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Abandon Motivational Needs: Maslow, Horney, Harvard Psychology, & Self-Realization





Abandon Motivational Needs 

By: Kim Byrd-Rider   




Abandon Motivational Needs 

A. H. Maslow’s classic psychology theory (1943), A Theory of Human Motivation, exposes all the pieces of human motivation but has mismanaged the role, order and importance of them, according to his contemporary: renowned psychiatrist Karen Horney (1950).  

The role of motivational needs, absent in Maslow’s theory (1943) but central to Horney’s theory (1950), warrants consideration. According to Horney, motivational needs are an outward sign of an inner war between the false-self and the true-self (1950). Four of Maslow’s motivational needs are the fabric of Horney’s neurotic false-self: biology, safety, love and esteem (1943). Horney’s false-self materializes as the human imagination contrives self-distortions satisfying a superior need: the ‘search for glory’, the realm of unlimited possibilities (1950, p. 34). Maslow’s (1943) fifth need, self-actualization motivation, is equivalent to Horney’s (1950) true-self player, the opposition of the false-self.  

The order of emphasis between theories differs. Maslow orders five needs, all with an underlying freedom need, while his less emphasized three characteristics of those five needs show more promise for significance: strength and power, the primary need for love and those who give up all but biological needs by resigning from life (1943, p.13). His three characteristics closely match Horney’s (1950) three false-self sub-divisions: mastery (strength and power), self-effacing (need for love) and resigned (freedom, giving up).    

The importance of role and order changes the solution. People could strive for self-actualization or just inappropriately service superficial needs for a lifetime.  For example, Maslow praises what Horney claims to be a worsening inner conflict. Maslow concludes that some people are “the strong…the ones who can hold out against hatred, rejection or persecution” (1943, p.14). Horney disputes the previous behavior as a higher degree of compulsion resonating from a strengthening neurotic false-self (1950).  

Maslow’s solution meets motivational needs in a hierarchical or even parallel fashion (1943). Horney’s solution ends the inner war and discards all motivational needs (the neurotic false-self) to rediscover, empower and actualize the true-self. The capabilities of the actualized true-self births authentic growth, genuine emotions and self-purpose. Horney explains, ‘to work at self-actualization is the prime moral obligation and moral privilege. We become free to grow, free to love and free to feel concern for other people’ (1950, p.15). Motivational needs become obsolete and unnecessary under the guidance of the true-self. 

Maybe more time, energy and money should be aimed at motivating people towards self-actualization instead of figuring out how to dangle more motivational carrots at the neurotic false-self. The next question is, of course: How do you reach self-actualization? According to Harvard’s course on personalities, living and diligently practicing the following achieves self-actualization (Jongman-Sereno, 2017): 

  1. Think consciously about the future (set realistic goals, metacognition, etc.) 

  1. Introspect on inner states (mindful practices, positive psychology, etc.) 

  1. Observe and evaluate personal characteristics (self-empathy, self-compassion, reality checks, therapy, group therapy, mindful practices, etc.) 

  1. Imagine how we are perceived by others (other and self-empathy, reality checks, etc.) 

  1. Engage in volitional self-change (therapy, behavior modification strategies, effort, etc.) 

  1. Be a good consumer of psychological science (learn more about psychology research findings, religions, ancient psychology, philosophy, etc.) 



Horney, K. (1950). Neurosis and human growth. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company. 

Jongman-Sereno, K. (2017). Personality and self-knowledge. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University, Psyc E-1707. 

Maslow, A. H. (1943). A theory of human motivation. Psychological Review, 50, 370-396. 






I'm Dr. Kim
Byrd-Rider, PT

In our Soul School at Firm Water Road, we are dedicated to helping people create healthy habits that can last a lifetime. Our program combines various modalities, including positive psychology, mystics, physics, and lifestyle medicine, to help our clients achieve optimal wellness. We specialize in Healthcare Workers, Military Members, School Teachers, and Students, but our holistic approach to wellness is beneficial for everyone. Let us help you achieve your health goals today.  Join us at or subscribe to the youtube channel

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