Batman and Sidney Meet Their Needs
At a fundamental level, all we are ever trying to do is meet our needs. Our needs for physical and psychological safety, our needs for love and connection, our needs for stimulation, learning and growth, our needs for significance, dignity and worth, and more.
We’re not so different to our animal friends. When I observe our cats that’s all I really see - whatever they do, they’re just trying to meet their needs and the cool thing is, they don’t even second guess it! They just live their lives meeting their needs moment to moment. If their needs aren’t being met they do something about it; we’ve even trained Batman to wave when she (yes, she) wants a stroke and we’ve trained Sidney to ring a bell when he wants a treat! Or perhaps they’ve trained us?! It’s easier than ever for them to meet their needs! Maybe we have too much time on our hands, or maybe we’re meeting our needs for connection and stimulation?!
When our needs are not being met, we experience primitive “negative” reactions including tension, fear, stress, hurt, sadness, confusion, loneliness, worry, regret, overwhelm, depression, anxiety, anger and more. Pretty much all our negative feelings and emotions can be considered warning signs that our needs aren’t being met.
Unfortunately we often get confused at that point. The wonderful gift of conscious thought, and in particular our ability to reflect on the past, and think about the future, really messes with our ability to simply try to meet our needs in the same way Batman and Sidney do. We project forward and start thinking about the consequences - it’s often good to do this, and sometimes it’s not. Actually, the picture is a little more complicated.
Let me try to illustrate with a real-world example. Say your boss is unfairly critical of you in a meeting. You are likely to experience a range of negative feelings - your may feel a tightening in your body, often in the stomach, shoulders and head, your heart rate will likely rise and your skin tone will probably change. Emotionally you might get angry, upset, frustrated, hurt or overwhelmed.
Your needs for fairness, respect and dignity are being trampled all over. What do you do? If Batman were in this meeting, she would likely just swipe him or her across the face with her impressively sharp claws. That would be her strategy to meet her needs. But you know better. While punching your boss in the face or shouting him down may feel great in the moment, and may have been the best course of action when we lived a more primitive life, it’s unlikely to be the smartest move now.
When we recognise that most negative feelings and emotions are a warning sign, we can take a breath and look at what’s there. Once we see the needs that lie beneath, we are in a much stronger position to find strategies to meet those needs in the short-term, that don’t mess up our needs in the long-term.
If you do “punch your boss in the face” (metaphorically, or actually), you may meet your need for dignity in the moment, but there’s a high risk you will fail to meet your needs for security and belonging in the moments shortly after!
Recognising that, say, you felt hurt because your need for respect was being stepped on, puts you in a stronger position. There are many ways to meet your need for respect - many strategies beyond a “punch in the face”. Perhaps you calmly respond in the moment to say how he/she has stepped over a boundary, perhaps you hold off and have a conversation with your boss later where you express how it made you feel (top tip, ask about his or her feelings first), or perhaps you leave your job.
Or resolve to come back in your next life as a cat.
This article is part of 100 Days of Creation, my challenge to myself to write 100 articles in 140 days, each taking no longer than 30 minutes to write and publish.