So, having plunged deeper into the sea, getting past anger and into hurt, we now travel to the bottom of the ocean floor.
Sitting on the sea floor is our human needs. Denial aside, we all have them. Yes, there are the basics – food, shelter and clothing – but there are other essentials as well – all the emotional, narcissistic needs that keep our hearts sustained. Such requirements include understanding, trust, love, belonging, relationship and community, and meaning and significance. Perhaps the most important of these human needs is safety – emotional and physical. Without the mental assumption of my own security, I am paralyzed by fear, our most primitive feeling, our first feeling.
Thus, we have come to the third central human emotion – fear. In this feeling category, I am including such emotions as anxiety, insecurity, panic and dread. Unlike anger, which tends to reside in our head, neck and shoulders, and grief, which we hold in our chest, fear sits in the center of our bodies, in our gut, our core. The interconnection between the emotional and physical begins to take on new meaning. Just think of all the gastrointestinal difficulties that are overmedicated and wrongly diagnosed. But I diverge …
There are two basic fears. The first is fear of not being okay, of not surviving. Consciously, or perhaps more often unconsciously, we are constantly asking ourselves – am I going to be okay? Will I make it? Can I go on if he leaves me? Will I survive if the company goes belly-up? What will become of me when the kids leave home? Who am I with this medical diagnosis of unknown consequence? We all seek out ways to create safety that will relieve us mentally of the boundless fears of not being okay.
The second fear is that of insignificance. As with our fear of not surviving, we are also, consciously and unconsciously, constantly asking ourselves – do I matter? Does it even matter that I breathe the air and occupy the space I do? To whom am I connected and what do I contribute? Does it even matter that I write these articles month after month? Who will attend my funeral and what will they say? We are persistent in finding ways to give our lives meaning and significance which provides our lives safety.
Because we were not created to meet our needs solo, we take these needs and place them on others in the form of expectations. And because no one can meet our needs 100% of the time, 100% the way we’d like, with 100% consistency, then our expectations get broken. Some more, some less but broken just the same. As a result, we feel hurt and it most often surfaces as anger:
Human Needs (Safety/ Fear)
Let me give you a few examples. I have a need to provide a living for my family. I place this expectation of financial sustainability on my boss at work. The company needs to make cut-backs and I get the pick slip. Broken expectation results in hurt and angry. I have a need to be loved and feel secure. I marry the star quarterback. He finds someone down the road who fits his fantasies better than our worn and tried love. I am left betrayed, hurt and enraged. I have a need to be protected as a child. I place this need, consciously and unconsciously, on my parents. They cannot watch me every moment, with lives of their own and busy distractions to mind. Danger ensues and I am left wounded, hurt and angry.
So, the model is complete and we now see the relationship between anger, hurt and fear ever more clearly. And in its understanding we can grasp its implications and application:
First, the model helps us see the point of intervention for emotional wounding. For example, if I were to go without food for a period of time, I would awaken to my next meal “extra” hungry. As in childhood, if I do not have enough of my needs attended to, I go into my adulthood needier. As a result, according to the model, I now have additional expectations – you better be there for me 110% of the time, 110% of the way I need you to be. As one can predict, this is a set-up. My superfluous expectations only get broken more, adding on extra hurt and extra anger to the pile already stored inside me. Thus, the point of contact and healing is not at the top with the anger and hurt, but in the primitive depths with one’s human needs. As one begins to penetrate the deprivation and the unmet needs, grieving the carried loss and pain, one’s expectations begin to normalize and the resulting emotions can then be regulated at a manageable means. This emotional maturity toward moderation allows one the opportunity to be effective in oneself and in one’s relationships.
Secondly, this model is helpful as to its correlation and integration with the body and the breath. Babies are born breathing from their full body in what is known as diaphragm breathing. Quickly, in adapting to a broken and wounded world, folks move the breath from the belly to the chest. Such panic breathing restricts access to the deeper and more genuine feelings at the gut of our body. Such a restriction of breath restricts life.
And lastly, the model reinforces the adage that what we see is not always what we get. By understanding that certain emotions can actually mask more genuine feeling states, we have the opportunity to understand ourselves and those in close proximity at a level of honesty where true contact can be made. And it is in this context of authenticity, understanding, healing and intimacy can truly be had.
I still wonder about Martha. If she has permanently transformed her vernacular. But more importantly, if she has begun to dwell in rooms of her internal house that were previously off-limits. Maybe, by now, she is even dancing on the ceiling. If so, I hope to keep working my way that I may join her under the disco ball.