“We never understand how little we need in this world until we know the loss of it” James M Barrie
Human needs are described as “the elements required for survival and normal mental and physical health”. Psychologists sometimes list needs in groups such as basic needs (food, shelter, security); connections (companionship, intimacy); and higher needs (self-esteem, contribution). Needs are distinguished from wants as a deficiency causes a negative outcome. Moreover, you never realise that you require needs, until you do not have them. Then the ache sets in.
It has been reasoned that at a time of crisis, such as after an earthquake, people’s needs return to basics – for food, water, shelter. At those times there is little need for intellectual stimulation, education, or meaningful projects to fill their time.
The ending of a marriage is similar to a crisis or trauma, especially if it is unexpected, sudden and beyond your control. It rocks the very foundation of your life and threatens everything you ever had including your self-esteem, family, companionship; and emotional and financial security. Your fundamental needs of security, trust, and having some control over your own destiny, are destroyed in an instant. As everything comes crashing down, to cope and survive you cocoon yourself by returning to the basics of life – living in the moment of waking, eating, walking, and the comfort and security of a warm bed at night. You are thrown into a survival mind-set of fulfilling basic needs because everything else is gone.
In the weeks after my husband’s announcement, I felt as if there was nothing left. I became overwhelmed by the intensity of the emotions I was feeling. Almost as if a hurricane had hit me, scrambling from underneath the rubble of my former life, I walked around in a daze going through the motions of life like a zombie. Soon I protected myself by reclaiming some order in my everyday life by reestablishing my immediate space and following a fairly regimented daily routine. There I was to remain for many months before I could slowly begin rebuilding my life from the ground up – physically, emotionally and financially.
I read that ‘divorce is an opportunity to explore your own needs, wants and likes’. In the early days I tried to write down my needs and it drew a blank. It was thirty weeks before I was able to list my basic need for order and routine. It was nearly a year before I could list any higher level need such as a need to do meaningful projects. Yet the ache remained.
One of the reasons I found it difficult to list my needs, was the fact that I felt that I had become the discarded consequence of another person’s supposed ‘needs’ having taken precedence over everything else: the family unit, past history, dreams for the future, shared children and grand-children, responsibility, values and beliefs.
I did not agree with the concept that because I had been forsaken, that I should abandon my own fundamental beliefs, values and responsibilities for an over-riding selfish ‘need’. I needed (yes that became one of my needs) to firstly re-affirm my own core values and beliefs; and choose positive attitudes and responses to my life situation. I believed those would then underpin my own needs and guide me towards my responsibilities, aims and goals.
For example; as I affirmed my values include trust, care, dependability, and integrity; then I do not ‘need’ a companion for the sake of companionship if those values are compromised. Those values underpin my needs. Similarly, if I remain an optimistic person with a ‘can-do’ attitude; then I do not ‘need’ to be provided for.
With a now affirmed inner core of values, beliefs and attitudes; and a layer of calm strengthening my resolve; I am set to move out to my external world. The first place I shall begin is with myself, and my own needs, which I shall explore over my next series of posts.
Gradually I will reclaim those needs, take control of my life back, fulfill my responsibilities, set my goals and plans, and march forward.
Image courtesy of [Grant Cochrane] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net