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The universal primal needs

What are the universal primal needs that drive human behaviour? How do they shape our emotions, motivations, and actions? In this article, we will explore the concept of primal needs and how they influence our wellbeing, happiness, and fulfilment. We will also discuss some practical ways to meet these needs in our daily lives and overcome the challenges that may prevent us from satisfying them.

The four universal primal needs: Survival, connection, Significance and Growth

The four universal primal needs are the basic human needs that we all share and that must be met for us to live a fulfilling life. They are:

  • Survival: This is the need for physical and psychological security, such as food, shelter, health, and safety. We seek certainty and stability in our environment and avoid pain and danger. This need is also related to our instinct to survive and reproduce.
  • connection: This is the need for social and emotional bonds, such as love, friendship, belonging, and intimacy. We seek to feel close and connected to others who share our values and interests. This need is also related to our desire to give and receive affection and support.
  • Significance: This is the need for personal and social recognition, such as respect, status, achievement, and uniqueness. We seek to feel important and valued by ourselves and others. This need is also related to our sense of identity and self-esteem.
  • Growth: This is the need for intellectual and creative development, such as learning, curiosity, challenge, and mastery. We seek to expand our knowledge and skills and to express our potential. This need is also related to our aspiration to self-actualize.

These four primal needs are not mutually exclusive but rather interrelated and complementary. They can be fulfilled in positive, negative, or neutral ways depending on our choices and circumstances. Fulfilling these needs can bring us happiness, satisfaction, and meaning in life.

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How to identify and fulfil your own primal needs

Primal needs are the basic and essential requirements for human wellbeing and survival. They include physical needs, such as food, water, shelter, and safety; emotional needs, such as love, belonging, and esteem; and cognitive needs, such as curiosity, learning, and meaning. To identify and fulfil your own primal needs, you need to be aware of your feelings, thoughts, and behaviours, and how they relate to your needs. You also need to act to meet your needs in healthy and constructive ways. Here are some steps you can follow to identify and fulfil your own primal needs:

  • Step 1: Recognize your feelings. Your feelings are signals that tell you what you need. For example, if you feel hungry, you need food; if you feel lonely, you need connection; if you feel bored, you need stimulation. Pay attention to your feelings and acknowledge them without judging them.
  • Step 2: Identify your thoughts. Your thoughts are interpretations of your feelings and situations. They can help you understand your needs, or they can distort them. For example, if you feel sad, you might think that you are worthless or unloved, or you might think that you need some support or comfort. Be aware of your thoughts and challenge them if they are negative or irrational.
  • Step 3: Evaluate your behaviour. Your behaviours are actions that you take to meet your needs or cope with them. They can be helpful or harmful. For example, if you feel angry, you might behave aggressively or violently, or you might behave assertively or calmly. Observe your behaviours and assess their consequences for yourself and others.
  • Step 4: Choose your actions. Your actions are deliberate and conscious choices that you make to fulfil your needs or change them. They can be effective or ineffective. For example, if you feel anxious, you might choose to avoid or escape, or you might choose to face or overcome. Decide what actions are best for you and take responsibility for them.
  • Step 5: Review your outcomes. Your outcomes are the results of your actions and how they affect your needs. They can be positive or negative. For example, if you feel happy, you might have an outcome of satisfaction or gratitude, or you might have an outcome of complacency or greed. Reflect on your outcomes and learn from them.

By following these steps, you can identify and fulfil your own primal needs professionally that respects yourself and others.

How to support others in meeting their primal needs

Primal needs are the basic requirements for human survival and well-being, such as food, water, shelter, safety, belonging and self-esteem. Supporting others in meeting their primal needs is an important way to show empathy, compassion and respect. Here are some ways to do that:

  • Provide material assistance when possible. If someone is lacking food, water, shelter or other essential resources, you can help them by donating, volunteering or sharing what you have. You can also connect them with organizations or agencies that can offer more support.
  • Listen actively and empathetically. Sometimes people just need someone to listen to their problems and validate their feelings. You can show that you care by paying attention, asking open-ended questions, reflecting back what you hear and avoiding judgment or criticism.
  • Express appreciation and affirmation. Everyone wants to feel valued and respected for who they are and what they do. You can support others’ self-esteem by giving sincere compliments, acknowledging their strengths and achievements, and expressing gratitude for their presence and contribution.
  • Offer emotional support and encouragement. When someone is going through a difficult time, they may feel alone, hopeless or discouraged. You can help them cope by being there for them, offering a hug or a shoulder to cry on, reminding them of their resilience and potential, and motivating them to keep going.
  • Respect their boundaries and preferences. Everyone has different needs and wants, and they may change over time or depending on the situation. You can respect others’ autonomy and dignity by asking for their consent, honouring their choices, respecting their privacy and personal space, and avoiding imposing your own opinions or expectations on them.
The benefits of living in alignment with your primal needs

Living in alignment with your primal needs means honouring the natural rhythms and cycles of your body and mind. It means respecting your innate drives for survival, connection, growth and contribution. It also means aligning your lifestyle choices with the evolutionary adaptations that have shaped our species for millions of years.

Some of the benefits of living in alignment with your primal needs are:

  • Improved physical health. By eating a nutrient-dense diet, moving your body regularly, getting enough sleep and sunlight, and avoiding toxins and stressors, you can optimize your metabolism, immunity, energy and longevity.
  • Enhanced mental wellbeing. By cultivating a positive mindset, expressing your emotions, practising gratitude and mindfulness, and finding meaning and purpose in your life, you can boost your mood, resilience, creativity and happiness.
  • Deeper social relationships. By communicating authentically, listening empathically, giving and receiving support, and collaborating with others who share your values and vision, you can foster trust, intimacy, belonging and community.
  • Greater personal fulfilment. By discovering your strengths, passions and talents, setting goals and acting, overcoming challenges and learning from feedback, and contributing to a cause greater than yourself, you can achieve your potential and make a positive impact in the world.
Relationship with self-transcendence

The relationship between primal needs and self-transcendence is a complex and dynamic one. Primal needs are the basic requirements for survival and wellbeing, such as food, water, shelter, safety, belonging and esteem. self-transcendence is the ability to go beyond one’s own ego and connect with something greater, such as a higher purpose, a universal value or a spiritual reality.

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According to some psychological theories, such as Maslow‘s hierarchy of needs and Frankl‘s logotherapy, primal needs must be met before one can pursue self-transcendence. In other words, one has to a certain extent satisfy the lower levels of the pyramid before reaching the peak of Self-actualization and self-transcendence. However, this does not mean that primal needs and self-transcendence are mutually exclusive or incompatible. On the contrary, they can complement and enhance each other in various ways.

For example, primal needs can provide the motivation and the foundation for self-transcendence. One may seek to fulfil primal needs in a way that is aligned with one’s higher values and goals, such as by choosing a meaningful career, forming authentic relationships or contributing to a social cause. Alternatively, one may use one’s primal needs as a springboard for self-transcendence, such as by transforming one’s suffering into a source of growth, compassion or wisdom.

Similarly, self-transcendence can enrich and elevate one’s primal needs. One may experience a deeper sense of satisfaction and fulfilment when one’s primal needs are met in the context of a larger vision or mission. Moreover, one may transcend one’s primal needs by finding a higher meaning or purpose in life that transcends one’s physical and psychological limitations. For instance, one may sacrifice one’s comfort or security for a noble cause or a spiritual quest.

In conclusion, primal needs and self-transcendence are not opposed or separate phenomena, but rather interrelated and interdependent aspects of human existence. They can both serve as sources of motivation, fulfilment and growth for individuals and society.

Further reading

If you would like to learn more about primal needs and how they affect your life, here are some weblinks that explore this topic in more detail:

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs – Simply Psychology

The Primal Human Needs – A New Framework for Happiness | Hypnosis Downloads

Cracking the Code: Design through the Lens of Our Eight Primal Needs

What are the ‘human givens’? |

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