The 7 Human Needs and getting your needs met during the pandemic

Humans have needs. The restrictions of the pandemic have shown us that some of the superficial things we thought we needed were simply things we wanted.  Needs are deeper, more universal and also more individual. 

These seven needs motivate our behaviour very strongly.

Psychologist Abraham Maslow did a lot of his work on the theory of motivation.  He identified our needs in a hierarchy.  While this model is helpful the concept of hierarchy implies that you need one first before the next but that isn’t actually the way we experience our needs.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

Master NLP practitioner, Tony Robins built on this work but considered the psycholgical needs as being on a continuum rather than hierarchy.

We also now recognise that not everyone has the same level of need for each of the basic human needs at any given time.

Why does this matter?

Understanding these needs can really help you to understand these motivational drivers.  The needs are made up of the survival needs, four personality needs and two higher or spiritual needs.

The strategies you have been using in the past may not be open to you at the moment so with this knowledge you can find other ways to have your needs met so that you are feeling happy and OK and getting your needs met in a way that is safe for others as well.

What are the 7 human needs?

This is what the model looks like.  Scroll down for the detail.

The 7 human needs

Survival Needs

We don’t usually talk about survival needs in western society because for many of us it isn’t something that we have to worry.  Survival is something we take for granted unless we have an accident or are faced with illness. 

That all changed with panic buying and disruptions to supply chains.  For some time a trip to the grocery store was more of a foraging expedition than a routine trip out to get what you want. 

For others there is the fear that a trip to get food could result in a deadly infection.  They are forced to rely on others or shop online for necessities. Without food we will die and while we can be reasonably certain in Australia there will be a continued supply of food that is not certain everywhere in the world.

Next comes having the money to buy food and other necessities for survival. Some have not been affected financially but many if not most Australians have.  Some don’t have any government safety nets to rely on and are even more concerned about how they will get their basic survival needs met. 

For others the basic need of somewhere safe to live is less guaranteed than it felt for many just six months ago. 

What if you don’t feel that you can get your survival needs met? This can result in damaging levels of chronic stress which undermine mental and physical health. 

Charities, local government and local churches are mobilising to help those falling through the safety net.  Reach out for help if you need it.

The four personality needs

 

Certainty

The first of the personality needs is certainty.  We all need a degree of certainty to feel secure.  Certainty is the feeling that you can be sure that you can avoid pain and gain pleasure. That you can get the things that you really want and need.

We are all aware that there are high levels of uncertainty associated with the COVID-19 Pandemic and the government response.   In the early days rules and restrictions were being changed and added to daily.  Now we are uncertain about how we put an end to restrictions without a “second wave” of high levels of infection. The new normal of social isolation is affecting some people marginally and others massively as their whole life is disrupted and feeling out of their control.  We are living in a way that none of us have ever experienced or imagined experiencing. 

For many there is a great deal of financial uncertainty waiting on government relief packages to kick in or without the promise of support for you or your business.  If you are part of the gig economy, on a work visa or a casual worker in and out of the workforce it is particularly difficult at the moment.

Variety 

On the other end of the scale is variety.  Too much certainty is dull and boring. We all need a certain level of variety in our lives, some more than others.

Without variety there is no new stimuli and we stagnate.  Variety involves a certain level of uncertainty but too much uncertainty and unpredictability in our environment is overwhelming and psychologically unsafe. 

There is a certain degree of stress associated with working out new situations and environments that is healthy and stimulating but if there is too much variety and not enough routine it can be harmful, especially for those who place a higher value on certainty.

Read on for some tips on how you can get more of your need for certainty and variety met, even during a pandemic.

Love and Connection

Love and connection is another of the four personality needs. As humans we are social animals and have a need to connect with others in friendship, in families and clans and romantically. 

Without love and connection there is a sense of loneliness and isolation that can be very harmful. Studies showed that loneliness was a major public health challenge prior to the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Who knows what’s going on now?  For some there might be more love and connection, even if it is virtual, but for others the sense of isolation might be extreme.

Connection doesn’t have to be physical to meet this need. We can stay connected and feel close to others without breaching social distancing with a bit of focus on caring for our relationships.  Too much love and connection can lead to smothering and co-dependence where the individual’s personality and individuality is absorbed into the relationship and the boundaries between you and the other person is lost.

This loss of self isn’t healthy. There is definitely the possibility that you can have too much of a good thing when it comes to love and connection just the same as you can have too much of a good thing with any of the human needs.

With families spending more time together due to social isolation it’s important to talk about how much separate time you need.

Significance

The other end of the spectrum from love and connection is significance. Significance is the feeling of being special, unique and important.  It means being recognised for individual abilities,  our skills and talents. It’s also about our worth as a human being and not just a human doing.

Being acknowledged for who we are. Being noticed are all ways to have our need for significance met.  For those who choose to be performers or other activities where they really get to stand out this need may be quite high and the shut down of many entertainment venues and activities is likely to be disproportionately affecting their ability to get this need met. 

One of the most damaging aspects of emotional and psychological abuse is the put downs and diminishing of personal worth that is an important part of how abusers control and punish their victims.  People in abusive relationships that were getting validation and their need for significance met at work may be particularly vulnerable at this time if they are working from home. 

Children who have parents who verbally abuse and belittle them will also be struggling without the positive reinforcement of their worth as people they got at school. 

Please pay attention to how you are speaking to your family. 

Are you providing them with love and connection and also recognising them as valuable individuals? 

Or are you taking out your frustrations on them with hurtful words, ignoring them or treating them badly?

The two spiritual needs

Spiritual needs doesn’t necessarily mean religion but many people do get their contribution needs met through organised religion. 

It refers to the self-actualisation. Needs that inspire us to want to be part of something more than just our individual needs and to grow to be more than we are right now. 

Most people place very little value on these needs if they are not getting their basic survival needs and basic personality needs met. 

Others focus on them at the cost of their own basic human needs.

The ideal is to have balance and get all of your needs met.

Growth

Our need for growth is one of the higher needs and in some ways an extension of our need for significance.

Growth as a person in whatever area of interest you have is a need that drives people who are able to get their basic needs met adequately.  Growth is the ability to expand our capacity, capability or understanding.  For many lifelong learning and a pursuit of activities that will expand their capacity is an ongoing quest. For others there is not time for more than a basic struggle to get their personality needs met or even their survival needs. It is difficult to focus on study when you don’t know where your next meal will come from.

Contribution

Contribution is classed as one of the higher or spiritual needs. Contribution isn’t about giving to get or sharing with your family and close friends.  It is more about helping others in order to give to them.  Contributing to the greater good and worthy causes actually has a feel good payback that rewards those who give of their time, their energy and their resources to contribute to making their community or the world a better place.

Getting our needs met

We can get our needs met in a variety of ways some are healthy for us and others, some are not.

The best way
Good for me. 
Feels good for me. Is good for others
Good for Me Don’t feel good Good for others
Bad for Me Feel good Bad for others Bad for Me Bad for Others
  • The best most resourceful behaviours are good for you, feel good and are good for everyone.
  • There are some behaviours that are good for you, don’t always feel good but are good for you and others. For some of us exercise fits in that category!
  • There are some behaviours that are bad for you, they feel good while you are doing them and are probably not good for others either. Taking drugs or other intoxicants to get a temporary high is an example of this.  
  • Finally, there are behaviours that are bad for everyone but they still are a way to get one of your needs me. Fighting with your family over nothing in order to stir things up a bit and overcome boredom might be an example.   

Resourceful behaviours are things you do that are good for you and others (although they may not always feel good) while unresourceful behaviours are things that you can do that are not good for you although they may feel good in the moment. 

Needs Resourceful Behaviours Unresourceful behaviours
Survival Registering for financial support (if needed and eligible) Accessing federal, state and local government support, assessing your situation rationally and getting help in needs, negotiating resolutions, restructuring your business Ignoring issues, stealing or cheating others, fighting for supplies or resources,
Certainty Maintaining routines, cleaning, developing and implementing plans, Controlling others, overeating, binging on TV, obsessive compulsive behaviour, procrastinating, smoking,
Variety Finding new challenges, playing, hobbies, creativity, Overwhelming yourself, drug taking, drinking, self-sabotage, creating dramas and conflict, fighting
Love and Connection Sharing, supporting others, connecting through nature, faith, shared interests, self-love, self-worth, self-awareness, loving relationships, caring for others Being needy, self harm, unhealthy relationships, abusive relationships, connecting through problem behaviours e.g. drugs, excessive drinking, smoking, emotional blackmail “if you leave me I’ll kill myself”
Significance Being a leader for yourself and others, volunteer work, speaking up about problems, pursuing goals, developing your skills, talking with a counsellor Putting others down, promiscuity, gossip, victim stories about yourself, being a martyr, lying and big noting, rebelling
Growth Lifelong learning, pursuit of mastery, learning to teach, teaching others Information gathering without applying it
Contribution Paying it forward, donating to charity, volunteering, helping people, doing things for others without expecting a return Being a martyr, giving without taking care of yourself, giving to gain, giving to control

Now your turn to have a look at your life at the moment. 

Are you being resourceful? 

Doing things that are good for you and good for others as you try to get your needs met during the global pandemic?

Why not step away from your devices, grab a piece of paper and list the resourceful ways you are (or could) get your needs met. 

Remember the seven basic needs are:

  1. Survival
  2. Certainty
  3. Variety
  4. Love and Connection
  5. Significance
  6. Growth
  7. Contribution

First start with thinking about do you have about the right amount of each, more than you need or have an unmet need.

Then brainstorm some things you can do / continue to do more of in order to make sure that all your needs are OK. 

Remember too much is often just as bad as too little and that resourceful behaviours can often meet more than one need at a time. 

 Date it and put it in a journal or folder so you can check back next week to see how you’ve going. 

If you do need to change behavours you’ll need to keep a bit of focus on until the new behaviour becomes a new habit. 

Check in Page

Date    
Need OK / not enough / too much Things I can do
Survival    
Certainty    
Variety    
Love and Connection    
Significance    
Growth    
Contribution    

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