Why is it that we do the things we do? What makes one person motivated to serve and protect with little to no thought of their own preservation, while another will take the life of a stranger?
What within us creates the likes of a Mother Theresa or conversely a Fred or Rose West? What is it that drives us all and creates the desires inside of us to do the things that we do, forms our emotions, produces our actions, and ultimately establishes our personalities?
Though we are ultimately unique, our nervous systems function in the same way and we have six identifiable, principle needs in common towards which we constantly strive towards meeting, to one degree or another.
A brief outline of The Six Human Needs
1. Certainty (comfort): A need to feel secure, safe and comfortable now, and with an assurance of these things in the future also. Avoidance of pain and painful situations is very important and a lack of certainty can bring about severe anxiety.
2. Uncertainty (Variety): Happiness is derived from having different experiences and challenges of emotional, intellectual and physical intensities. Suspense, surprise and excitement are consistently sought after.
3. Significance: A desire to feel important and respected. To be considered unique and special is consistently required and the need to be looked up to even feared is craved.
4. Connection (Love): Worthiness here comes from the need to give and receive love. There is an underlying belief that there must be meaningful connections with all and that if love is not received, it cannot be given.
5. Growth: Constantly developing new skills, learning new things and improving at what is already known. It is a desire to develop not only physically and intellectually but on a spiritual level also.
6. Contribution: A desire to give back to others and leave a mark on the world. Life is incomplete without a sense of making a contribution to others or to a cause. It is a need to go above and beyond one’s own requirements and give to others.
The meaning of the Six Human Needs
We each generally prioritise two of the six human needs above all others; Certainty & Connection or Uncertainty & Significance, for example. These individual blends of needs create the cornerstone of our actions and behaviours, consciously and subconsciously.
There are boundless ways in which people meet the six human needs. The fulfillment of the human need for variety; the need for the unknown, and for change; for one person could mean taking a break from the office to go for a walk in the fresh air, while another person might partake in various extreme sports to fulfill their desires.
The need for significance could be fulfilled by competing with others, by destroying those around them emotional or financially, or it might be gained through attaining the greatest emotional connection with others.
We are all driven by an underlying desire for fulfillment, a need to experience a life of meaning. Though we can all achieve the sense of attaining the first four needs – even through the illusion of ourselves of from others, without the attainment of need 5. Growth and need 6. Contribution, the last two needs, true fulfillment cannot be attained, nor can we pretend to ourselves that we have achieved them.
To continually grow and contribute beyond ourselves in a significant manor is the key to true fulfillment. Dysfunctional behaviours arise from failing to consistently meet these needs. Without the attainment of Growth and Contribution we can find ourselves instead reaching for the realisation of the other needs, Comfort for example on a disproportionate scale, or we may find ourselves unwittingly accepting our needs being met on a disempowering level.
Understanding the six human needs, recognising our own unique needs pattern and replacing any disempowering ways of meeting our needs, with things that inspire and support both ourselves and others alike, we can help to create new patterns which in turn can lead to change and true lasting fulfillment.