What do you need right now?
Almost a year ago, I read an article online talking about psychological stresses from the COVID-19 pandemic. Author Johann Hari was talking with Roge Karma on Vox.com about increases in anxiety and depression in the pandemic (read the full article here) and Johann was plugging his book Lost Connections: Why We’re Depressed and How to Find Hope (which I subsequently read and liked). It was a fairly typical interview, but one part of it really stopped me in my tracks and I thought, “Yes…that’s it exactly.” Johann said, talking about psychological needs for wellbeing,
“You need to feel you belong. You need to feel your life has meaning and purpose. You need to interact with the natural world. You need to feel that people see you and value you. You need to feel you’ve got a future that makes sense.”
I read those sentences again and again. It was so simple, but it really cut to the heart of what I want my life to be about and what I want my clients to find in our work together. There have definitely been times when I didn’t have any of these needs met, times when I felt like an outsider, that my work was going nowhere, that I was like a ghost in my own life: unseen and unheard. And my future seemed like a hazy, mysterious dream that I couldn’t quite make out.
During those times, I was miserable.
Looking back on those difficult times, I wasn’t miserable because there was something wrong with me as a person. It wasn’t that my brain was malfunctioning (although at times it felt as though it was). My environment wasn’t helping me to meet these needs that Johann was talking about in this interview. I felt disconnected from my life’s purpose and it was all that I could do to keep functioning day to day. It was a very lonely experience.
Now, these needs that Johann talked about aren’t really that new. Anyone who’s ever taken a psychology class can probably remember learning about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs that was developed in the 1940s (here’s a link if you want a refresher). But something about the way that Johann stated them, so simply and cleanly, made them stick in my mind a bit more.
Stop for just a moment and imagine your life if you had all of these needs met. Not even thinking how you would get this done, but just imagining that somehow it had happened all on its own…
Imagine feeling a belonging to your community, your family, your workplace, your religious congregation. Imagine having a sense of what you want your life to be about. Feeling a connection to the earth, to the forest, to the ocean…whatever brings you a sense of your place in the natural world. Living with people who support you, who validate you, who like and love you for who you truly are. And having at least a direction for your future where you can see the impact of your actions on the world.
I want that for you. I want that for all of us. It isn’t out of your reach, but it might take some effort to find since it usually doesn’t just happen all on its own and life can throw up some really big challenges along the way. But I believe that moving towards that life that you just imagined is absolutely possible. I’d love to accompany you on your journey.