Growing up in a society where qualities of independence, maturity and responsibility are highly valued it has always felt like a weakness to admit vulnerability.
In a culture that prides itself on working hard and long hours, wearing high levels of stress as a badge of achievement; admitting that we have needs has a sense of giving in to being flawed or weak.
Understanding how our brain has grown and evolved has been pivotal in my realisation that we do have very real needs that cannot be ignored and must be managed if we are to work towards achieving a healthy body and mind.
Rick Hanson, author of Resilient, outlines these three core needs and their evolutionary origins.
PRIMARY NEED FOR SAFETY – This is thought to have come from needing to stay alive and run away from predators and when met gives us feelings of being secure.
SECONDARY NEED FOR SATISFACTION– This perhaps evolved to give us the motivation to get things done and to achieve feelings of success.
FINALLY OUR NEED FOR CONNECTION– This is a connection with ourselves, our self-worth and connection to our community. The feelings of being loved, understood and heard.
These needs have emerged from the progressive evolution of our primitive brain over the last 600 million years.
The oldest part of our brain is the Brainstem, known as our REPTILIAN or Lizard brain; it is primarily concerned with raw basic survival.
The next structure to evolve from the brainstem is the Subcortex known as our MAMMALIAN or Hamster brain; wired to seek satisfaction.
On top of both these structures lies our crowning glory- the Neocortex, known as our PRIMATE or Monkey brain; concerned in particular with social connection.
During the flow of our day, there are many different situations that can easily threaten our wellbeing- if we let them. They evoke various emotional reactions which, if we take a moment to be witness to them, are designed to show us where the work is to be done.
3 STEPS TO RECOGNISE, ACCEPT AND MANAGE OUR NEEDS
Name the emotion to yourself, be it anger or feeling unhappy, lonely or unheard.
There is a lot of work written about the power of witnessing and naming an emotion as it arises instead of pushing it back down…guaranteed to resurface again when you least expect or want it to.
This is my work in progress. Painful and difficult they may be, to not run away from those emotions but to name them and through awareness, stay with them.
Incredibly difficult to do and very easy to write about; I know deep down I can only teach this to our boys through my own self-practice and discipline.
They give me plenty of opportunities to experience a wide range of emotions and for them to see me PAUSE, NAME and STAY with the moment without an instant reaction is, I feel, the biggest gift of emotional wellbeing I can give them.
But my goodness it is so hard. I am failing often but I can happily say I am making progress as I keep in mind what I want to achieve:
To develop an emotional intelligence that both boys can witness and mirror for themselves.