Author: artorres22


What Motivates Us?

“What a man can be, he must be. This need we call self-actualization.” – Abraham Maslow

I wanted to find something more positive to psychology than psychopathology. I’ve read blogs about depression, schizophrenia, and child abuse. There are so much negative aspects to psychology that people focus on currently. The emphasis of psychology has a lot of to do with crisis, trauma, and depression. I started thinking of what drives people to do what they do? How are people motivated? How do we find our true potential in life? How do these ambitions affect us?

I found the study of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Abraham Harold Maslow was an American psychologist that had the same questions as I do. He trusted that people have a set of motivation systems unrelated to rewards or unconscious desires.

In 1943, Maslow stated that individuals are motivated to achieve certain needs. When one need is fulfilled, people seek to fulfill the next one and then the next one. Need in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary states that a need is which someone or something must do or have something.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is arranged in a hierarchy of five stages of needs that are modeled on a pyramid.


The original hierarchy of needs model

  1. Biological and Physiological needs – air, food, drink, shelter, warmth, sex, sleep, etc.
  2. Safety needs – protection from elements, security, order, law, limits, stability, freedom from fear, etc.
  3. Social Needs – belongingness, affection and love, – from work group, family, friends, romantic relationships, etc.
  4. Esteem needs – achievement, mastery, independence, status, dominance, prestige, self-respect, respect from others, etc.
  5. Self-Actualization needs – realizing personal potential, self-fulfillment, seeking personal growth and peak experiences.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs states that we must satisfy each need in all stages in order to reach our higher potential or our self-actualization. Only when the lower needs are satisfied, then we are motivated to do are. For example, in order for me to be truly motivated and study a test, all of my physical desires such as hunger and sleep deprivation must be fulfilled. I would need to feel secure and comfortable, and make sure my social relationships are virtuous such as I would feel distracted if I were in an argument with my boyfriend. Lastly, I would need to feel good about myself, or respect myself to a level that will make me feel like I could nail that test.

The expanded hierarchy of needs

The crossed out levels are the additional stages that were later discovered.

  1. Biological and Physiological needs – air, food, drink, shelter, warmth, sex, sleep, etc.
  2. Safety needs – protection from elements, security, order, law, limits, stability, etc.
  3. Social Needs – Belongingness and Love, – work group, family, affection, relationships, etc.
  4. Esteem needs – self-esteem, achievement, mastery, independence, status, dominance, prestige, managerial responsibility, etc.
  5. Cognitive needs – knowledge, meaning, etc.
  6. Aesthetic needs – appreciation and search for beauty, balance, form, etc.
  7. Self-Actualization needs – realizing personal potential, self-fulfillment, seeking personal growth and peak experiences.
  8. Transcendence needs – helping others to achieve self-actualization.

Here is video that explains more about the extension if interested. It explains more about cognitive needs, aesthetic needs, and transcendence needs.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs model was extended in the 1970’s. Although he reviewed those certain aspects, he did not include ‘Cognitive’, ‘Aesthetic’, and Transcendence’ as stages in his own expression of Hierarchy of Needs.

Psychopathology is the scientific study of mental disorders, which was very popular in the 40s’. In 1943, Maslow was more fascinated in human potential, and how we accomplish that potential.


Abraham Maslow discovered the following:

  • Human motivation is based on people wanting fulfillment and change through person growth.
  • Self-actualized people are those who were fulfilled and doing all they were capable of.
  • Growth of self-actualization is the need for personal growth and discovery that is present throughout a person’s life.
  • Self-actualization could be measured through the concept of peak experiences. This could only happen if a person experiences the world for what it is and feel nothing but joy.

He stated the following:

“It refers to the person’s desire for self-fulfillment, namely, to the tendency for him to become actualized in what he is potentially.

The specific form that these needs will take will of course vary greatly from person to person. In one individual it may take the form of the desire to be an ideal mother, in another it may be expressed athletically, and in still another it may be expressed in painting pictures or in inventions” –Maslow, 1943

Self-Actualized People

Maslow studied 18 people he considered to be self-actualized, including Abraham Lincoln, Albert Einstein, Thomas Jefferson, William James, Aldous Huxley, Gandhi, and Beethoven.

Characteristics of Self-Actualized People

  • keen sense of reality, aware of real situations, and objective judgment rather than subjective
  • see problems in terms of challenges and situations requiring solutions, rather than see problems as personal complaints or excuses
  • need for privacy and comfortable being alone
  • independent, and not reliant on culture and environment to form opinions and views
  • non-conformist
  • democratic, fair and non-discriminating
  • socially compassionate
  • accepting others as they are and not trying to change people
  • comfortable with oneself, despite any unconventional tendencies
  • a few close intimate friends rather than many surface relationships
  • sense of humor directed at oneself or the human condition, rather than at the expense of others
  • spontaneous and natural
  • true to oneself, rather than being how others want
  • excited and interested in everything, even ordinary things
  • creative, inventive and original
  • seek peak experiences that leave a lasting impression

Are You Self-Actualized Or Know Someone Who Is?

Of course my natural response is that I guess not all my needs are satisfied because I do NOT feel self-actualized. On the other hand, researching and writing this entire post definitely reminded me of one of my best friends, Estevan Munoz. I have known him for about 6 years now, and he is unquestionably the motivated person I know. He’s very kind and funny, and I’ve rarely seen him angry.

First meeting him, you’d know his passion is for movies. I could bring up a movie and he would go off for hours about his opinion on it. He doesn’t just watch movies; he studies them as for own personal satisfaction. He knows every actor, actress, and director out there and easily remembers all of their names.

A few months ago, Estevan told me that he realized his true potential in life was to become a director, and I have done nothing but support him. I have been in one of his films called I Have Aids.

After first reading all of this information I instantly texted Estevan saying that he reminds me of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. He texted me back later and said that someone already told him that about a month ago! What?! NUTS! He said it’s the nicest compliment he’s ever heard. He is a great guy and a great movie director. To me, he’s met all of his motivational needs and is ready to do anything he sets his mind to. Looking back, he fits every single characteristic of self-actualization especially the last one, seek peak experiences that leave a lasting impression. He is leaving to Portland to make something of himself because he “has not experienced enough”.

I find this topic to show such a brighter side to psychology, rather than disorders and addiction. It is encouraging to know about motivation and the different aspects to it. I will think of self-actualization when I meet some that seems over the top and galvanized and maybe even compliment them about it. Everyday I now always try to keep my motivational needs balanced and maybe one day I will feel self-actualized.

Here is a link if anybody is interested in the film I was in:



Emotions are hard to describe…

ImageOnce I was listening to a big lecture from a man who was describing this old court room when I went on my journey to Washington D.C. in 2006. All of a sudden I hear two boys behind me saying, “Oh cool! Should we tell her? Yeah.. it’s probably a good idea. Excuse me, miss?” I turn around and smile. “Yeah?” I ask quietly. “Well, there is a huge spider on your leg.” Without hesitation I intermediately stand up, scream, and freak out. I was kicked out of the lecture because my emotions got the best of me.

My group’s topic is involved with emotional psychology. I had a hard time picking something to research about but then it got me thinking about emotions in general. Why do we react like we do? Are emotions just reactions to an event? If so, why can’t everyone have the same reaction? How come I wasn’t excited by that spider like those other boys, but was scared?

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines emotion as the affective aspect of consciousness, but I wanted to know more. I discovered there are four popular theories to emotions.

Theory 1- James-Lange Theory

The oldest theory is known as the James-Lange Theory, which came from the two theorists William James and Carl Lange. They were both interested in the idea of emotion around the same time in 1884-1887. The theory is that “emotion is not directly caused by the perception of an event but rather the bodily response caused by the event”. That means that in order to feel emotion, we must first feel a bodily response or reaction such as your heart racing or fast breathing. For example, if I almost get into a car accident, my heart will race. Once I notice my heart rate, my brain figures out that I am experiencing fear.

Theory 2- Cannon-Bard Theory

The second theory is known as the Cannon-Bard Theory, which developed around 1927. They argued that the “same bodily responses accompany many different emotions.” Which means if my heart is racing, there could be many different emotions I experience such as fear or excitement. They concluded that when the experience of emotion and the bodily response occur at the same time, they are independent from each other. For example, when my heart races, it may not necessarily mean that I am angry but rather excited in a positive way. My brain cannot just rely on a bodily response to know which emotion I am experiencing.

Theory 3- Schachter-Singer Theory

Stanly Schachter and Jerome Singer discovered the third theory as the Schachter-Singer Theory (or Two-Factor Theory), which developed around 1962. It “suggests that experiencing an emotion requires both bodily response and an interpretation of the bodily response by considering the particular situation the person is in at the moment.” Even though the bodily response is the same for many emotions, it depends on the situation your in for a certain emotion. For example, if my heart was racing and a wild dog was chasing me I would interpret that as fear. If my heart races while I look at someone I’m in love with, it would be interpreted as excitement.

This image is an example of the first three theories of emotion

Theory 4- Opponent-Process Theory

The most common and different theory is know as Opponent-Process Theory by two psychologists, Richard Solomon and John Corbit in 1974. This explains our experience of emotions in relation to its opposites. “Emotions disrupt the body’s state of balance and that our basic emotions typically have there opposing counterparts.” Examples of opposites are pleasure and pain, fear and relief, and depression and elation. This also applies to taking an addictive drug and experiences the harsh withdrawal afterwards. For example, I would feel a very high level of fear before I bungee jump off a ledge. After the jump, I would then feel a very high level of relief, the opposite of fear.


I find this exciting because now it feels like I can read people a little better thinking of all the emotions that they react by. For example, I was thinking about if a clown walked into our classroom and how many students would either react with excitement or be completely scared out of their minds. Excitement and fear are completely different emotions that people would react by from their past experiences with clowns. This is all very interesting to me and I would love to know more such as what is the opposite of neutral? And can you feel emotion in your sleep? Can animals feel the exact same emotions as humans?

I think I agree with emotion and bodily response having to be related especially in a certain situation but it which one affects the other first? I think the main bodily responses to any emotion has to do with your heart rate, the sinking stomach feeling, and “butterflies”. Sometimes, feeling those “butterflies” makes me even happier because it feels so good. Lastly, why is it so hard for people be this emotionally happy and react to everything like this?

Cigarettes and Anxiety

Nicotine cigarettes are a very dangerous and unhealthy stimulant. So why do people smoke them and why are they so hard to quit? Image


They are highly addictive because of the soothing effects of the nicotine inside the cigarettes. Smokers develop a dependence on nicotine especially those who are depressed or have high anxiety. According to the text Understanding Psychology, stimulants are drugs that have an arousal effect on the central nervous system, causing a rise in heart rate, blood pressure, and muscular tension. Nicotine fuels the release of the chemical dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that helps control the brain’s prize and pleasure centers. So for a smoker, a cigarette is a reward.

            People who are depressed or have high anxiety tend to have low dopamine. Most smokers use cigarettes to briefly increase their dopamine supply. Cigarettes motivate the brain to turn off its own instrument for making dopamine, which stimulates people to smoke more. It is unknown if smoking leads to depression or if depression leads to smoking but there is a relationship.

            Assistant Professor Darlene Brunzell and her colleagues did a study at the Virginia Commonwealth University where they observed that low doses of nicotine and nicotinic receptor blocker had similar effects to reduce anxiety-like behavior in an animal model. They discovered that “inactivation of beta2, specific sub-class of nicotine receptors that bind nicotine, appears to reduce anxiety.”


Credit: Image courtesy of Darlene Brunzell, Ph.D./VCU

            “This work is unique because it suggests that nicotine may be acting through inactivation, rather than activation, of the high affinity nicotinic receptors,” said Darlene Brunzell. “Nicotine acts like a key that unlocks nicotine receptors in the brain. Usually that key opens the receptor, but at other times nicotine is like a key that has gotten broken inside of the lock. Our findings suggest that los-dose nicotine may block a specific subtype of receptor from opening that is important for regulating anxiety behavior.”

            Brunzell and her colleagues are continuously studying the subject and hope to classify which brain parts control the anxiolytic effects of nicotine. It will be a very significant finding if blocking beta2 subunit containing nicotinic receptors helps anxiety smokers. These discoveries could one day lead to helping smokers quit without feeling anxious.

            Megan Piper, a psychologist of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Center for Tobacco Research and Intervention (UW-CTRI) wanted to define why smokers are hooked. Megan Piper and her colleagues studied 1,504 subjects who had enrolled in a voluntary UW-CTRI smoking termination program. About one-third of the subjects met the standards for an anxiety diagnosis currently or in the past at the time of the study, which is almost twice the number of incidences of anxiety in the whole generalized population.

            Megan Piper thinks that nicotine acts like a patch that covers the underlying anxiety condition, which is why it is so difficult for smokers to quit. Nicotine supplements will only please the chemical part of the addiction, not the emotional component. According to Piper, many smokers will start to have withdrawal symptoms before they actually quit, which doesn’t help with anxiety what so ever. Piper recommends that those anxious smokers, who are trying to quit, when visiting their doctors for a treatment, should also be assessed for anxiety and should consider therapy.

            Even if cigarettes can possibly benefit the symptoms of mental health problems, it is definitely outweighed by the health problems that are smoke-related such as lung cancer or heart disease.

            This topic of psychology relates to me because I, myself, am a cigarette smoker and I do have high anxiety to the point where I have been prescribed an antidepressant. This information confirms for me what I often wondered about, which is whether there is a biological or scientific correlation between people who have anxiety and tend to be smokers.