The human persona (click here to read more about the two personas) consists of elements that are shared by every other human being on the planet. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a good place to start when we are trying to understand co-humanity.
The model is usually presented in a pyramid format, with basic needs at the bottom and self-actualization needs at the top.
Similarities abound when we look at the basics. Every human being has physiological needs for food, shelter, water, warmth, and rest, and has safety needs, including requirements for security, a steady job or income, and more. Most of us fulfill these rudimentary needs in similar ways.
Our paths diverge a bit when it comes to belongingness needs, including intimate relationships and friendships, and esteem needs, since the variety of ways in which they can be satisfied is greater.
Still, because the first four needs are so-called deficiency needs—meaning that human beings usually pursue them until they are met—most everyone resonates with other human beings and understands why they are doing what they are doing when they are attempting to satisfy the four basic needs.
When it comes to self-actualization needs, people are vastly different in their approaches and ideologies, which means that there is less parity to be found by comparing them.
Fundamental Needs Create Bonds
We can clearly see that the lower the needs are in the pyramid and the more fundamental they are to our existence, the easier it is to connect through them. In fact, making a connection with another human persona can often feel instinctual at the basic level because we share more elements with less diversity.
Let me give you a few examples:
Making human-to-human connections becomes more difficult as complexity increases. Once we get to emotional needs, for example, a wide range of human emotions can make it challenging for people to relate to each other.
Connecting Through Pain
Interestingly enough, the lowest common denominator within the emotional domain is not happiness, but rather suffering. Since everyone feels miserable at one point or another in his or her life, pain can serve as a mega-connector for human beings in the right circumstances. The evidence of friendships and support groups around the world clearly shows this. If I am vulnerable enough to share my pain with you and you have experienced something similar (or can imagine my pain), then we have made an instant co-human connection. The poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, rightly observed that:
“If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each man's life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility.”
Looking for Similarities
Studying human needs can give insights into the essential elements that constitute the human persona, but that’s only the beginning. I encourage you to strengthen your understanding of co-humanity with personal observations and to explore several other psycho-spiritual, sociological, behavioral, and anthropological models. To see the human persona clearly, look for things that we all share, regardless of ideological differences.
Rev. Gudjon Bergmann
Interfaith Minister and Author
Founder of Harmony Interfaith Initiative
Ideas that promote social harmony and bridge-building across divides.
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