Category Archives: Life Skills

The ‘Human Givens’ Approach

The Human Givens approach provides a mental framework to help us begin to view our emotional life positively rather than negatively: rather than seeing our personal ‘intray’ always as a pile of problems and change as frightening, there is the possibility of seeing it all as a series of opportunities. Click here to find out more.

Below is an extended piece of text from one of their website pages:

Every single one of us is born with essential physical and emotional needs and, if we are born healthy, the innate resources to help us fulfill them. These innate needs have evolved over millions of years and are our common biological inheritance, whatever our cultural background. It is because these needs and resources are incorporated into our very biology that they have become known as the human ‘givens’. Our innate needs seek their fulfillment through the way we interact with the environment using the resources nature ‘gave’ us. But when our emotional needs are not being met, or we are using our resources incorrectly, we suffer considerable distress. And so can those around us. In everyday terms, it is by meeting our physical and emotional needs that we survive and develop as individuals and a species. As animals we are born into a material world where we need air to breathe, water, nutritious food and sleep. These are the paramount physical needs. Without them, we quickly die. We also need the freedom to stimulate our senses and exercise our muscles. In addition, 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“.

There is widespread agreement as to the nature of our emotional needs. The main ones are listed below. Our fundamental emotional needs are:

• 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
• Feeling part of a wider community
• Emotional intimacy — to know that at least one other person accepts us totally for who we are, “warts ‘n’ all”
• 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.

Along with physical and emotional needs nature gave us guidance systems to help us meet them. We call these ‘resources’. The resources nature gave us to help us meet our needs include:

• The ability to develop complex long term memory, which enables us to add to our innate knowledge and learn
• The ability to build rapport, empathise and connect with others
• Imagination, which enables us to focus our attention away from our emotions, use language and problem solve more creatively and objectively
• Emotions and instincts
• A conscious, rational mind that can check out emotions, question, analyse and plan
• The ability to ‘know’ — that is, understand the world unconsciously through metaphorical pattern matching
• An observing self — that part of us that can step back, be more objective and be aware of itself as a unique centre of awareness, apart from intellect, emotion and conditioning
• A dreaming brain that preserves the integrity of our genetic inheritance every night by metaphorically defusing expectations held in the autonomic arousal system because they were not acted out the previous day.

As we mentioned above, it is such needs and tools that, together, make up the human givens: nature’s genetic endowment to humanity. Over enormous stretches of time, they underwent continuous refinement as they drove our evolution on. They are best thought of as inbuilt patterns — biological templates — that continually interact with one another and (in undamaged people) seek their natural fulfillment in the world in ways that allow us to survive, live together as many-faceted individuals in a great variety of different social groupings, and flourish.

It is the way those needs are met, and the way we use the resources that nature has given us, that determine the physical, mental and moral health of an individual. As such, the human givens are the benchmark position to which we must all refer — in education, mental and physical health and the way we organise and run our lives. When we feel emotionally fulfilled and are operating effectively within society, we are more likely to be mentally healthy and stable. But when too many innate physical and emotional needs are not being met in the environment, or when our resources are used incorrectly, unwittingly or otherwise, we suffer considerable distress. And so do those around us.”