A thought on Hoarding and COVID-19
(Disclaimer – this is a VERY BRIEF look into Abraham Maslow’s theory. There is much more depth and understanding that go into the interrelated stages. In the interest of this being a blog and not a comprehensive work, I decided to just brush the surface of the concepts. Please research more if you are interested in human motivation. I recommend starting with the YouTube video at the bottom of this article.)
If you follow me on Instagram (and you should! @dancergirl1983), earlier this week I posted a quote from psychologist Abraham Maslow: “In any given moment we have two options: To step forward into growth, or to step back into safety. Growth must be chosen again and again; fear must be overcome again and again.”
Maslow put forth a theory of self-actualization, which is known as Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. His five-stage theory (which has been expanded since, but for now we will stick to the five stages) puts forth the motivations that drive people in their actions. In his theory the lower levels of needs must be met before the higher levels can be initiated. These five stages are 1) physiological 2) safety 3) love/belonging 4) esteem and 5) self-actualization.
For the purpose of today’s blog, I am only going to focus on the first two levels: physiological and safety.
As we have seen in the stores, on the news, on social media these past few weeks, people have been purchasing excessive amounts of household essentials, such as toilet paper, disinfectants, and meat. Many others have made fun of those who have stocked up, referring to them as “hoarders.” This is a response to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic that we are facing.
I wondered why people are selecting the items that they are selecting to stock up on. Then I remembered Maslow.
During this time, there is an immense uncertainty in our lives. We are being told to flip our lives upside down to help protect the world and to survive. This is frightening to people. Their very way of life is threatened and changing.
In Maslow’s first stage, physiological needs must be met before any other higher level can begin. Physiological needs include things such as food, shelter, water, sleep – all the things humans need to survive.
The second stage is safety. People seek order and predictability in their lives. We find comfort in our routine and feel threatened if our routine is messed up, especially for extended periods of time.
In looking at how people are reacting in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, I find it easy to see why. This crisis is threatening our way of life, our very lives. People are needing to find ways to meet their basic physiological and safety needs.
We are insecure about our finances (just look at the stock market this month), we are uncertain about our health, we are being asked to remove ourselves from society (stage three is belonging).
What I see when I see the empty shelves on the toilet paper aisle is not that greedy hoarders came through; I see that people are trying to feel safe and secure and that they will have those basic human needs met. Stock up on meat? That means you will have food. Stock up on cleaners? You want to keep yourself and others safe from disease.
It isn’t about hoarding or greed or keeping things from others. The motivation is our basic human drives to survive. We MUST be safe and have our basic needs met. Yes, we may not think logically at this time, but that is because we cannot. We cannot think outside of ourselves until those needs are fulfilled.
So think about this the next time you judge the person with four packs of toilet paper and 30 pounds of meat – they are not being greedy; they are not trying to keep it from others; they are simply trying to feel secure in life. They are not acting against another with malicious intent. They just want what we all want – security, predictability, and belonging.
For more information about Abraham Maslow:
https://youtu.be/L0PKWTta7lU (7 minute video – easiest way to get an overview!)