Tuesday, October 22, 2013

My own lingo - Felt Needs

Felt needs are things like food, water, companionship, community, sex, physical security, physical activity, sleep/rest, etc. Falling under the broader categories of companionship and community is emotional security, which includes feeling useful, important, and a part of a larger whole. Obviously these are all things very necessary to our survival and it would seem to make complete sense that from an evolutionary standpoint we have been programmed to feel these needs in order to guide our behaviors and survive.

Initially, I would like to point out a few things. First, it is not by accident that I am focusing on felt needs rather than actual needs. Second, our felt needs vary greatly by what stage of life we are in, and more importantly, how we interpret and try to articulate our felt needs is greatly influenced by family and societal expectations and norms. Finally, when we have a plan or way of life that satisfies our most important felt needs we feel peace of mind and a sense of well being, and when we do not have such a way of life we experience a wide array of uncomfortable feelings and harmful behaviors.

Hopefully we all know that a direct pursuit towards fulfilling our own immediate felt needs becomes a disaster in no time. Fortunately if we truly understand our most important felt needs, as well as a lot of other things about ourselves and human nature, we can develop a plan or way of life that satisfies our most important felt needs and leads to peace of mind and a sense of well being. Reassuringly, this plan or way of life turns out to be consistent with all sorts of age old wisdom, as well as, contemporary psychology, biology, and other sciences.  Or at least with my brief exploration of these fields of study, it seems that way to me.

Before moving on I would like to briefly discuss why I am focusing on felt needs rather than actual needs.  I would guess many read, felt needs and think those are really wants and not needs.  For instance I keep thinking of my wife asking my kids (or sometimes me), "do you need it or just want it" when the kids or I say we need something.  Of course my wife is correct and we generally do not need whatever it is that we want at that moment.  However, in the long run we really do need all sorts of things or we consistently and predictably become a mess in various different ways.  My point is that we do not need to immediately fulfill our felt needs of the moment, but we do need to learn to develop a way of life that in the long run satisfies a decent portion of our felt needs or we will end up turning to all sorts of behaviors to covertly satisfy some of our felt needs.  

In fact, this is where most of our objectionable behavior comes from, and often why we are such a mystery to ourselves and others.  We generally try to get our felt needs met without admitting we have felt needs.  And unless we have spent a long time really exploring ourselves and how that relates to what we do, most of the time we do not even realize we have the felt needs or that we are covertly trying to satisfy them.  Generally people like to deny, suppress, ignore, and distract themselves from their own felt needs and shame or otherwise shun the felt needs of others.  We do all this because our felt needs make us vulnerable and uncomfortable.  They also make those around us uncomfortable.  Furthermore, we intuitively know they allow others to manipulate or exploit us, and actually we are made or have evolved to do exactly that to each other.  

So there are very good reasons to avoid this vulnerability, and also very good reasons to carefully choose who we might share it with.  Now is not the time to go into details about solutions, but I do want to mention that I am not proposing that we should go around admitting and discussing our felt needs and being vulnerable all the time.  It is often necessary to find a person or two that we can share it with, and doing this can go a long way towards satisfying some of our biggest felt needs.  But most importantly, if we can see our own felt needs and the crazy ways we try to fulfill them, we at least have a fighting chance of buying into new better ways to get them met that are less harmful to ourselves and others.  

Additionally, I want to remind you that mainly what I am doing at this time is developing the foundation and framework for understanding ourselves and what we do, think, and feel.  I am giving the underlying details to demonstrate it all does add up and that one particular suggestion or belief I may share is not an island to itself.  It is not necessary for others to understand, believe, or adopt these underlying details in order to grab some useful suggestion from myself or others and run with it for a while, which is what I recommend for people looking to make positive changes in their lives.  Doing just that and repeating it over and over with a little reflection on what is or is not working is generally successful.  Unfortunately, many people forget the reflection and repeating it part and just assume whatever they tried failed and other things will also.