Why do we dream?
  The expectation fulfilment theory of dreaming
sleep and dreams

What are the Human Givens?

Human Givens psychology marks a profoundly important shift in our understanding of human functioning.

The central organising idea at the heart of the approach is that we are all born with physical and emotional needs and resources to help us fulfil them. These innate needs and resources have evolved over millions of years and are our common biological inheritance, whatever our cultural background. (It is because they are incorporated into our biology from our genes that they are called 'givens'.)  By referring to them when exploring psychological and behavioural issues researchers are able to obtain a deeper understanding about why we behave as we do. Hence, from the human givens perspective we can improve psychological interventions in many areas including psychotherapy, education, social policies and diplomacy. See "An Idea in Practice: Using the human givens approach."

Psychological nutrition

Our innate emotional needs are the psychological nutrition we need in order to develop well. Like other forms of nutrition, they must be absorbed in a balanced way: too little attention, for example, can be as damaging as too much. These innate patterns of need seek their fulfilment through the way we interact with the environment using the resources nature 'gave' us to do so. When our emotional needs are not met, or when our resources are being used incorrectly, we suffer considerable distress: anxiety, anger, depression and this can lead to addictive behaviours and more serious mental breakdown. This, in turn, affects those around us.

In everyday terms, it is by meeting our physical and emotional needs that we survive and develop as individuals and a species. As animals we are born into a material world where we need air to breathe, water, nutritious food and sleep. These are the paramount physical needs. Without them, we quickly die.

We also need the freedom to stimulate our senses and exercise our muscles. In addition, 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.

There is widespread agreement as to the nature of our emotional needs. The main ones 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
* Being emotionally connected to others
* Feeling part of a wider community
* Friendship, intimacy — to know that at least one other person accepts us totally for who we are, “warts 'n' all”
* 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
* A conscious, rational mind that can check out 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
* A 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 best benchmark position we have to refer to when thinking about education, mental and physical health and the way we organise and run our lives.


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© Copyright Joe Griffin and Human Givens Publishing Ltd. 2007