Our universal psychological needs need to be met if we are to thrive says Guest Blogger and Senior Clinical Psychologist Martin Seager.
Meeting the universal needs of the human condition is as fundamental to our thriving as the laws of aerodynamics to aircraft staying up in the air and the laws of thermodynamics to the conservation of energy.
I think the best way forward is to move from treating mental conditions to meeting the universal psychological needs of the human condition which I and many others (some in this group) are beginning to articulate. This goes beyond Maslow who was going along similar lines but inadvertently split mind from body. Human Givens is similar but less psychological and less anthropological. Positive psychology overlaps a bit with this and the idea of positive mental training obviously fits as a piece of this jig-saw. Mindfulness also can be seen to work when it is carried out in harmony with these needs.
My list is as follows:
1. To be loved
2. To be heard
3. To belong
4. To achieve
5. To believe
6. To create and procreate
7. To worship something bigger than oneself
8. To sing and dance
9. To celebrate
10. To mourn
We would all fall into despair and “illth” (ill-health) if these needs were not met. These needs apply across all cultures and across all human history so are more likely to be valid than temporary fashions or brands and in my view, the more of these universal psychological and spiritual needs are met, the healthier human beings will be – the less these needs are met, the more ill they will become both in body and in soul. Having these needs blocked will lead to bodily ill-health too; if these needs are met then people can overcome and bear bodily illness, injury and disability much better – some disabled people become Paralympians – others take their own lives – the difference is in these needs being met or not.
This list also applies to ourselves as health professionals and care workers – if our work environment meets these universal needs we can give of our best, if not we suffer and burn out – this list also has massive public health implications for how we rear our children and support their caregivers in the first years of life.
By thinking we are treating mental conditions with evidence-based treatments we are bad scientists and we end up more often dis-honouring these needs than honouring them, however where Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) and other therapy brands honour these needs and meet them they will work. Interventions that aren’t formal therapy can also work for these reasons – the good old family doctor often works for these reasons for we are a relationship species and relationships determine a massive part of all our health.