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What Comfort Means, Research Paper Example

Pages: 4

Words: 999

Research Paper

Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a psychological theory developed in 1943 that seeks to understand the individualized nature of human needs for physical, emotional, financial, and spiritual comfort.  This theory demonstrates that human need can range from the most basic desire for oxygen and water, items required for survival, to the advanced desire to grow as a human being through self-actualization and self-transcendence.  While all people have physiological needs without which they will perish, the application of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to gender, age, and socioeconomic status illustrates that comfort is entirely relative to one’s position in society.

The perception of comfort can mean different things for men and women, primarily because social conditioning has resulted in gender differences when it comes to what men and women value.  An individual’s sense of self, what Maslow termed self-actualization and defined as the “desire for self-fulfilment […] to become everything that one is capable of becoming” (Maslow), varies dependent on gender.  According to the Relationship Institute in Royal Oak, Michigan, women define their sense of self “through their feelings and the quality of their relationships” (Relationship Institute) whereas men define themselves through their “ability to achieve results through success and accomplishment” (Relationship Institute).  In practical terms, these desires for self-actualization can manifest themselves in the physical environments that men and women create for themselves and other people.  . Achieve goals and prove his competence and feel good about himself.  Whereas women may work to create a comfortable home environment which encourages enjoyment for all of her family members and friends, thus building relationships, men may be more focused on creating environments that nurture their own needs for comfort and individuality.  However, it should be noted that while these desires for both group and individual comfort are not exclusive to gender, they are all rooted in a need for security and stability.

This need to seek comfort through stability is a desire found, as well, in children, who tend to have less control over their external environment.  Beyond the basic needs for food and shelter, children gain comfort from receiving love and acceptance from those around them.  This love can be expressed, in Maslow’s terms, through predictability and routine which allow for children to feel safe and cared for.  As Maslow writes, children “want a predictable, orderly world. For instance, injustice, unfairness, or inconsistency in the parents seems to make a child feel anxious and unsafe” (Maslow).  This need for stability continues as children age, however, the age range of 8-19 introduces a growing need for freedom.  As a child matures, he or she seeks self-definition and can experience comfort through the ability to make independent decisions within prescribed boundaries.  Although, within this period, “mistakes and/or defeats should be expected and accepted” (Mental Health America), children and young adults will gain increased confidence and comfort from being permitted to fail or succeed on their own.

The need for economic security is an element required by both the 20-40 age range and the 40-60 age range.  While the first group is establishing their place in the world through marriage, job choices, and children, and the second group is planning, perhaps, for their eventual retirement, they share the common need for personal and financial security.  Comfort can be expressed in many different forms, but among these is the desire for shelter.  A home represents safety and security; it is a tangible thing (fig. 1)that keeps out the elements and keeps an individual and his or her family safe from danger.  While people in the older age range may have reached a financial state where they are able to purchase more luxurious homes that express their aesthetic interests, the comfort inherent in owning a home stems from the knowledge that one will be protected from the dangers of the outside world.

The relativism of comfort is most apparent as it is expressed between different income groups.  Although owning a home may be of utmost importance to those in the middle to upper class, since home ownership represents stability and upward mobility, those in the lower income range may be content merely to have some form of shelter that protects them from the elements.  This is not to say that people in low income groups do not aspire for greater levels of comfort, only that their own personal hierarchy of needs follows a more immediate path than those whose income allows them a greater variety of choices.  Common among both income groups, as it is common regardless of gender or age, is the need for love and human companionship.  One can receive a great deal of comfort from being accepted unconditionally even when other conditions of need, such as housing, remain unmet (fig. 2).  As Maslow states, if “both the physiological and the safety needs are fairly well gratified, then there will emerge the love and affection and belongingness needs [in which an individual] will hunger for affectionate relations with people in general, namely, for a place in his group” (Maslow).

The variety of ways in which different groups of people express their desire for comfort attests to the manner in which our unique experiences shape our understanding of the world around us.  However, although elements of comfort such as housing, food, and relationships may be relative to one’s socioeconomic status or gender, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs demonstrates that some comforts are universal.  The basic need to be protected from the elements and find companionship and acceptance from other people is not dependent on gender, age, or any other demographic marker, and illustrates that, regardless of background, our human need for comfort unites us.

Works Cited

“Cottage Near Devizes.” Photograph. The Prosperity Project, 2011. Web. 31 Aug 2011.

“Differences Between Men and Women.” Relationship Institute, n.d. Web. 31 Aug 2011.

“Homeless Man 1.” Photograph. His Love Street, 2011. Web. 31 Aug 2011.

Maslow, A.H. “A Theory of Human Motivation.” Classics in the History of Psychology, 2000.  Web. 31 Aug 2011.

“What Every Child Needs for Good Mental Health.” Mental Health America, 2011. Web. 31 Aug 2011.

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