'Human givens' is the term now often used to describe the physical and emotional needs that evolution has programmed into us, together with the resources nature provided to help us get those needs met. These innate needs seek their fulfilment through the way we interact with the environment using the resources nature has given us. (More info...)

Our emotional needs include:

security (stable home life, privacy and a safe territory to live in); the need for attention (to give and receive it); connection to others through friendship, fun, love, intimacy; a sense of autonomy and control; being part of a wider social community, which satisfies our need to belong; the need for status; a sense of self- competence (that comes through maturity, learning and the application of skills) and a drive for meaning and purpose.

Our resources include:

curiosity; longterm memory; imagination (which allows us to focus our attention away from our emotions in order to problem solve more objectively); a dreaming brain; the ability to understand the world and other people and extract deeper meaning through metaphor - pattern matching; an observing self; the ability to empathise and connect with others; a rational mind to check out emotions.

It is these needs and resources, which are built into our biology, that, together, make up the human givens.

It is now widely observed that most problem behaviour and psychological distress can be traced to innate physical and emotional needs not being met, for whatever reason, or to the misuse of a particular innate resource (such as imagination, when it generates worrying, envy, or excessive greed). When they work closely in alignment with the 'givens' of human nature, rather than with techniques derived from limited ideologies, psychotherapists, social workers and teachers are more effective.*

In addition, it is increasingly being noted that the human givens framework offers a much-needed larger organising idea to those who wish to make the institutions of law, government and the public services more in tune with the psycho-social-biological reality of human needs.

* See: Human Givens: a new approach to emotional health and clear thinking (2004), by Joe Griffin and Ivan Tyrrell, HG Publishing


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