Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and Spiral Dynamics

In this blog, I’m going to introduce Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and Spiral Dynamics. I will briefly explain each of these psychological theories and how I use them to manage my Psycho-Social challenges that come with being Autistic.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is a motivational theory in psychology comprising of 5 or 6 levels of needs often depicted as a pyramid or triangle. Needs lower down of the hierarchy must usually be satisfied before individuals can attend to higher needs. From the bottom of the hierarchy upwards, the needs are: physiological (food and clothing), safety (home and job security), love and belonging needs (friendship and family), esteem, and self-actualisation. The very highest level was later included by Maslow to include transcendence.

Spiral Dynamics is a less well known theory and is a model of evolutionary psychology for the psychological development of individuals, organisations and societies. Like Maslows Hierarchy of Needs it has different levels of colours to represent different value systems and worldviews. Most individuals, organisations and societies have a mix of these colours.

For example, an individual may be a Chief Executive and has grown to be Orange with his business partners and competition. While Red with his colleagues below him and Green at home by driving an electric car.

If you analyse the United Kingdom as a country, it was more Red and Blue before World War 2, then became more Orange and Blue in the 20th Century and now in the 21st Century it is predominately Orange with many Blue’s becoming Green and Some Orange’s going Red. Remember, I am not talking about political party colours here though in some cases they do match. Though everyone will have different opinions on this.

As an Autistic individual I have found it difficult to make sense of my own emotional needs and the social world so I find Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Theory and Spiral Dynamics Theory extremely helpful. These are social science theories so can be questioned much like religion. You can’t do a biological test for them like blood or water. Though I feel or have the faith from experience, that these theories do have some real practical truth.

In my own life under Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, when I was running a marathon in 2019 I felt I was actualising and even experiencing transcendence as I had a spiritual experience as well. In 2022, I was homeless and only barely got my physiological needs met such as food. In 2023, I have a home again so my Safety needs feel better and I feel some belonging and love needs are met from going to Church and the people I regularly interact with on Twitter.

When I analyse myself under Spiral Dynamics, I have observed myself as mainly Yellow but I can see sometimes I use all the colours when I need to. Yellow and Turquoise are part of the 2nd tier of thinking and are capable of switching colours when the need arises. You see Yellow includes Systemic and Conceptual thinkers. For myself, I agree with the Hyper-Systemizing Theory of Autism. This theory postulates that Autistics cope with highly lawful systems, and struggle with systems of high variance or change (such as the social world of other minds).

By me changing colours in Spiral Dynamics for different Social Situations deliberately you could argue this is a form of Autistic Masking.

For example, I may meet a Red individual who believes that all refugees should be deported or locked up. As a Yellow, I see the refugee crisis as a complex issue that requires agreements between countries, co-ordination at a local level for accommodation and wider acceptance of Human rights and responsibilities globally. I may realise the Red individual is not capable or ready for Yellow thinking so I may try to gently ease them into a Orange or Blue Mindset. For example, I could say to them the refugees have a lot of economic benefits if they were allowed to work legally.

If I am socialising with someone new, deciding where they could be in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs can be useful. For example, if someone had met me in Church in July 2022 when I was homeless. Encouraging me to Actualise by running a marathon or starting a new career probably wouldn’t have been appropriate.

As I have begun to explore my Christian Faith in more recent years I feel I experience aspects of Turquoise. Turquoise is holistic as opposed to systemised like Yellow. Many Humanists and other faiths can experience similar. I see harmony between nature and how I should live (as a good person and sustainably).

I hope you found this blog on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and Spiral Dynamics useful. As an Autistic person it helps me analyse me and the social world more effectively without it driving me into confusion and distress. I sometimes do post-mortem’s on social situations using these models to aid my understanding.

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