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Resilience and Getting Our Emotional Needs Met

This is the second in a series of articles about resilience – specifically about resilience and getting our emotional needs met. What is resilience? Is it something we are born with? How do we achieve it? Why do we need it? In future blogs I’ll also look at some closely related topics –  grit and having a growth rather than a fixed mindset,  how to develop good habits and get rid of bad ones, good and bad stress, living with change and uncertainty and how to develop a sense of flow (or being “in the groove”) despite encountering all kinds of challenges. 

As a psychotherapist trained in the Human Givens approach I believe that when we actively take steps to get our emotional needs met, we will automatically develop more resilience. People whose emotional needs are met in a balanced way do not suffer mental health problems. 

What are our emotional needs? 

As animals we are born into a material world where we need air to breathe, water, nutritious food and sufficient sleep. Without these paramount physical needs, we quickly die. In addition we also need the freedom to stimulate our senses and exercise our muscles. 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 — this is the main focus of human givens psychology.

Emotions create distinctive psychobiological states in us and drive us to take action. The emotional needs nature has programmed us with are there to connect us to the external world, particularly to other people, and survive in it. They seek their fulfillment through the way we interact with the environment.

Consequently, when our human needs are not met in the world, nature ensures we suffer considerable distress — anxiety, anger, depression, addiction — and our expression of distress, in whatever form it takes, impacts on our relationships and how we interact with the world.

What are our emotional  needs?

The Human Givens list of emotional needs is as follows;

  • 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

Dr. Rick Hanson’s view

Dr. Rick Hanson, well known psychologist and author, also says that most of the stress we experience results from our needs not being met. He is one of my favourite writers and speakers – I love his humorous and gentle approach to the science of human behaviour. This recent article gives his thoughts on combating Covid 19 with resilience. 

He says that as children, we learn about our needs through interactions with our caregivers and those experiences influence how we go about seeking to have our needs satisfied as adults, which in turn determines the levels of stress we experience in life.

He defines our basic emotional needs into three categories:

  • safety,
  • satisfaction, and
  • connection.

Our need for safety

When our need for safety is satisfied it gives us a sense of peace, but when it is neglected it generates fear. Our internal resources that fulfill the need for safety are grit, calm, determination, sense of agency, clarity, feeling of relaxation, and peace.

Our need for satisfaction

The need for satisfaction makes us approach novel situations in search of rewards but when neglected it causes frustration. Resources provided by cultivations of gratitude, accomplishment, goals clarity, motivation, aspiration, and contentment allow us to fulfill those needs.

Our need for connection

Our need for connection compels us to attach to others and gives us a sense of feeling alive, but when neglected it makes us feel hurt and lonely. Some of the psychological resources that satisfy the need for belonging are compassion for others and oneself, assertiveness, forgiveness, generosity, love, empathy, and self-efficacy. 

How do we increase our ability to cope with stress?

According to Hanson, three things define our ability to cope with stress and these include ways in which we:

  • manage challenges,
  • protect our vulnerability, and
  • increase our resources.

He tells us that resilience is a muscle one develops in everyday life by stretching positive experiences. But first, we need to experience what we want to grow so we can help that become a mental habit.

Hanson tells us that cultivating of positive resources comes down to:

  • recognising our abilities through practicing compassion (toward self then others), mindfulness and learning;
  • resourcing ourselves through fostering grit, gratitude, and confidence;
  • regulating our thoughts, feelings, and actions by instilling calm and increasing motivations and intimacy; and
  • relating positively to others and the world through courage, aspiration, and generosity. 

Need some advice and support?

If you would like to find out more about resilience and getting our emotional needs met, or indeed any other emotional issues or life challenges and would like to talk things over in complete confidentiality, call Alison Winfield, Mindfully Well Counselling Cork on 087 9934541.

For more information:


See also:Resilience, Is Stress Good or Bad?   Strategies for Managing Uncertainty


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