The next two needs stem from the need for love, since they are both aspects and results of self-love, as are all things that promote self-improvement. The spirit needs peace. If you are not at peace with yourself and your circumstances (no matter what they are), then, again, nothing will fulfill your spirit. You must meet your own needs or all the money in the world will not make you feel secure, all the sex will not make you feel loved, and so on.


The final need of the spirit is the need for expansion, which is different from growth in that you must develop your spiritual abilities and knowledge. Learn about something esoteric, take a class on meditation, or learn something more about how to get closer to God. Your spirit is infinite, and if you are not expanding along with it, then you will feel limited, constricted.

As mentioned above, all things that improve your life are aspects of self-love. When you love yourself you do what you can to survive, you feel a part of something and a connection to those around you. Those who love themselves grow and contribute to the lives of others. They have fun and enjoy life, because they know that to be happy is what life is all about.

Loving yourself looks like achieving goals and dreams, building up your self-esteem by accomplishing things on a daily basis that lead you down the path you are most passionate about. Loving yourself is not selfish, it is selfless, because if you are down in life and down on yourself, then you will have nothing to contribute to others, so loving yourself is the ultimate selfless act.