What are the 'human givens'? We are all born with innate knowledge programmed into us from our genes. Throughout life we experience this knowledge as feelings of physical and emotional need. Thes…

What are the 'human givens'?

We are all born with innate knowledge programmed into us from our genes. Throughout life we experience this knowledge as feelings of physical and emotional need.

These feelings evolved over millions of years and, whatever our cultural background, are our common biological inheritance. They are the driving force that motivates us to become fully human and succeed in whatever environment we find ourselves in. It is because they are incorporated into our biology at conception that we call them 'human givens'.

Our given physical needs

As animals we are born into a material world where we need air to breathe, water, nutritious food and sufficient sleep. These are the paramount physical needs. Without them, we quickly die. In addition we also need the freedom to stimulate our senses and exercise our muscles. We instinctively seek sufficient and secure shelter where we can grow and reproduce ourselves and bring up our young. These physical needs are intimately bound up with our emotional needs — the main focus of human givens psychology.

Our given emotional needs

Emotions create distinctive psychobiological states in us and drive us to take action. The emotional needs nature has programmed us with are there to connect us to the external world, particularly to other people, and survive in it. They seek their fulfillment through the way we interact with the environment.

Consequently, when these needs are not met in the world, nature ensures we suffer considerable distress — anxietyangerdepression etc. — and our expression of distress, in whatever form it takes, impacts on those around us.

People whose emotional needs are met in a balanced way do not suffer mental health problems. When psychotherapists and teachers pay attention to this they are at their most effective.

In short, it is by meeting our physical and emotional needs that we survive and develop as individuals and a species.

There is widespread agreement as to the nature of our emotional needs – the essential ones for mental health are listed below.

Emotional needs include:

  • Security — safe territory and an environment which allows us to develop fully
  • Attention (to give and receive it) — a form of nutrition
  • Sense of autonomy and control — having volition to make responsible choices
  • Emotional intimacy — to know that at least one other person accepts us totally for who we are, “warts 'n' all”
  • Feeling part of a wider community
  • Privacy — opportunity to reflect and consolidate experience
  • Sense of status within social groupings
  • Sense of competence and achievement
  • Meaning and purpose — which come from being stretched in what we do and think.

Along with physical and emotional needs nature gave us guidance systems to help us meet them. We call these 'resources'.

The resources nature gave us to help us meet our needs include:

  • The ability to develop complex long term memory, which enables us to add to our innate knowledge and learn
  • The ability to build rapport, empathise and connect with others
  • Imagination, which enables us to focus our attention away from our emotions, use language and problem solve more creatively and objectively
  • Emotions and instincts
  • A conscious, rational mind that can check out our emotions, question, analyse and plan
  • The ability to 'know' — that is, understand the world unconsciously through metaphorical pattern matching
  • An observing self — that part of us that can step back, be more objective and be aware of itself as a unique centre of awareness, apart from intellect, emotion and conditioning
  • dreaming brain that preserves the integrity of our genetic inheritance every night by metaphorically defusing expectations held in the autonomic arousal system because they were not acted out the previous day.

It is such needs and tools together that make up the human givens, nature's genetic endowment to humanity.

Over enormous stretches of time, they underwent continuous refinement as they drove our evolution on. They are best thought of as inbuilt patterns — biological templates — that continually interact with one another and (in undamaged people) seek their natural fulfilment in the world in ways that allow us to survive, live together as many-faceted individuals in a great variety of different social groupings, and flourish.

It is the way those needs are met, and the way we use the resources that nature has given us, that determine the physical, mental and moral health of an individual.

As such, the human givens are the benchmark position to which we must all refer — in education, mental and physical health and the way we organise and run our lives.

When we feel emotionally fulfilled and are operating effectively within society, we are more likely to be mentally healthy and stable. But when too many innate physical and emotional needs are not being met in the environment, or when our resources are used incorrectly, unwittingly or otherwise, we suffer considerable distress – and so do those around us.

Views: 11

Add a Comment

You need to be a member of Mental Health in Higher Education Hub to add comments!

Join Mental Health in Higher Education Hub

Blog Posts

Mental health and neoliberalism - video of New School of Economics event

Posted by Jill Anderson on February 10, 2018 at 22:23 0 Comments

Can today's crisis in mental health be seen as the result of neoliberalism? We asked the panelists to reflect on the aftermath of the 2007/08 financial crisis and the austerity policies which followed, but then to engage with how the slashing of expenditure on public services and increase in private debt has been met with questions around whether these factors are exacerbating mental health problems. This event titled, ‘Mental Health and Neoliberalism’, sought to situate the growing…

Continue

Afflicted: how vulnerability can heal medical education and practice

Posted by Jill Anderson on February 7, 2018 at 22:47 0 Comments

In Afflicted, Nicole Piemonte examines the preoccupation in medicine with cure over care, arguing that the traditional focus on biological intervention keeps medicine from addressing the complex realities of patient suffering. Although many have pointed to the lack of compassion and empathy in medical practice, few have considered the deeper philosophical, psychological, and ontological reasons for it. Piemonte fills that gap, examining why it is that…

Continue

The effect - radio play

Posted by Jill Anderson on February 7, 2018 at 13:56 0 Comments

The Effect -  Drama on 3 - by Lucy Prebble.
Starring Jessie Buckley, Christine Entwisle, Damien Molony and Samuel West.
"I can tell the difference between who I am and a side effect."
Award-winning chemical romance. 
Connie (Jessie Buckley - 'The Last Post', 'Taboo') and Tristan (Damien Molony - 'Crashing', 'Being Human') are taking part…
Continue

While your back was turned: the mental health of young women and girls.

Posted by Jill Anderson on February 2, 2018 at 18:10 0 Comments

The mental health of young women and girls is deteriorating, and the gap between men and women has widened over recent years. As the evidence section in this paper will show, the last 15 years have seen an unprecedented rise in reported mental health problems amongst young women and girls. We now see their needs reaching crisis levels.…

Continue

Mental Health Act – The rise in the use of the MHA to detain people in England

Posted by Jill Anderson on January 24, 2018 at 17:52 0 Comments

This report looks at causes for the rise in use of the Mental Health Act (MHA) to detain people.

The rise in the use of the MHA to detain people in England report cover image

National data shows an increasing use of the Mental Health Act (MHA) to treat people in hospitals.

In 2016, the CQC committed to working with local services to gather views on the reasons for the national increase in the use of the MHA, to identify how local services are responding to the changing activity, and to…

Continue

Social policy first hand: An international introduction to participatory social welfare - new book

Posted by Jill Anderson on January 24, 2018 at 11:55 0 Comments

Social Policy First Hand is the first comprehensive international social policy text from a participatory perspective and presents a new service user-led social policy that addresses the current challenges in welfare provision. A companion volume to Peter Beresford's bestselling All our welfare, it introduces the voices of different groups of service users, starting from their lived experience. With an impressive list of contributors, this important volume fills a gap in looking at…

Continue

Asylum magazine - events calendar

Posted by Jill Anderson on January 23, 2018 at 18:54 0 Comments

Asylum magazine has a new events calendar.  You can view it here.

UMHAN blog - writers wanted

Posted by Jill Anderson on January 23, 2018 at 18:52 0 Comments

University Mental Health Advisers Network.

Are you interested in in HE? Do you like writing and are passionate about sharing your opinion? Look no further. The Blog is…

Continue

With children in mind: current research and policy developments on mental health and young people

Posted by Jill Anderson on January 23, 2018 at 15:30 0 Comments

Special issue call for papers from Journal of Public Mental Health

Expected publication in 2019 as Volume 18, Issue 1.



Guest Editors: 


Gill Coverdale, Co-editor of JPMH and Royal College of Nursing, UK gillcov17@gmail.com…

Continue

Psychology and Mental Health - beyond nature and nurture

Posted by Jill Anderson on January 21, 2018 at 11:45 0 Comments

Psychological therapies and the work of clinical psychologists are now very popular. This free online course provides an introduction to how psychologists understand emotions, behaviours and thinking patterns, and how this helps clinical psychologists make sense of their clients’ problems.

Over six weeks, you will explore some of the current challenges and debates in the area of diagnosis and treatment, and discover new ways of thinking psychologically about mental health.

You…

Continue

© 2018   Created by Jill Anderson.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service