This is my second departure from my recent attempts to be uplifting and entertaining.
Well, I think this is still entertaining, but then, I crack myself up all the time with internal jokes no one else gets when I say them out-loud…
50 days into being sequestered, I’m thankfully still coming across wonderful things people are sharing to get through this time, and I will get back to those, but I am also being reminded of some of the more difficult lessons too.
Years ago a Trainee of mine asked me a question…
What are the three or four most important things you can learn in therapy, and then teach as a practitioner?
That’s what this four part series addresses.
(Disclaimer: this is a very shortened, very concentrated version of my answer.)
Three basic Human Hungers
People. You gotta love ‘em. We fight with each other over our perceived differences but really, underneath all the bravado or sugar or dark clouds, aren’t we all just looking for the same things?
Basically, what all human beings yearn for, cross culturally, is in essence, identical. It is not cultural but innate to our species. These are natural, normal cravings.
From the moment we arrive, we have 3 basic hungers that need to be fed throughout our lives. And if they are not addressed adequately in certain stages of childhood developmental, we will walk (or tip toe…or bulldoze) through our adult lives searching, scanning for opportunities to get these needs met.
The hungers are: Recognition, Stimulation and Structure.
Building on the idea that Scarcity is at the core of all issues (addressed in Part One of this series), what happens if there is literally not enough available for each new child in a family, enough for these essential hungers to be met.
In over forty years of private practice, I have yet to meet the Perfect Family, the Perfect Parents, who could perfectly meet these needs. Each child will be shortchanged somehow, even by the most loving, dedicated, well-intentioned parents, who simply do not have enough time, energy, or support for themselves.
But we are creative beings so even as toddlers, we will figure out how to substitute for what we are not getting.
Unfortunately, what we learn to settle for can be shallow and unfulfilling and can begin a life-long habit of frantic searches for a tiny taste of fuel to feed that original, still growling hunger.
Defining the Hungers
If we get our needs met developmentally, during the time our brains and bodies are best suited to learn experientially, we’ll still have these three natural hungers but in relatively benign forms….just like everyone else.
Recognition-is about being seen, heard, touched, held, known, claimed, remembered, and held in high esteem. It is essential for a baby, from birth to 6 months old, to receive love and caring treatment that is personalized for them. A baby this age is supposed to be the center of the universe for a while. Plenty of time in later development to learn about the rest of how life works. Babies who do not receive this can fail to thrive, or sometimes, even survive.
Little ones who receive this kind of care can know, at their core, they are lovable, and welcome here on the planet, and they can give that to others without fear of Scarcity!
Stimulation-is about being physically touched, stroked, and inspired intellectually. A toddler needs to be supported for their curiosity and motivated to explore and experiment. This stage is the beginning of being “moved” in all it’s definitions, especially to feel, to be affected, to be excited, and to develop intuition before intellect clutters the brain with words!
When this hunger is satisfied, a toddler can grow to become a confident child, and then person, who is not afraid to try something new, not afraid to fail, excited about learning… and who will be able to trust the non-verbal signs and signals that make up such a large part of our communication with others. The seeds for will power, self-motivation and creativity are firmly planted when this hunger is fed. Freedom to experiment means believing that there can always be enough.
Structure-is about certainty, predictability, a plan, a format, control, knowing what to expect, and the confidence of knowing how to do something.
This internal experience will be essential to one’s future self, believing you have the ability to solve problems and can make your life work.
If left too hungry…
When one or more of these hungers is not satisfied while we are developing as humans, the unmet need can show up later in our adult lives with a vengeance!
Then we have the “Audrey Syndrome” on our hands.
It can create a craving, or even a sense of starvation in our adult lives. In other words, a constant state of Scarcity.
Now, we are so hungry, we are at risk for settling for something really unhealthy, maybe even dangerous, mistakenly believing we are simply feeding ourselves. (Lots of dieting metaphors fit here but I’ll let you play with that.)
Getting each hunger met in healthy and unhealthy ways.
Here are some very over-simplified and extreme examples of how these hungers could be fed throughout one’s life…in healthy and unhealthy ways
Recognition-you could become a teacher, a leader, an executive, a bestselling author, an Olympic Gymnast, the head of the PTA…or a mass murderer
Stimulation-You might be a downhill skier, a sky diver, a world traveler…or a drunk driver,
Structure-how about joining the military, becoming a scientist, working in academia, or at Boeing…or you could get yourself locked up in a prison. (Can’t get much more structured than that.)
The Covid 19 Pandemic
If you, like most of the world at this writing, are living in some version of isolation, think about how this is messing with your three basic Human Hungers!
I personally have been in virtual solitude for 49 days, on my doctor’s orders. (I am apparently in way too many high-risk categories to even go a grocery store.)
I live with James, and a housemate, and my son and grandsons, but I am living in the completely separate, self-contained, downstairs part of my home. I know they are all there because I can hear them!! But I have not seen anyone, except through a window, or had any physical contact for the whole time.
I’m good at being alone and can mostly entertain myself, so Stimulation and Structure are mostly not a problem for me.
But oh, that Recognition Hunger…I feel like I am starving to death, like parts of my spirit and psyche are atrophying.
The logical part of me knows this too shall pass and that James and I will be fine, but the Mom/Grandma parts of me are screaming for contact with all my boys!
And here’s the worst. There is also a little kid part of me that is really suffering. They have a new kitten upstairs I have seriously bonded with, and a now, also a new puppy, and I have been restricted from contact with them also.
So which Hunger are you most affected by in your life these days?