Why Needs Don’t Apply to Our Emotions

Very recently I had the chance to give a presentation to a very special group of people who are subject to constant emotional distress, and while it was a very direct message to tailored situation of the message, it is nonetheless applicable to all of us.

We have discussed in previous posts about the role the Ego plays and how it survives upon conflict and needs. I have talked about conflict in different forms but would like to discuss the inconsistency of applying the concept of needs to how we should manage our emotions.

In general, and in a very simplistic form, we can divide our minds into two levels: the unconscious and the conscious.

Much of what is govern by the unconscious mind has to do with the automatisms of our physical existence, that is, the mechanisms necessary for life: breathing, eating, drinking, hear beating, etc. In a way, these functions occur at an instinctive level. This part of our minds has a very unique and determined goal: survival. And let me emphasize, it is very good at it!

This idea is very well portrayed, and has been carried ever since, by the famous psychologist Abraham Maslow in his 1943 paper “A theory of Human Motivation” in Psychological Review. In his pyramid of needs, Maslow specifies these needs as the basic needs. While he continues into the upper portion of the pyramid describing superior or higher needs manifested in our lives, I would like to discuss the topic from a different angle.

In a sense, everything Maslow describes as above basic needs, we need to manage from the other layer of our minds: the consciousness.

Alright we may still consider as part of our human needs those circumstances, events, interactions, etc. related to our love, esteem, and self-actualization, we must treat them as self-fulfilled rather than the expectancy of an external event or input as the satisfying condition.

If we allow ourselves to follow this paradigm, we can create a clear mental distinction between the two categories, with the basis of success on the upper pyramid as relying on our self-awareness and ability to maintain our condition of agents and not objects.

As an example, we cannot expect our intimate relationship needs to be fulfilled by an external agent, for displacing this responsibility, will create a void in our consciousness, and we tend to condition this type of relationships at the instinctive level. Looking at our psychological or self-fulfillment needs from a survival standpoint, puts us in direct opposition to our surroundings, considering that our emotions are constantly being threaten by events of which we have no control. The invitation, therefore, stands on its own: we must take responsibility of our own emotions at a conscious level. This means we have to be aware of how we feel, what we feel, and why we feel to everything around us. No other action, effort, or focus will provide more meaningful results than this.

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