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This is one of a series of articles
in Lesson 2 - ways to improve your communication effectiveness. Progress with this Lesson
depends on concurrent progress on Lesson 1 - free your wise
true Self to guide you in calm and stressful times.
This brief YouTube video offers perspective on what you're about to read.
The video mentions eight lessons in this Web site - I've simplified that to
This article overviews the vital communication skill of "digging down" below surface discomforts to
underlying primary needs. The article provides...
about needs and relationship problems,
four levels of awareness
about any relationship "problem"
three examples of digging down;
tips to strengthen your dig-down effectiveness, and...
a dig-down practice exercise.
This article assumes you're familiar with...
intro to this
nonprofit Website, and the premises
and taught communication skills for over 40 years. As a therapist and
teacher, I've witnessed hundreds of frustrated persons and couples not
knowing how to satisfy their current personal and social needs - i.e. not
knowing how to problem-solve effectively.
who is responsible for
filling my and your respective need/s?"
Overview of "Dig Down" Skill
"Digging down" is making time in important situations to
answer the three questions above by asking a series of inner and verbal questions. The
examples below illustrate these questions. As
you ask and process the answers, up to three need-levels
needs):someone else is
responsible for filling my need/s, like a child, my mate, a relative, co-worker,
friend, professional, "society,"
and/or "the system." Ineed
them to (want to) change.
Level 2:other people
and I are responsible for filling my need/s. And below this is...
Reaching level-3 awareness is hard because of (a) our ruling subselves' great
shame, guilts, distrusts, and
and (b) ancestral and social unawareness. Yet until we consistently want
to reach and maintain level three, our lives are full of
recurring "problems" (unmet primary needs) which we often blame other people
for and expect them to "fix."
Wounded people can only achieve level-3 awareness if they accept that they don't know what they need
to know, and they want to study
these topics with an open mind.
Minimally-wounded people may have level-3 awareness most of the
and reflect - do these premises and levels make sense to you? Notice what your
personality subselves are
saying and feeling
To make these abstract ideas more real, study these...
Three "Dig-down" Examples
examples illustrate the several levels of needs in typical
family-relationship situations. Page 2 builds on these
illustrations to offer guidelines on how to "dig down" effectively in most
Example 1) Resolving
Can you describe a
loyalty conflict? They're common in
all social groups.
In families, they occur when an adult or child feels torn about choosing sides
between two or more other family members. Here's a stepfamily example, based on
many real-life stories I've head...
Stepfather Craig finally has had
too much. He storms
at his wife Meg "I am sosick of your daughter ignoring me! I
knock myself out month after month, driving her to school, paying her
dentist, providing the roof over her head, and being pleasant."
I say 'Hi,
Jen.' She grunts and walks by with no eye contact. 'How was your day?' More grunts. She treats
our dog better than me, and you don't seem to care. You
make excuses for her, and say sarcastically 'After all, Craig, you're
supposed to be the adult here.'"
Sound familiar? This is a divisive loyalty conflict, with biomom Meg torn between pleasing her husband, her own
integrity, and her beloved daughter
Whose needs come first?
Many typical families and groups experience conflicts like these. If
mates can't admit
and resolve them, their relationship erodes.
What would "digging down" look like here?
problems: (LEVEL 1 -
"My stepdaughter Jen is
rude, selfish, and insensitive. After all I've done for her, that hurts!
Jen's fault." And...
sides with her daughter and values Jen's needs more than
mine" - and "Meg wimpily denies this when I confront her. I
need Meg to agree that
this is her fault, and that
she usually should
support me, not Jen" (surface need).
oversensitive and childish at times, and his expectations are unrealistic. I resent his
criticizing Jen and implying that I'm a
(fuzzy thinking and no unfilled needs are identified)
confused, guilty, and torn between pleasing Craig and Jen. I love them
both. If Craig really loved me, he wouldn't
make me choose.I need him to
accept that and stop complaining
and criticizing Jen and me" (surface need).
Underneath those are LEVEL 2 needs -
blaming yourself and others:
to feel genuinely
heard, respected, and
appreciated as a person, a husband, and a
committed stepfather - by Meg first, then Jen.
need(b) my wife
to validate these needs as legitimate and important.
These are my
needs, and I don't see how to fill them by myself."
scared and confused: if I side with Craig, I'll betray Jen again,
(after failing at my first marriage), and I'll violate my integrity. If
I side with Jen, I'm scared Craig will start detaching from me. I need
to find a way to balance these.
This is my problem, not
Craig's - and
I need his genuine empathy, patience understanding, love, and
and underneath those are
(primary personal) needs
doubting my worth and competence as a man, mate, and a stepdad.
reassurance from Meg and Jen that I'm OK, and I feel
guilty and embarrassed
to admit that to myself or them.
Real men aren't weak and needy
(and I needto feel masculine,
strong, worthy, and safe." And...
I'm guilty and ashamed of feeling ashamed.
I need relief from
I need to do something, but I
don't know what." I need
that we can find a lasting
solution to this!
desperately need to feel competent as a woman, wife, and
mother in order to feel like a worthy person. I'm scared I'm doing
something wrong here, Jen will be hurt even more,
and I'll be abandoned to die a lonely, unloved old woman.
need to feel safe and self-confident,
and I don't. I also need to feel that Jen's safe enough now and
in the future. I'm scared, guilty, and
ashamed to admit this to anyone.
I need hope thatthis
pain and confusion will go away
soon, and I need a viable plan - but I haven't got one." I
(Six concurrent primary
and under those are three
unaware of being ruled by a false self
Shamed Boy, a
Anxious Boy, a
Guilty Boy, a
Magician, (reality distorter), an
Inner Critic, (Blamer), an
Idealist / Optimist, a
Thinker / Analyzer, and a tireless Overachiever.
Implication - Craig's deepest
(level 4) needis to learn and accept that he must want to harmonize his
personality subselves under the leadership of his
true Self. Like most
wounded people, Craig is not aware of (a) this need
and its implications, (b) his options for
reducing his wounds, and (c) Meg's
2) Meg is unaware of usually being controlled by a
well-intentioned false self:a Shamed Girl, a Catastrophizer, a Terrified Girl, a Good Mom, a
stern Inner Judge, a Numb-er, a food Addict, a Magician (reality distorter), a Good Girl, and a diligentPeople
dynamic subselves distrust
or don't know her true Self, and aren't aware of her and Craig's being wounded,
ignorant (uninformed), and unaware.
to (a) learn and accept the benefits of
empowering her resident Self (capital "S"), and then
to (b) meet and patiently harmonize her personality subselves under the guidance of her
Self and Higher Power. However, she hasn't hit
and is not aware of this or of Craig's
equivalent needs, so far. And.
Ignorance. Craig and Meg don't know about,,,
hazards and the value of working togetheronthese
self-improvement lessons to
guard themselves, their marriage, and their descendents against the [wounds
cycle and its toxic effects.
the Lesson-2 communication basics and
skills - including how to dig down to identify their mixes of
primary needs (above). This is typical of most family adults. A major
implication is that their odds for effective problem-solving (filling
their primary needs) are LOW. Another implication is that
unless these mates learn to
apply, model, and teach these skills, their vulnerable kids will
grow up unaware, wounded, and unskilled too.
This is not a complete
description because it doesn't include the daughter's
need-levels. To glimpse a typical full surface
stepfamily loyalty conflict, see
Stepdaughter Jen is probably
overwhelmed by all of this (rather than
"rude"). She has her own
complex set of surface and underlying
primary problems. Her
emerging personality is probably controlled by a false self also,
at least around her stepdad Craig. Neither Meg, Craig, nor Jen's biofather
Philip are aware of this, nor are any friends or supporters, so
For more perspective and options
on avoiding and resolving typical loyalty conflicts, see
this after finishing this
Pause, breathe, and reflect - have you ever seen
relationship problems analyzed like this? Does
this four-layer needs
scheme seem realistic to you? If not, why? What are your
inner voices saying now? Who
subselves) is "speaking"? Is it your
true Self? What
might happen if you tried identifying the need-levels in your key relationships
The next two examples illustrate digging down to identify the primary needs
causing surface marital conflicts over a troublesome ex mate, and over
"money." Though details in these examples may differ from your situation, look for common themes.
Note that these examples are simplified to illustrate the
process and value of
"digging down." In real life, each adult and child in your family has a
concurrent surface conflicts and underlying primary needs which shape their
kaleidoscope of perceptions, feelings, and behaviors.
Example 2) Digging Down with Typical
It's widely estimated that almost half of modern American families divorce
legally. Millions more divorce psychologically, and stop short of calling
attorneys. Among typical
divorcing families and
stepfamilies, the variations of "awful ex-mate" conflicts are
innumerable. Here's an example of typical surface problems, and the
unfilled primary needs
Mark divorced Sherrie, and
a divorced custodial mother of pre-teen Marilee. Mark's two pre-teen sons
live with their biomom Sherrie, and sleep over at their "other home" every
other weekend. The legal phase of Mark and Sherrie's
divorce was "messy," bitter,
expensive, and "took forever."
Susan has grown resentful and
frustrated over three years of "endless" intrusions
and "problems" that Sherrie persists in causing her and Mark. Sue
is trying to learn her alien new
stepmother role (job) and is finding
that raising boys part time is "a lot different" than mothering
Marilee. Sue and Mark have never
accepted their stepfamily
identity, or read about or discussed
being a stepfamily.
For brevity, this example omits a column for Sherrie's
surface problems and underlying primary needs. Each person in
a typical multi-home divorcing family or
stepfamily has their own "column"
evolving and interacting with each
1: the ex mate is "the problem"
"Sherrie is unreliable,
rude, selfish, intrusive, vindictive, and a mediocre, inconsistent
mother. She treats her son's father (Mark) like dirt, and poisons their sons'
minds against him and me. Then she denies doing that, and blames us! She causes most of our problems. I'm getting irritated that Mark
keeps giving in and letting her dictate our lives."
reason with. She initiated our divorce, and now claims that I left her.
She's so moody, erratic, and volatile that I'm scared for (my sons') Kevin's
and Brian's mental health. But if I went for custody, she'd fight mean and
dirty, and seek endless revenge.
Sherrie is the biggest problem Sue and
underneath those are
problems: each mate
blames the other and the ex mate
getting real tired of Mark's not
with) me, ma-king excuses for
Sherrie, giving in to her, and putting off confronting her - as he's
repeatedly said he would.
I'm starting to lose patience and respect for him. I need him
to (want to) confront Sherrie.
My trust in
Mark's promises and resolve is
slipping, too. If he's not com-mitted to enforcing our home and marital
boundaries what else is he going to cave in on?
This isn't what I
signed on for! Mark and Sherrie are the problem, and I
to admit that and fix it!"
getting pretty fed up with feeling like I'm supposed to solve everything
here, and Sue thinking I'm a wimp for not being Attila the Hun with
Sherrie. I can't help it if Sherrie is a
mental case! I feel
caught between two lionesses.
"Sue just doesn't understand how
impossible it is to get through to Sherrie - and she won't talk to
Sherrie directly. I need Sue to see the good things we have, ease up,
and just accept that this is how it is for now.
It'll get better as the
boys get older. I need Sue to
be patient and adapt, and Sherrie to get
healthy and sane."
underneath those are
problems : partners start focusing on their own feelings,
doubts, and needs
guilty and ashamed that I can't be more loving and patient with
Mark, and more forgiving of Sherrie. Is
there something wrong with me? I don't like who I'm
I feel less and
less safe as this mess with Sherrie and the boys keeps
grinding on us. (Implied needs: feel less guilt,
shame, and self-doubt, and more secure).
to feel real hope and confidence, and to have some plan to
make things better for
us. I feel I'm being a bad Mom and Stepmom somehow.
I can't seem to stay clear on what I
need - my mind keeps jumping around, and
we go nowhere.
I'm scared I made a
wrong choice marrying Mark, Sherrie, and their boys! Maybe I'm the problem! (Implied
need - clear, focused
"I need to stop the
inside me and
make a clear plan. Part of me wants to get tough and enforce limits with
and another part is unwilling to..
Part of me wants to
confront Sherrie to
please Sue, and another part says "Uh uh, that's the wrong reason."
Part of me needs to run
away and part of me is afraid to.
Man, I hate
this! I never expected any of this (conflict and confusion)
when I married Sue. Why didn't I see this coming?
I feel really torn between what's
best for the boys, and what's best for Sue and me. Part of me believes
this'll all work out, and another part of me fears we'll divorce. I
need to sort all these battles out and find a
way to resolve them. I wish (need to have) someone understood how
I feel. I don't think Sue does..."
and below those are
Level 3 unfilled primary needs.
"I need daily
emotional serenity, mental clarity, focus and
direction; self respect, as a woman, a wife, and a child caregiver;
self confidence, and I need to feel truly heard, empathized with,
accepted, and loved by Mark and a caring Higher Power.
to express and manifest the love I feel for Marilee, Mark, and others -
and to love myself."
"I need to feel (a) inner peace and contentment (freedom from
guilt, shame, confusion, and anxiety);
(b) like a worthy person, man, husband, and father; (c) potent and
competent; (d) clear on the purpose and direction of my life, and I need
to feel (e) confident that I'm growing wiser, stronger, and clearer.
to feel companioned by Sue as I fill these needs. I
need to fill the
emptiness I've felt my whole life."
... and below those arethree root
causes of Sue and Mark's surface
1) Susan is
unaware of being ruled by afalse selves:
a Guilty Girl, a People Pleaser, an Abandoned Girl, a Scared
Girl, a Shamed Girl; a Magician, (reality
distorter), an Inner Critic, a Judge, a Bitch, a
Distracter, a Nurturer, and an (exercise) Addict.
These well-meaning subselves usually don't
trust Sue's true Self, and
aren't aware of her, Mark's, and Sherrie's
knowledge-deficits and psychological wounds; and...
is also unaware of being usually controlled by a group of subselves:
a Shamed Boy, a Guilty Boy, an Orphan (lonely, sad
Boy), an Analyzer / Thinker, a Good Dad, an Inner
Critic, a Worrier, a Procrastinator, a Loner /
Fugitive, a Magician
(reality distorter), a Pleaser, and a Good Boy.
Mark's subselves distrust his true Self's
aren't aware of his,
Sue's, and Sherrie's being wounded, unaware, and
3) Mark and Sue are each (a) ignorant of
the [wounds + unawareness]
toxic effects, and
of Lessons 1 thru 4;
and they are (b) each unaware of
their ignorance (lack of knowledge, not
stupidity) and their personal and joint
Neither partner knows what you're reading about here. Ex-wife Sherrie is
a (wounded) childhood-trauma
She's controlled by a reactive
of personality subselves, and is unaware of (a) that, (b) Sue's and
Mark's similar conditions, and (c) these Lessons and options.
None of the friends, relatives,
and two therapists trying to support this couple and family know any of
this. Neither do the kids involved. They don't know what they
don't know, so they aren't motivated to learn anything. That limits
their tries at problem-solving to blaming, arguing, and making
Pause, breathe, and reflect. What are you aware of now? Does this second
dig-down example remind you of anyone?
In the example above, note the shift of focus as you dig
the surface (Level 1), Mark and Sue see Sherrie's traits and behaviors as "the
problem." At this safest level of perception, their behaviors send his ex-wife critical messages which imply: "We're OK
(1-up), and you're a bad person, woman,
and mother (1-down)." Unawareness of this
disrespectful attitude guarantees escalating fights and avoidances, and makes effective
The couple focuses on trying to change
Sherrie. That evokes semi-conscious
shame, guilt, hurt, and
her, and her
protective false self responds by counter-blaming Sue and Mark, and escalating her "hostile" behaviors.
Sue's two sons are caught up in stressful
loyalty conflicts and
relationship tri-angles. Until all three adults acknowledge their identity as a normal
nuclear stepfamily and what it
not likely to admit this or seek cooperative solutions.
Digging down to Level 2
reveals Sue and Mark each
thinking "Sherrie and my
mate" are causing my problems.
Neither co-parent is thinking
about needs. Unable to communicate and problem-solve
effectively, Mark and Sue each feel increasingly blamed and misunderstood by
the other - which promotes rising mutual distrust +
disrespect + hurt + frustration + anger. The couple fears facing this scary
reality, and doesn't know how to talk together about it safely as teammates vs. opponents.
Their rift increases over time, as they blame Sherrie and each
other and ignore
how they're trying
to deal with this complex marital stressor.
awareness and knowledge,
they are at risk of
unconsciously growing a
toxic self-amplifying, (blame > explain
/ defend > counterblame
> counterblame >... ) cycle over time - the roots of psychological
or legal re/divorce.
Digging further to the third layer
of needs discloses
conflicts within Sue and Mark.
These are too scary to admit because of powerful old false-self
shame, guilts, and
fears - e.g. "I'll never deserve or get the love I need.
(Shamed Child) I'll
never be able to be a competent parent and mate (Cynic / Doubter and
Perfectionist subselves), so I'll ultimately have
to live and die alone (Abandoned Child and
There is nothing I can do to prevent this - I'm totally
helpless (Victim / Martyr subself).
Sue's version is "I
feel powerless, and can only pray for God to help
me here." Mark lacks the
spiritual faith, awareness, and experience to do this
(part of his
Level-3 awareness is hard
because it requires each person
(i.e. you) to
accept full responsibility for filling their own
primary needs, rather than
expecting others to want to do so as when we were young.
The fourth (deepest) layer of needs is
hardest to discover because...
each partner lacks the knowledge and vocabulary to
identify these needs, and...
their friends, society, family
professionals, and the media are also ignorant and unaware.
Because you're reading these articles, you are among the few who are
gaining the knowledge to identify and fill these deep primary needs.
Pause to digest what you just experienced. Reflect
on what this dig-down concept could mean in your relationships. What
level are you and important adults and kids usually focused on?
Have you ever disagreed with someone over finances and debts?
for four years, Myra and Manuel can't seem to find a middle ground about a group
of "money problems"...
Need-levels 1and 2 - each mate feels the problem is their partner and
ex mate Anita. Both partners gripe and fight, but don't
"Myra insists on
spending too much, on things we don't need, and can't afford. She's
a real shopaholic.
Periodically, she starts world war three because I
forget to tell her of getting ATM cash. Then she nags me to do
something because (my ex wife) Anita hassles me about being a day late
with sending child support.
constantly bitches at Anita
for spending the child support "on Gucci boots and bags"
instead of kid clothes and cereal. Somehow, I'm supposed to fix
And Myra's after me to make
a will. We're healthy and under 40, so why pay some lawyer an arm
and a leg until we're older?
"And she also rags me about
putting her name on my house and car titles. She doesn't hear my
side of it.
Oh - and we both agree Anita
should split the premium for the kids' dental insurance, but my ex
just whines and plays 'poor me'..."
unmet needs identified yet.)
need to find a new way to
talk to (problem solve
with) Manny. Any time something about money comes up, we both
frustrated and angry. I expect him to not hear me, get
defensive or whiney or surly, and to run away. I'm mad before I even
open my mouth. I know that's not fair to him, but I can't find a
way to not do that!
realize I'm feeling out of control and unsafe here - I want (need)
more control and security! I also realize I'm starting to
distrust Manny's judgment - at least about practical things. I hate
to say it, but I'm losing
respect for him - and at times, for myself (and I
need to reverse that)!
those are their
surfaceneeds (Level 3a)
to feel genuinely heard, respected, and appreciated as a man,
a husband, and a committed father - by Myra first, then Anita. I
need to feel my wife
is my partner, not an nag, critic, and opponent!
"I'd feel a lot
better if I felt on top of this mess
(fuzzy thinking). At times, I just feel overwhelmed. Was I wrong to pick Myra?
to worry that this (marriage) isn't going to work out either - I'd
be a two-time loser!
I need to stop
badmouthing Myra and my ex after I've had a few drinks. That feels
doesn't appreciate having fine things in our home. He grew up poor,
and has to hoard money. We both work, and there's enough! "
"It drives me nuts that he
hands over his check, wants me to pay the bills, and then won't help
me keep the checkbook balanced!
"My biggest aggravation is
about child support. To keep the peace with his teeny-bopper ex, Manuel agreed to
pay way more than the state guidelines. Then he accuses me of
spending money we don't have! And I seem to have married an ex wife
who is about 15, max.
All she wants is us to pay her so she can play,
flirt, and party, while her kids go to school in rags. It's a crime,
Manny just shrugs! At times, I think I married a big kid, not a
Despite all his macho talk, he won't draw the line with Anita. So I have to do it,
and I'm getting tired!
I didn't say "I do" to Anita!
(No unmet needs
mutually identified, so no problem-solving can happen yet.)
...and under those are
primary needs(Level 3b)
to lower my
guilt, and regain my self control, self confidence,
and self respect. I also need an
effective plan as to how Myra
and I are going to stop fighting and start problem-solving together.
need us both to agree to stop focusing on the past
each other +
name-calling + complaining, and focus on solving one problem at a
"I need to learn how to control my expectations and temper with Manny -
at least on money issues. And I
need to find a way to feel more
secure - safer - in this family. I must admit, I'm scaring myself.
to find a new way of looking at all these problems so Manny and I
can start solving them. And I
need to regain my
of self-confidence and hope that these conflicts are going to
dwindle. I have to (need to) stop
worrying about this all the
..andunder these are three core
problemspromoting Myra and Manny's
surface "money problems":
1) Manny is
unaware of being
ruled by a false self:a sad Orphan Boy, an Anxious Boy, a Guilty Boy, a
Philosopher, a Magician (reality distorter), an Inner Critic
(Blamer), a Weasel, a Salesman, a
Doubter, a Macho Man,
a Rager, a Friendly Guy, a
Thinker / Analyzer, and an
These subselves distrust
Manuel's true Self, and aren't
of him, Anita, and Myra being
wounded, ignorant, and un-aware; and....
2) Myra isn't aware of being controlled by a
false self: a
Shamed Girl, a
Scared Girl, a
Catastrophizer, a Party
Inner Critic, a Worrier, a Pessimist, a Jealous One, an
Magician, and a Complainer.
these subselves don't know of Myra's true Self. Others don't trust
her Self as a competent leader. All subselves are
unaware of Myra,
Anita, and Manny being psychologically wounded, uninformed, and unaware; and...
Manuel and Myraaren't awareofthese
online Lessons, their ignorance, and their personal and joint
healing and communication options.
Ex wife Anita has her own
complex set of surface and underlying
primary needs. Like the
other adults, her personality is
controlled by a group of
subselves. Neither Myra, Manuel, or Anita or their friends, marriage
counselor, or relatives are aware of this, or of
this article on
solving "money" problems.
Again, pause and note your reactions to these examples of "digging
down." How does your Self feel
about these ideas, and what they might mean in your life and family?
The Common Problem-solving
There are common themes to these examples which
may occur in the way your family members try to resolve personal and
mutual "problems" (unfilled needs). The themes include...
being often dominated by false selves;
the difference between surface needs
and primary needs; and...
...they focus endlessly on
their surface conflicts, just as their
childhood caregivers and mentors probably did. Another theme is...
resents one or more other peoplefor their problems(unmet needs), instead of digging down to learn what they
really need and taking responsibility for filling their
own needs. And...
3) They argue, fight, explain,
deny, debate, blame, defocus, or withdraw, rather than digging down and
doing win-win problem-solving together as mutually-respectful partners.
Each adult is unaware of how their
well-meaning false selves keep them focused on surface conflicts, instead of on their
deepest (level 4) needs to...
help other adults and kids do the same,
taking responsibility for the other adults;
and partners need
become skilled at effective
problem solving - i.e. at discerning and filling primary needs;
Other common dynamics of how typical adults try to problem-solve are...
4) People's' false selves use other adults and kids as weapons,
messengers, pawns, or supporters
in the adults' surface battles. One family result: dependent kids are growing up in a
low-nurturance environment of caregiver mistrust,
disrespect, guilt, frustration, repression, and anger. That promotes
kids' developing their
own psychological wounds a day at a time.No one is aware this is happening;
(all?) family members and supporters are unaware of these
and what to do about them. This significantly hampers their ability to problem-solve effectively
stress accumulates as their primary needs go unfilled. This
is probably a major reason for our U.S. divorce epidemic, "troubled kids," and other major personal and social
Does this outline make sense to you? If so,
how can you and your communication partners avoid trying fruitlessly to
problems, like endlessly clipping off weed-tops vs. pulling out their
roots? Enduring this risks (a) reducing your relationship harmony and
nurturance level, and
wounding any dependent kids.
Scan all these options and imagine trying them. Then note your
reaction. If it's interest, enthusiasm, and commitment, your true Self
(capital "S") is
probably guiding you. If not,
''someone else'' may be controlling your
thoughts and decisions...
Don't try digging down unless your true Self is clearly
guiding you. When s/he isn't, practice setting him/her
free from other subselves (Lesson 1 here) or lower your expectations.
The biggest blocks to effective
thinking and communication are psychological wounds
and ignorance of
communication basics and
to patient work at
Lessons 1 and 2 will reduce both
blocks, over time. Are you committed to that yet? Are your other family
Check your attitudes:
you were taught that being "needy" is weak or childish, change that to
"normal and inevitable." Needs are simply emotional, physical, or
spiritual discomforts. If other people criticize you for
focusing on needs, tell them that all human behavior (including
theirs) comes from trying to reduce daily discomforts (needs).
If you don't genuinely feel
"your and my current
(non-emergency) needs are equally important to me," suspect
false self rules you, and lower your expectations.
If you weren't taught your rights as a
unique dignified person, evolve a "Bill" like this
sample and use it to validate
and assert your needs. Other adults and kids have exactly the same rights!
to discern and name your emotions, and see them all as useful
pointers to your current needs. Distinguish between feeling
emotions and expressing them.
5) Stay aware that...
needs come in layers - surface > intermediate >
filling surface needs means they'll often return until you fill the primary
needs that cause them.
these are tips for "digging down" effectively...
Tip 6) Edit these common primary needs to suit your values and
experience, and refer to them when you "dig down":
I need to feel...
worthy, lovable, and loved
● accepted and
respected by key
● free to make
personal life decisions
● free to
opinions and needs and be heard
● freedom to learn and grow
to seek, evaluate, and accept help
● free to learn about and enjoy the world
pain, loss, and overwhelm
and confident at life tasks
● realistic hope for
filling key needs
current needs and feelings
● free to seek, receive,
and give love
free to fill current
physical needs,including sensual pleasure and release
● free to
conceive and nurture kids
● free to
balance work, play, and rest
● free to
choose how to use time, talents,and personal energy
● free to explore and
Stay aware that in every situation, your and other people's
primary needs (discomforts) come from your body and your dominant
Tip 7) Practice
identifying and comparing your and other people's communication needs...
to feel respected by yourself and
your partner (a constant), and one or more of these:
to give or get information,
to vent (be heard and accepted),
to cause action or change, and...
to avoid something unpleasant (like
boredom or self-awareness).
View "problems" and "conflicts" as being
unfilled primary needs among your and other people's subselves.
Apply this multi-level hierarchy of problem-perceptions to
help dig-down with any significant conflict among your subselves and with
kids and other adults:
Level 1:surface problems:
blame someone else for your current problems,
and expect them to fill your needs;
yourself and other people for
causing your problems.
Level 3:take full responsibility for filling your own daily needs.
In important situations,
dig down below surface needs to
discern what you and any partners really need, and help each
other brainstorm to fill your respective primary needs well enough - as
Level 4:Manyneeds ultimately come from false-self dominance + unawareness
of key information. Every able adult (like you) is responsible
freeing their true Self and gaining
awareness and knowledge over time.
Dig-down Tip 9)
important or confusing situations, try to identify the personality subselves who are creating your needs. Sort
and prioritize them, and then identify what your true Self needs.
10) Distinguish what you need from what other
people say you need.
Tip 11) Don't overindulge your (subselves') need to "be nice
and kind." Respectfullygive other able adults the responsibility for filling their
own primary needs without guilt or shame. Beware of compulsively helping
rescuing (enabling) able people in non-emergencies, and accept that
helpingis the best aid
you can provide,
you're conflicted, experiment with this technique: once your
E(motion) level is "below your ears" and you can
ask yourself and/or
your conflict partner "What do you
need right now?"
Trust the first response, and then ask...
"OK, why do you need
that?" or ask...
"And you need that now in order to...?" or
"If you don't
get that need filled, what might happen?" and...
"If that (bad thing)
happened, what would that mean to you?"
Repeat this sequence nonjudgmentally with each answer that appears. Expect some
anxiety and confusion. When people first try digging down,
they often reach a point where the answer is "I don't know (what I need
or feel)." Practicing breath-awareness,
self-talk usually improves that.
Dig-down Tip 13) Help each other use some new
problem-solving terms and phrases. In addition to learning these
metatalkconcepts and terms,
experiment with phrases like these together...
"I'm not sure
you understand what I need from you now."
"Who do you feel is
responsible for filling your need?"
"That feels like a surface
need to me. Let's do some digging."
"I think we're
focusing on surface problems and needs. Will you (I need you to) help me dig down to
Level 3?" (see tip 8
I sense that you and I are on different (problem-perception) levels. Let's
check to see if our
true Selves are
subselves needs to feel heard
(or whatever) now?"
"I feel like we're struggling here.
Let's see if your communication needs and mine
match, OK?What do you need from me as we're talking right now besides
You and the key people in your life probably aren't used to using
phrases and questions like these to help each other fill your relationship needs. What might happen if you experimented with phrases like these
with important adults and kids?
Tip 14)Use your dig-down results (primary needs) as
input to win-win
These dig-down tips complement other
tips to improve your communication
effectiveness. As you
explore and learn
together, enjoy modeling your learnings for your kids and teaching them
and problem solving basics - a priceless
See where you stand with these ideas.
= "I agree;" D = "I disagree," and
? = "I'm not sure," or "It
depends on (what?)"
My true Self is answering these questions now.
If not, I know which subselves are answering. (A D ?)
I can clearly explain
and illustrate the concept
of surface needs and underlying primary needs to a high school
freshman now. (A D ?)
I accept that every
able adult is responsible for identifying and filling their own primary needs. (A D ?)
I accept that adults and kids
communicate to fill (satisfy) their primary needs. (A D ?)
I can explain the concept of
"digging down" through three or four levels of perception, to a typical early teen. (A D ?).
I'm motivated to (a) forge my own
list of primary human needs now, and
to (b) try digging down with various people and situations to see if my
helps to identify primary needs. (A D ?)
in alerting other
adults to effective-communication
basics and skills, and
them to the young people in my life. (A D ?)
communicate effectively is among my top life priorities now.
(A D ?)
Pause and reflect -
what did you just learn
"Experience is the best teacher," so put these ideas to work now with
this skill practice when you can....
A Dig-down Practice Exercise
Get the most from this skill-practice by doing these
Option - Find a partner who shares your interest in
improving your communication effectiveness,
and is willing to practice some skills with you. Whether you practice
alone or with a partner, do the following:
Both of you read and discuss this
introduction to effective communication,
including a summary of seven valuable skills any motivated person can
Review this article on giving effective
feedback to other people, and
experiment with doing so during the practice.
Test your understanding of the dig-down concept by explaining it to an
adult or older child who has never heard of it. Ask the person to say
back their understanding of the concept to see if they "got it."
Find an undistracted place and time period
(say 30" or more), and bring something to take notes with;
Option - have an inner
dialog with any subselves who are
disabling your Self (capital "S"), and ask that they relax and allow
your Self to do this learning exercise. If either of you is skeptical
about personality subselves, read this letter when you're not distracted.
Two Practice Options
can practice digging down...
By yourself - focus on several recent needs
you experienced, and dig down below them without a
With a partner - Each of you focus on a recent interaction
between yourself and another person, and help the other dig down to
guesstimate the primary needs of each person involved.
all the steps below first, and tailor them to fit your levels of knowledge and
your needs. The goal of this practice is to gain experience at identifying
typical primary needs underneath surface problems. Stay aware that
"problems" are unfilled needs, and that identifying your primary needs is the
first step in effective problem-solving.
can do this by yourself or with a helper.
If you use a helper, his or her
role is to ask you the questions below, and possibly affirm your answers
hearing checks -
not to comment or suggest solutions. Helpers can also practice
awareness, and non-judgmentally notice and report your behavioral responses to the
a recent common or special personal need ("problem") that had
some urgency. Pick one that you're comfortable describing to your
practice-partner, if any. Examples: "I needed to call a plumber / go grocery
shopping / call (someone) / make a dental appointment / plan a trip /
research something / figure out how to ____. / confront (someone about
something) / update my will / etc.
Say your need or problem out loud, in no more than one sentence.
Finish this sentence: "I needed to ____ because..." Option - your
helper can ask you "Why did you need ___?" Example: "I needed to call my
dentist for an appointment."
Ask this question with the answer you got. "Why did you need to call for
an appointment?" ("Because I haven't had a checkup in almost a year.")
Coach yourself not to compute,
assume, edit, or judge the answer - just accept the first response that
occurs to you.
Repeat this question with the answer you got. "Why did you need a dental
checkup?" ("Because I was worried I might have cavities or gum disease."
Repeat this question with the answer you got.
"Why are you concerned
about cavities and gum disease?" ("Because I don't want to get sick, lose
any teeth or have major oral pain, or incur major dental expenses later.")
Repeat this question with each of these answers. if you need to - e.g.
"Why did you want to avoid major dental expenses?" ("Because I don't have
dental insurance, or any savings.")
Repeat this question with the answer you got. "Why do you need dental
insurance or financial savings?" ("Because I need to feel financially
Repeat this question with the answer you got. "Why do you need to feel
financially secure?" ("Because I'm afraid I won't be able to provide for the
kids, and they'll suffer.")
so on. When you feel you've dug down far enough, sum up what you discovered:
"So my primary need is
an effective financial plan to reduce my anxiety about my kids'
welfare,Making a dental appointment is a surface need.
this point (in or outside the practice), you can shift into
problem-solving - e.g. "What's in the way of making an effective financial plan?"
any stage of this process, you may get "I don't know why I need that." If
so, ask something like "What might happen if you don't get ______?" Another
option is to recheck whether your Self (capital "S") is still
guiding your other subselves. If not, consider options like
these, and retry the question.
Option - after this practice, compare this dig-down process to what
you normally do with filling common needs
problems). Does it make sense to you that
without digging down in
important (not all) situations, your primary needs will remain unfilled and
probably cause more surface problems (discomforts)?
Reciprocal (Two-person) Practice
The goal here is to objectively identify
person's current primary needs, to facilitate
effective problem-solving. Option - affirm that each person's
needs, rights, and dignity were of equal importance
in this situation. If you didn't feel this, suspect that a false self was
thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
Pick a recent non-emergency interaction you had with an important adult or child that you want to practice
digging down with. The situation can be any kind of "problem" by your
definition. Choose a moderate problem you're comfortable discussing with
your practice-partner, and describe some or all of the interaction to him or her.
Your partner will do the same after you finish digging down in your
Be yourself, and your partner will role-play the other person in your
chosen situation. If s/he needs more information about who s/he's
Ask your partnersomething like
"So what do you need from me, right
now?" Your partner responds with something appropriate from your
problem-description, like "I need you to stop smoking (gambling / using
pornography / coming home so late / being rude to my sister /..." etc.
Use the same repetitive questioning as in the solo practice above,
optionally affirming what you hear each time with brief
hearing checks. Do this until you feel you've uncovered the other person's primary need/s
(there can be more than one) that caused the surface need.
Now have your partner help you dig down below your surface needs
in the two-person situation.
When you feel you've discovered both person's primary needs, then your
practice-partner should ask you things like...
"Who's needs did you each give priority to
in this situation?" The best answer is "We treated each other's needs
as equally important."
This article proposes that
typical adults and older kids have
major trouble solving relationship "problems" partly because
they (you) focus on surface
problems (discomforts) rather than the primary needs that cause the problems.
The article offers three examples of "digging down" through several levels of
relationship needs. This page builds on these examples to outline common
themes that are true of most
internal and social relationship conflicts. The article closes with 14 dig-down tips,
a "reality check," and two options for practicing this powerful
communication (and relationship) skill.
there anyone else you want to show and/or discuss the concepts of primary
needs and digging down with?
something about yourself with this anonymous 1-question