Unknowingly, you may continue to be consumed by Level 1: Physiological Needs long after they have been met.

Why do some individuals turn to food, alcohol, or other substances as a means to address their deepest emotional needs?  

Is there a connection between their physiological cravings, addictions, emotional eating, and psychological needs?  

Could it be that you are unknowingly stuck meeting the only needs you feel empowered to meet – your Physiological Needs?   

Many people in our society live in survival, not knowing where they will shelter for the night or where their next meal will come from.  But for many people who have attained physiological safety, they remain stuck, living in fear of their survival, hoarding food, clipping coupons and pinching pennies. Their fear dictates where they focus their energy.  

For a significant number of individuals, the endless loop of meeting physiological needs manifests as addictions to food, alcohol, fear of sleep, and hypochondria, to name a few. These patterns can effectively confine individuals to a state of perpetual dissatisfaction, hindering their ability to progress and flourish in other aspects of life. The underlying causes and consequences of these behaviors have to do with getting stuck in development during our formative years. The endless loop of meeting Level 1: Physiological Needs keeps us from moving to higher level needs to achieve our potential.   

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs 

According to Maslow, the journey to self-actualization follows a sequence: physiological needs are met first, followed by safety, belonging, love, and esteem. Once these needs have been fulfilled, an individual can then strive to meet their self-actualizing needs.  However, this does not negate the possibility of a person striving for higher-level needs even if their lower-level needs aren’t fully met. Maslow’s model serves as a guide rather than a strict sequence. Humans are complex creatures with multiple needs across different levels trying to be met simultaneously.   

Level 1: The Fundamental Physiological Needs 

The most basic survival needs are physiological needs, encompassing food, water, sleep, and other aspects of physical health. These instinctual needs primarily focus on maintaining the essential bodily functions that keep us alive. While perhaps not as immediate as food or water, access to medical care and regular exercise are also vital for maintaining long-term physical health. 

When these needs are unfulfilled, individuals often find themselves preoccupied with worries about food, health, and sleep, hindering them from fully engaging in life. Some may resort to unhealthy patterns, such as emotional eating, using food as a coping mechanism.   

Getting Stuck:  Five Thought Patterns that Perpetuate Prioritizing Physiological Needs 

When an individual is preoccupied with meeting their physiological needs, they often find themselves stuck in a cycle of worry and preoccupation. Their thoughts are predominantly focused on meeting these basic needs, thereby consuming much of their mental and emotional energy. Here are five thought patterns that typically reinforce this cycle: 

Scarcity Mentality: This mindset is rooted in the fear of not having enough. Those with a scarcity mentality often worry excessively about not having enough food, water, or other basic resources. They might stockpile these items or continuously plan their acquisition, which can keep them stuck at this level. 

Hyper-vigilance Towards Health: While concern for health is natural and essential, hyper-vigilance can lead to an unhealthy obsession. Individuals might constantly worry about their health, fear potential illness, and become overly preoccupied with their body’s signals. This state of constant worry can limit their ability to focus on other needs or aspects of life. 

Anxiety Around Sleep: Concerns about getting enough sleep can become a self-perpetuating cycle. The more an individual worries about sleep, the more difficult it may be to actually fall asleep. This can lead to unhealthy habits such as excessive use of sleep aids or disruptive sleep schedules. 

Food Fixation: Those focused on physiological needs may develop an unhealthy relationship with food. They might obsess over their next meal, overeat as a form of comfort, or be overly concerned about the nutritional content of their food. This fixation can take up substantial mental and emotional energy, leaving little room for addressing higher-level needs. 

Fear of Physical Discomfort: Individuals stuck at this level might harbor a pervasive fear of any form of physical discomfort, such as being too hot or cold, feeling physically exhausted, or experiencing any form of physical pain. This fear can prevent them from stepping out of their comfort zone and addressing other needs, such as social or esteem needs. 

Fear of Loss of Home:  The fear of losing one’s home is driven by a primal need for shelter and protection. It extends beyond mere physical displacement, encompassing concerns about identity, belonging, and stability. It intertwines with the fear of financial instability or the fear of uprooting from familiar surroundings, affecting individuals’ mental and emotional health, relationships, and overall quality of life.  

It Takes Self-Awareness 

Breaking free from these thought patterns requires awareness, understanding, and self-compassion. It begins by recognizing how much energy these habits of mind take and how much time is wasted on fears of survival that have already been met. Awareness means you can start to challenge them and gradually shift your focus toward your higher-level needs. 



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