human ‘givens’ – which need to be met in order to facilitate good mental health.
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.
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
- Friendship, 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 (from which comes self-esteem)
- Meaning and purpose — which come from being stretched in what we do and think.
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
- 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.
Watch a short video introduction on human givens and our innate emotional needs and resources.
Find out more about human givens on the Human Givens Institute website.