The Web address of this
2-page article is
Updated May 17,
Clicking underlined links here will open a
new window. Other links will open an informational popup,
so please turn off your
browser's popup blocker or allow popups from this nonprofit Web site.
Follow underlined links after
finishing this article to avoid getting distracted and lost.
This is one of the articles in Lesson 4 - optimize your relationships. This
brief YouTube video previews what you'll read below. The video mentions 8
self-improvement lessons. I've reduced that to seven.:
This article focuses on something that every human and
animal is faced with every moment - discerning and satisfying currentneeds (discomforts).The article covers...
basic premises about needs
a summary of common primary needs
premises about who's responsible for filling
surface and primary needs,
a summary of Dr. Abraham Maslow's "hierarchy
of human needs" (page 2); and...
all human behavior - including thinking
and communicating - aims to
reduce current needs (emotional, physical, mental, and/or spiritual
satisfying (filling) current needs causes
satisfaction. Being unable to identify or fill current needs
causes frustration. Unaware people confuse frustration
with anger because they feel the same.
seeing no way to fill major long-term needs
causes hopelessness and despair. Filling enough current
needs causes (temporary) happiness, peace, and
Typical needs are
usually higher in priority than wants.
your needs range from primary to intermediate to
surface, and from immediate to long-term.
Most people are unaware of
this, and focus on
filling surface or intermediate needs rather than the
primary needs that cause them. This
usually causes temporary satisfaction at best, because symptoms of the
primary needs ("problems" or "bad habits") keep reappearing. This can
promote frustration, self doubt, blame, conflict, discouragement, and
corrode self-confidence and relationships,
nurturance level of families and other groups, and promote divorce
Implication:intentionally trying to
identify and satisfy your
and others'primary needs promotes
serenity, security, peace, and
satisfactions. Do you agree? Awareness and "dig-down" skills (Lesson
2) can help you identify primary needs like these...
Tailor this list to fit your beliefs and life experience.
How would you prioritize these needs in your life now?
How would your partner, your parents, and each dependent? Note that
people usually have groups of these needs simultaneously,
which can make naming each of them a challenge
Option - try saying each one of
these out loud: "I need (to)...
self-accepting ("I'm OK!")
Identify, assert, and enforce
Choose and act on my own short
Evolve a set of personal
assert them without
undue anxiety or guilt
Get enough nurturing (vs. toxic)
humor, play, and laughter
satisfactions and relief from discomfort
Pause, breathe, and notice where your thots go... Have you ever seen
a summary of primary needs like this before?
Would you add anything to this summary? Do you agree that every child and adult has a
dynamic mix of these
needs, which makes us all true equals, beneath our surface
Does it seem credible that most people couldn't describe
all these needs? One implication is that few typical parents are teaching their
kids to recognize their primary needs. Anyone (e.g. you) can choose to develop their
awareness of their
primary needs and how they affect their life, relationships, and wholistic
Note that in any situation each person will have a different set of these needs, and will
rank them differently.
Do you agree?
One definition of "social harmony" is
when people temporarily (a) have similar-enough
primary needs and values, and (b) rank them equally.
are clashes between subselves' or people's primary needs, perceptions,
and values. Awareness of this is the first step toward resolving them.
conflict resolution depends on each person
or group wanting
to accept responsibility for identifying and
filling their own primary needs.Maturing is (partly)
wanting to shift from childhood dependence on others for
need-fulfillment to depending on yourself. Does that
describe you recently?
People are beginning to earn about the relationship dynamic called enabling. If I take on too
much responsibility for solving your
problems(unfilled needs), I inhibit you from learning how to master them. Thusenabling is the opposite of empowering, which
high-nurturance co-parents want to do for their kids
and each other.
Are you enabling anyone mow? Is anyone enabling you?
Implication: if you're able-bodied and mentally healthy and you expect your mate, parents, children, or
others to fill your primary needs (above), you're setting everyone up for disappointment, frustration, hurt, anger, and resentment.
Excessive focus on another person's behavior and needs can be a sign of codependence - relationship addiction. That's a widespread symptom of inherited psychological
Another implication - adults are responsible for helping minor
kids learn gradually to want to take full responsibility for...
identifying and filling their own
primary needs, and for...
asking for help in filling them when they
need it, without excessive guilt, shame,
Are you doing that for any
young people in your life? Did your caregivers do that for you?
Premise: all normal
are composed of a
of talented, dynamic subselves, like players on an athletic team or
orchestra. The subselves who control persons (like you) instinctively prioritize
their and each other's needs. This inevitably creates fluctuating
internal and social conflicts: need-clashes.
social skill is learning how to
below your surface discomforts to discern your current primary
needs, and then accept responsibility for filling them. Do you do
this with your significant problems? Are you teaching your kids to do
For perspective, read these
examples of digging down to
discover current primary needs, and come back here. Then think of a current
problem (discomfort) you have with an adult or child, and
dig down to see what each of you really needs. Try it!
To further appreciate the dynamic array of simultaneous needs we
ceaselessly try to satisfy, review these after you finish this article...
Bottom line - Ultimately, each able adult
is responsible for (a) being aware of which subselves govern them, and (b)
identifying and filling their bodily and subselves' needs. Helping each other fill
current needs is satisfying if you rank your own (non-emergency) needs as
Pause and reflect - what are you thinking and feeling now?
You're more likely to appreciate
these ideas if you try them. Here's an interesting way to do that:
needs are emotional, spiritual,
and sensory discomforts
open mind of a student, and choose ~30" of undistracted time.
Check to see if your
your personality (other subselves). If not, try to identify which
other subselves are, and why they distrust your Self.
well, let go of other concerns for now, and draw a vertical line
dividing a sheet of paper into two columns.
your current life and relationships, and finish this sentence out loud:
"Right now, I need ____." Don't edit or compute. Write
the first need that comes to mind on the left column of your paper..
on the present moment, and ask
the question again.
Write down the next need that occurs to you. Repeat this until you "run dry,"
Breathe, and notice how you think and feel identifying your needs. Do you allow yourself to be needy? If not, where
did you get that toxic attitude?
Rank each of your current needs from one (very important) to three (less
one need at a time, and dig down to uncover the primary
need/s "underneath" each one. There are probably
several. Write them down in the right
column of your paper without editing.
Do this for
several or all of your needs, noticing your thoughts and feelings as you
do. Take your time!
feel finished, try saying (the first (surface) need out loud. Then say
something like "No, what I really need is (the primary need/s)"
and conflict resolution are about identifying and filling your and a
partner's current primary needs "well enough."
primary need you've identified and ask yourself"What
do I need - specifically - to reduce this
discomfort well enough?"
patterns that may emerge in your answers - e.g. "I need more self
confidence or respect," or "I need to feel more comfortable asserting my
needs to (who?)." If a primary need is something tangible (e.g. "I need
a good DVD player"), dig further. They're usually surface needs.
- do this exercise with a partner, and
discuss the process and your learnings together.
summary of common primary needs above,
and see if you need to amend any of yours in the right column of your
- do this exercise several times in the next week when you're not
distracted, and see what you learn.
making this a family exercise - e.g. at meal time or afterward.
Notice how seldom adults and kids are
of (a) surface and primary needs, and (b) their current primary needs in
important relationships and situations.
about your experience and learnings from this exercise, and then read
several weeks from now.
you're thinking and feeling about identifying surface and primary needs.
Then pause, breathe, stretch, and continue with page 2