Wednesday, June 10, 2009

What Do We Need to Change?

Although I am very aware of the complexities involved in human behavior, I believe there are a few very strong and pervasive symptoms that can help us tune into the causal chain of disagreeable human behavior such as greed, power seeking, blame, and abuse.

These symptoms can be seen as overcompensation for not getting or fear of not getting our basic needs met. Among these needs are: adequate shelter, security, and nutrition, positive sense of self, sense of belonging, companionship, sense of meaning, and love.

From an economist's perspective, people's behavior, could be explained as a result of a scarcity. There is not enough to go around, so we must compete. If we can't get enough of one thing we compensate by accumulating more than we need of something else. In an economic world we would use this over accumulation to trade for something we lack. Unfortunately, the only needs that can be traded for are food, shelter, and to some extent, security. Most intangible needs are met through the goodwill and generosity of others, equitable adult relationships, and through individual mastery in relationship to others and the environment.

These intangible needs are given or provided to us by others starting at birth. The extent to which parents lay a good foundation for their children, determines whether the child is able to meet his or her own needs as they mature. If children's needs are not met, their ability to successfully integrate and participate in society as adults is hampered. This results in a life long deficit, manifested by controlling behavior, low self esteem, and the inability to socialize and interact appropriately with others on a meaningful level. These behaviors act as a barrier to need fulfillment, thus reinforcing or enlarging the deficits in these areas. Since man is a social animal, an individual's deficit impoverishes society.

People can overcompensate for a deficit in many ways:

  • striving in unproductive ways: over accumulation of goods, pursuit of power over others, attention seeking...
  • expressing or acting out anger through abuse, blame, or denying the needs of others.

When individuals suffering from deficits gather in groups, they can exert further harm by exploiting fears and resentments and resulting in further harm to themselves and others. Society becomes more divisive and combative as individuals and groups perceive themselves as excluded, alienated, isolated and persecuted.

The most disconcerting barrier to rectifying these deficits and putting society back on track is denial. It takes the form of the following:

  • I don't have needs
  • I don't have a deficit
  • You don't have needs
  • You just think you have a deficit

Denial is the hardest hurdle to clear. If a person or group is unwilling to admit that they have needs, or that their needs are not met sufficiently, they will never be able to fulfill them appropriately and never take responsibility for their part in the social dynamics that result.

How do we deal with denial? On a personal level, it usually takes hitting bottom, experiencing the worst consequences of our actions, or intervention and confrontation by those that care for us. Even these events don’t guarantee that an individual will be able to accept their personal responsibility for their condition. In the worst cases, people die without ever having felt fufilled.

For society, denial can result in more horrific consequences such as war, famine, genocide, slavery, species extinction, and environmental disasters. In it’s worst form, hitting the bottom could result in the extinction of the human race.

It sounds like we need a 12 step program for Needs Fulfillment.

  1. I admit that I have needs that are unfilled and I have tried to meet them in unproductive ways
  2. I admit that there is truth outside my own experience and my way of getting my needs met isn’t working
  3. I decide to focus on meeting my needs and that I need the help of others to assist me leaving unproductive habits behind
  4. I examine my thoughts and behaviors and take ownership of meeting my own needs and of the consequences of my behavior on others.
  5. I am truthful with myself and other’s about the harm I have caused.
  6. I become willing to follow the necessary process to change the thoughts, feelings and behaviors that prevent my needs from being met and prevent others from meeting theirs.
  7. I ask for the help of others to assist me in my continuing commitment to change. I seek the resources outside my own experience to help me understand how to appropriately meet the needs of others.
  8. I specifically identify the harm I may have caused and become willing to take appropriate steps to heal the wounds. I learn from my past actions in order to prevent future harm.
  9. I take appropriate steps to heal the wounds I have caused to myself and others.
  10. I will continue ensuring that my needs are met appropriately and that I appropriately meet the needs of others.
  11. I will continue learning about how I can make a positive difference in lives of others.
  12. I will offer the same help that others have provided me in learning to meet my needs appropriately.