The Human Givens Approach is a set of organising ideas that provides a holistic, scientific framework for understanding the way that individuals and society work. This framework encompasses the latest scientific understandings from neurobiology and psychology, as well as ancient wisdom and original new insights.
At its core is a highly empowering idea – that human beings, like all organic beings, come into this world with a set of needs. If those needs are met appropriately, it is not possible to be mentally ill.
Perhaps no more powerful a statement could ever be made about the human condition: If human beings' needs are met, they won't get depressed; they cannot have psychosis; they cannot have manic depression; they cannot be in the grip of addictions. It is just not possible.
To get our physical and emotional needs met, nature has gifted us our very own internal 'guidance programme' – this, together with our needs, makes up what we call the human givens. We come into the world with an instinctive knowledge of what we need and with a set of inner resources that can help us get our needs met, provided we use them properly and are living in a healthy environment.
What are the 'human givens'?
We are all born with innate knowledge programmed into us from our genes. Throughout life we experience this knowledge as feelings of physical and emotional need.
These feelings evolved over millions of years and, whatever our cultural background, are our common biological inheritance. They are the driving force that motivates us to become fully human and succeed in whatever environment we find ourselves in. It is because they are incorporated into our biology at conception that we call them 'human givens'.
Our given physical needs
As animals we are born into a material world where we need air to breathe, water, nutritious food and sufficient sleep. These are the paramount physical needs. Without them, we quickly die. In addition we also need the freedom to stimulate our senses and exercise our muscles. We instinctively seek sufficient and secure shelter where we can grow and reproduce ourselves and bring up our young. These physical needs are intimately bound up with our emotional needs — the main focus of human givens psychology.
Our given emotional needs
Emotions create distinctive psychobiological states in us and drive us to take action. The emotional needs nature has programmed us with are there to connect us to the external world, particularly to other people, and survive in it. They seek their fulfillment through the way we interact with the environment. Consequently, when these needs are not met in the world, nature ensures we suffer considerable distress — anxiety, anger, depression etc. — and our expression of distress, in whatever form it takes, impacts on those around us.
People whose emotional needs are met in a balanced way do not suffer mental health problems. When psychotherapists and teachers pay attention to this they are at their most effective.
In short, it is by meeting our physical and emotional needs that we survive and develop as individuals and a species. There is widespread agreement as to the nature of our emotional needs. The main ones are listed below.
Emotional needs include:
Security — safe territory and an environment which allows us to develop fully
Attention (to give and receive it) — a form of nutrition
Sense of autonomy and control — having volition to make responsible choices
Emotional intimacy — to know that at least one other person accepts us totally for who we are, “warts 'n' all”
Feeling part of a wider community
Privacy — opportunity to reflect and consolidate experience
Sense of status within social groupings
Sense of competence and achievement
Meaning and purpose — which come from being stretched in what we do and think.
Children's Mental Health Week
4-10 February 2019
I am very pleased to have been asked by a local primary school to visit on Friday 8th February 2019 for a wellbeing day. I shall be talking to the children about how their brain works when it triggers big feelings and how they can calm things down.
If you would like to learn a breathing technique you can use any time and anywhere to calm yourself, then try the 7/11 technique. It allows you to switch from your active sympathetic nervous system to your relaxed parasympathetic nervous system. By using it throughout the day you can maintain a feeling of relaxation and it helps you get off to a good night's sleep too. Here's a link: 7/11
With the country having a hefty dose of snow in recent days and we all shiver against the winter wind, do you find yourself feeling very down with low energy and sleep problems. SAD, or Seasonal Affective Disorder, is a recognised condition where sufferers struggle emotionally during the winter months. It is thought that the reduced amount of sunlight in winter affects our production of serotonin and melatonin and therefore our mood, sleep and appetite. This winter disorder can lead to disturbed sleep, low mood and symptoms very similar to depression.
It is possible to buy a light box which emits light similar to real sunlight. As with depression, it is important to continue with exercise and your normal interests and hobbies, even if you don't feel like doing them. Make sure you make the most of natural sunlight too.