What are human needs? Attempts have been made to classify and explain human needs from different psycho-social perspectives. Maslow and his pyramid, as well as other theories, have provided us with a very practical framework for understanding not only the needs which live in us, but also the priorities and inter-relations between them.
Needs are in the centre of the emotional activation of every person From the most basic and necessary needs related to survival, to the more subtle ones related with self-realization and transcendence, they form part of our vital life journey. All of them depend on the collective, the social environment. None of our human needs can be satisfied without the intervention of others.
Feelings and emotions are like sensors which indicate which of our needs are satisfied in any given moment. Disagreeable emotions are an indicator that something is not right, and therefore invite movement or change. Agreeable emotions confirm that everything is fine, in equilibrium, and that we can relax and live in moments of greater stability and satisfaction.
Needs, whether perceived or not, are at the center of emotional activation. They are also the space in which the “I” (the “Individual”) becomes stronger. The “I” can position itself against the Community when it feels that its needs are not being attended, listened to, or satisfied. Becoming aware of the emotions and fully comprehending the responsibility of one’s own emotional background is an important prerequisite for living or working in community.
When we propose to live and/or work together with other people, we initiate a process in which we tend to delegate parts of the management of our individual needs to the collective. For instance, we share spaces and resources in order to meet our needs. This requires a high degree of confidence, which is not always present at the beginning of a project. Through the different conflicts which become visible, and the diversity represented in the group, this confidence will be challenged.
We can summarize the personal needs in the following main areas: creating “safe space” (freedom and trust), love and relationships (Belonging and Acceptance), recognition and influence (Participation, meaning, and empowerment), and the possibility of personal fulfillment .
Our personal processes surrounding needs will confront us in different ways:
Internal: Our ability to listen openly to our own needs, without hiding our gaze nor that of the others. Being available to satisfy them as much as possible, but not at any cost.
Inter-Relational: Sensibility towards the needs of other people, without judging them or measuring them according to our personal standards. Accepting the diversity that can be present through the different stages of life, or in special circumstances. Welcoming these needs as an invitation, not a demand.
Group: Capability of integrating needs and mobilizing from the personal towards the group, in order to satisfy one’s own needs, as well as those of the others and those which are shared.
This is the opposite of what comes through the culture of individuality, in which we have learned to compete for what we need, fighting against each other while wrapped in the fiction of the scarcity of resources, security, affection, and recognition. The tension between what we bring and what we co-create invites us to unlearn. We must unlearn the patterns of competitive behavior and the urgency of the “needy ego.”
This process requires introspection, questioning our implicit and explicit beliefs, and opening the mind and heart to new things that come with real experiences. Living this shared process with other people, makes the path easier and allows us to grow in confidence and mutual support. In groups, we do not let go of the responsibility for ourselves, but rather open up for the possibility that seemingly contradictory needs can add up to the full picture.