Harry Potter is a ten-year-old boy living with his aunt and uncle. His parents died in a car crash when he was just a baby. His cousin, Dudley, his aunt Petunia and his uncle Vernon all despise him and treat him like dirt. Harry hates this, but has grown used to it and puts up with their constant harassing and making fun of him. On his eleventh birthday however, he discovers that his parents were actually a witch and a wizard who were murdered by an evil wizard. This takes Harry by complete surprise and changes his entire life.
He is taken away to start school at Hogwarts, the school for magic. He meets many people that have known his family over the years and discovers that his name is famous among all the students and teachers at Hogwarts. He was the boy that escaped the evil wizard, Voledemort. Harry doesn’t actually know what he has done to deserve all the praise from his peers and the wizarding community in general and he doesn’t believe that he is worth all the attention he gets. Harry’s problem is that his aunt, uncle and cousin put him down so much that he doesn’t believe that anyone could actually like him.
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory best helps analyze Harry’s problem. While he was living with the Dursleys they met his physiological needs, because they fed him, clothed him and gave him shelter, even though his room was a cupboard under the stairs. Although it at first doesn’t appear that his safety and security needs are being met, in reality they are. Harry’s “family” is stable with their hatred for him, enough so that he has grown used to it and adapted. He doesn’t feel like there is a danger in living with the Dursleys, just that there is an unpleasantness.
The main issue I noticed about Harry is that he felt like a misfit for most of his life. His needs for love and belonging were definitely not being met by the Dursleys. He had no friends, because the Dursleys made him feel like an outcast and went out of their way to make him feel as socially inept as possible. Any time Harry made a new friend, they would do something that caused him to lose that friendship. He felt lonely and isolated and this made him become angry with the people causing him to feel this way. On Dudley Dursley’s birthday the family makes a trip to the zoo, where Harry talks to a snake.
Dudley pushes him out of the way, making Harry very angry, to a point that Harry makes the glass in front of the snake’s tank disappear even though he had no idea that he had that capability. The other thing clearly not being met is the esteem need. Before leaving the Dursleys nobody had ever acknowledged him, and he was constantly being put down. Harry felt that he was worthless because that’s all he had ever been told by the people that surrounded him. He found it hard to have self respect, because he was being told so often how pathetic he was that he believed it himself. Once Harry moves out to Hogwarts he starts to change.
He gets much attention from everyone because of his fame, but since he doesn’t understand exactly why he is so famous he wants to prove himself worthy. He makes sincere friends however and they help him to realize that what the Dursleys said about him to make him feel small really wasn’t true at all. Much later, Harry helps to stop an evil wizard from stealing the sorcerer’s stone and is thanked by the entire school and headmaster. With all this happening, Harry starts to develop more self-esteem, but every time he is reminded of something the Dursleys said to him, he becomes meek again and instead of socializing, he isolates himself.
Maslow, or any other psychologist would say that in order to solve these problems, the ideal thing to do would be to take Harry away from the Dursleys. That way, he would start to forget about the things that were blocking his needs for love and belonging and esteem. This is what happens at Hogwarts, because he has no contact with them for most of the year. He has to go home at the end of summer though and this causes him to go back into a shell. When he is old enough to leave the family, he will grow out of the problems because he has other friends reinforcing his positives.