Our needs can be grouped together such as basic needs (food, warmth), safety (home, security), relationships (partner, family) and higher mind needs (work, leisure).
After a crisis, our needs return to basics before moving to needs higher up. The ending of my marriage was such a crisis and as everything crashed down, I coped by focussing on the basics of eating a healthy diet, walking in the mornings, following a routine during the day and cocooning myself in the warmth of my bed at night. I was in a survival mind-set of fulfilling basic needs as all else was gone; my perceived safety, my security, my family unit and my companion. As I continued to crave the comfort that my home and routine provided, I wondered whether I would remain there. Could I ever move on to higher needs?
I had become confused about my needs.
There is a difference between my needs, including emotional needs, and those things that fill those needs. My needs have actually not changed. What has changed are those things that previously satisfied them. I had been clinging on to the concept that I needed the same type of ‘satisfiers’ to provide for my empty needs. Taking an honest look, my needs are not a home, a sound financial asset base, a life-companion, work, hobbies and experiential pastimes. They are satisfiers of my needs, not the needs themselves. My needs are stability, security, a sense of belonging, a need to contribute and create, and a need to celebrate the joys (and sorrows) of life. What is gone is the person and shared projects that previously satisfied those needs. What I need to do going forward is to find other things and other ways to fulfill those needs.
In regard to need satisfiers, you can receive them, be self-reliant, or give them. As a simple illustration: people in third world countries can be provided with food hand-outs or they can be taught how to be self-sufficient and grow crops. The first aids a continual need to be provided for, the latter aids self-reliance and improved community spirit.
One of the consequences of my divorce in regard to needs is that it moved me from a self-reliant ‘I need to do’ and contributing ‘I need to give’ strength to a fragile ‘I need to have, I need to be provided for’ mind-set.
My confusion over needs versus satisfiers and my fragile ‘I need to have’ mind-set together have influenced both life decisions I made in the months post separation as well as some day-to-day choices.
I need to feel safe and comforted. My home provides me with safety and comfort.
I need security. The job I have provides me with financial security.
I clung on to my home and my job in the year post separation.
Those satisfiers for my daily comfort and security conflict with my long-term need for belonging as my children and family live far away. Therefore despite the daily comfort, there remains an ache. A year ago I looked at my real underlying needs as opposed to merely things that satisfy and I made the decision to change for my forward journey.
I sometimes have feelings of anxiety, sadness, anger, resentment regarding my divorce. These are voices of pain ‘I am scared’, ‘I am lonely’, ‘I do not matter’ and ‘it’s not fair’.
These voices reflect my underlying needs of security, belonging, significance and respect.
In my last post I wrote how I now recognize those voices of pain as a call to protect my present. While it is tempting to go for a passive need satisfier providing comfort (watching TV, over-eating etc) or leaning on a confidante who will provide a sympathetic ear; that keeps me at the ‘I need help’, ‘I need to be comforted’, ‘I need to have’ mind-set. I need to transform that ‘having’ mind-set into ‘being’, ‘doing’ and ‘giving’ strengths while providing for my own needs of *protection, *connection, *creation, *contribution and *celebration.
*I have created these new terms for my own needs as creativity is a ‘doing’ need of mine and that is my start :).
You may also want to read:
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs
Tony Robbins six needs
Max-Neef Human Scale Development.