Blueprint for life? Learning to manage our core human needs.

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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

STEP 1:

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.

STEP 2:

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Taking Refuge

Finding a life raft in the ordinary.

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Life has a funny way of presenting us with unexpectedly difficult and challenging experiences. For me, it’s usually when I’ve worked hard to get my routine back on track, my head’s in the right space, I feel I’m in a good place and right then something presents itself and throws all my planning and work out of the window.

Rick Hanson, renowned Clinical Psychologist talks about how small moments of ‘awareness’ and ‘mindfulness’ or what I prefer to call- ‘Moments of Pause‘ can offer us a Refuge in the busy lives we lead.

Hanson describes ‘Refuges’ as places or moments that Uplift, Nurture and Protect us. He describes a process of seeking refuge to help us get through our often chaotic and busy lives.

These Moments of Pause or Refuges can act like a life raft and carry us from one situation to the next as we try and tick off our To-Do list, meet deadlines or often just, like me, try and keep my head above water.

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Photo by Sebastian Voortman on Pexels.com

 

Simple yet effective I’m working hard to try and work these into my day. The process is beautifully ordinary with nothing needed but an awareness of the simple moments of 2-3 minutes you have to yourself during the flow of your day.

These moments could be :

  • During your morning shower
  • Listening to some music you love on the way to work
  • Spending time in nature- even if it’s 5 minutes on your way to work as you pass a patch of wild flowers or see dandelions poking out of the cracks of the pavement, hear the chatter of birds overhead.
  • Or even a hot aromatic cup of  coffee.

I urge you to try this out with me, starting where you are right now to find those ordinary but powerful Moments of Pause to carry you forward through the rest of your day.

This is the process I use from what I have learned from Hanson’s very practical and relatable book ‘Resilient’.

Taking Refuge In the Ordinary

1. Pick small regular events that happen through the course of your day when you feel you may be able to Pause for 2 -3 minutes. For me it’s:

– A few minutes during my morning shower.

-The first few minutes on waking when I realise I have been blessed with another day.

Pick small moments where you feel a sense of safety, you feel nurtured or just peaceful, like those magical few minutes of silence before the rest of the house wakes up and all manner of chaos ensues (or maybe that’s just my house!).

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2. So you have your moment. As you practice this more, like me I hope you will start to find precious moments scattered throughout the ordinary flow of your day that maybe went past before unnoticed.

Now let’s imagine it’s your first hot aromatic cup of coffee of the day.

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All that’s needed is 2-3 minutes of staying with the feeling of being right-here-now, feeling the comfort of your first cup, inhaling the aroma, seeing the froth or the little swirl of milk at the top…its being present to the small details. Smile, take 2-3 deep long breaths while you hold that sense of calm.

Just the simple process of smiling and taking long deep breaths has been clinically shown to improve our levels of stress hormones such as cortisol. Both smiling and long deep breaths have also been shown to raise mood-enhancing hormones called endorphins and  lower blood pressure.

3. If you feel the chaos resurfacing- Imagine yourself standing safe, high and dry with the waves  crashing  down below you or under a shelter of leaves with the rain pouring outside and know this :

‘Eventually the storm will pass, all experiences do,

And the Peaceful Inner Core of YOU will remain’.

-Rick Hanson, Resilient

Just takes 2 -3 minutes, try it for one moment every day and watch your practice and your peaceful inner core grow.

Know that however busy, rushed or chaotic your life may be right now- You always have a Life Raft to get you to the next moment …and the next. Just take a moment to find it.

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Photo by Pok Rie on Pexels.com

Enjoy.