What do you need? Simple question, but not such a simple answer. And yes, the question is vague and without context (I did that on purpose). Now, something IMPORTANT: Before you move on to the next paragraph, make a list. And use this sentence structure; “I need X to/because Y”.

Ok, have you done that? Good. Now put that list to one side. We’ll come back to it later.

Now I’ve got you thinking about ‘needs’, let’s examine what exactly our needs are. Abraham 800px-Maslow's_hierarchy_of_needsMaslow defined a basic set of categories of needs. Needs are things that are fundamental to us for being healthy, well-functioning human beings. Very basically, he realised that we have lower needs which need to be fulfilled simply to remain alive and sane. They’re the things that supply us with;

  • Survival – I’m alive! Air, water, food, etc.
  • Safety – I’m safe and secure! I’ve got money, a place to live, nobody is going to hurt me.
  • Social – I’ve got friends! People like me, I’m respected, liked.
  • Self – I mean something! I’m a good person, I’m confident and able.

He called these ‘D-needs’ (deficiency needs) because without them, that’s all we can focus on. Here’s what I mean; if you’re really, really thirsty – you want a drink and nothing else matters. If you’re really, really lonely – you just want a friend and aren’t bothered about much else at that moment. Get the idea? He called them deficiency needs because when we’re deficient in them, we want them. Yet when they are satisfied, they go away, i.e. if you’re hungry, once you’ve eaten you’re not hungry any more. Or when you feel safe, you stop worrying about safety and get on with something else. It’s the same with all these fundamental needs, when the D-needs are satisfied, they go away.

When D-needs aren’t driving us, they release the higher needs – ‘Being needs’ (B-needs). B-needs are wonderful things that drive us for beauty, appreciation, honour, love, passion, etc. B-needs don’t go away when they’re present. When we’re living through B-needs, life is wonderful! But that’s the subject of another article because without properly satisfying our D-needs; B-needs cannot be fully realised.

Some people might think that the D-needs are purely biological and so long as we’ve got enough air, food and water (survival), aren’t going to be killed (safety), have some friends or family around (social), feel ok in ourselves (self) that, well, that’s pretty much it and why bother with such things.

But there’s a real and tangible danger if we take such a blasé attitude towards our D-needs. Why? Because though they’re of necessity rooted in our biology – they are ‘semantically informed’. By ‘semantically informed’ I mean that they are driven by, and are expressions of, our thoughts, ideas, beliefs, values… and every other level of mind.

And it’s at this mind level that D-needs get corrupted and where pathology occurs. So even though they are essentially biological drives, they don’t operate without the function/influence of mind. What do I mean by this? Well, simply put we just have to think of the NLP presupposition that “Body and mind are one system”; body-influences-mind and mind-influences-body.

Basically, people can give too many, and false meanings to their basic needs. An example might be the basic biological need for food becoming corrupted so that it ‘means’ comfort, or safety, or control, or some other internal state or concept to them. When this happens and people are feeling stressed or out of kilter (or even just bored!), they turn to eating to try and satisfy the ‘comfort’ or ‘safety’ or ‘control’ need. And guess what? It doesn’t work! So they eat more, and more, and more.

The same things can happen to all the basic needs. And they can get confused with each other. In the case of the social need for company and connection; if a person overloads this need so that it means safety then there is the danger of feeling scared and insecure when not in a relationship, which can lead to them being a doormat to others and possibly even going from one abusive relationship to another… which, paradoxically, can end up undermining their safety; which can make them overload it more, pathologise it more, try to satisfy it wrongly again …and around and around the downward spiral goes. Get the idea?

And it’s not just the big stuff that stands out which undermines us. What are some of the common day-to-day ways people inappropriately load their basic needs?

  • Alcohol = relaxation, or friendship, or being socially accepted
  • Sex = belonging, or control, or weakness, or love
  • Food = control, or comfort, or health (or ill-health, which can lead to eating disorders)
  • Work = safety, or ‘more important than family’, or identity (“it’s who I am”)
  • Owning stuff = safety (in extremes; kleptomania), or esteem, or respect from others

The list could go on. Look at on this list and ask yourself the question, “Which ones do I over-value a bit too much?” Be honest. And avoid letting your mind trick itself by rationalising it as ‘normal’.

Now check it against the list you made earlier. What things on your list stand out as being semantically loaded? What can you learn from this exercise?

The truth is that we all have some kind of overloading of our basic needs. And for the most part, it’s so under the radar we never really know how much it can be holding us back; “I mean, it’s just normal, isn’t it?”…. No! It isn’t.

We’ve all got the basic needs and live with them every day. They’re such an integral part of life it’s easy not to notice that when life’s hurdles seem so complicated, it might just take a better understanding of our basic drives to tap into huge amounts of energy, zeal, creativity and zest for life.

Try this online check. Where are you at?

If you feel like sharing, leave a comment below with your questions – and realisations

At the time of this post, I’ll be running Unleashing Vitality early next year, full details here. It’ll be the first time that this internationally certified course will be run in NZ. I’m actually the only trainer who’s licensed to run it here.

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