Your essential Human Givens Needs

As you begin to understand what Human Givens means by our essential needs, it will make so much sense. You have always “known” it.
Our essential human givens needs

Goal setting for emotional needs – essential for emotional health

Goal setting for now, rather than sorting out the past in your head is at least as important. This is because the life you lead now is actually what counts. So, how well are your essential human givens needs being met now?

Don’t immediately get sucked into thinking about all that has gone wrong in your past but instead get a life that works better. And this means that the right goal setting is needed

Begin by undertaking a Needs Audit.

How well is your life working?

Take this Human Givens NEEDS AUDIT

You will naturally lack self confidence if your essential needs are not well met.

The Human Givens – the official explanation

HG Emotional Needs

Needs – The Questions To Ask


Around self

Do you feel safe

Do you have a sense of autonomy and control?

Do you have space and time to recharge?


Around relationships

Do you have wider connections?

How healthily are your attention needs being met?

Are there people who are important to you and to whom you are important?


Around work and meaning

Are you comfortable with your status in society?

Have you a sense of competence and achievement?

Have you aims and ambitions – projects that stretch you?

Do you feel safe – give yourself a mark between 1 and 10?

Are you in an environment which allows you to develop? Think about how confident you are at work, whether there are money worries, bullying at home or at work or other threats to your physical safety?
And if low – how would it be different if it went up a notch and what might you be doing differently?

Do you have a sense of autonomy and control? – out of 10?

Do you have volition to make responsible choices? This is about responsibility, ability to influence and being heard.

And with all these questions it is about balance. Some of us can want too much control – a control freak – or fear being unsafe so much that we scarcely leave the house. What number would you give to this need for autonomy and control – and what might you do now if the number was low (say a 3 or less)? Saying something, standing up, finding space? Doing something different? And how would you know if the number was higher? How would it feel? What might you be doing differently? How would your friends know?

And finally ask yourself if feelings of not being in control actually are about your emotional state – worries, fears or angers that cannot be controlled. This question may really be about the emotional problems that brought you to this site.

Do you have your own space and time to recharge – out of 10?

We all must have time alone and space for our possessions and to think without pressure Where could you find that space and time to create something at home or away from home? And what you could you do right now to raise that number. What would it be like?

Read more on Privacy

Do you have wider connections? – out of 10?

Do you feel part of a wider community beyond your family and close friends. What happens for you outside your family – your hobbies, your opportunities for participation?
If this is a low number for you right now, how might you connect more – clubs, contacts, hobbies, looking up old friends? And if you did, how far might the number rise for you?

Do you have people who are important to you and to whom you are important – out of 10?

How emotionally connected are you to others – knowing that at least one other person accepts you totally for who you are, “warts ‘n’ all”. Is there loss? Are their friends and fun with a person? Do you have one close friend?

And if this is a low number for you, what is stopping you? Is it habits, shyness or not seeing that there are opportunities just to get a little closer to someone? And to have this need met a little better – how would that help you? What else might begin to change for you?

How healthily are your attention needs being met – both to give and receive – out of 10?

Attention is a form of nutrition and it is how we learn and socialize and adapt beginning from being a tiny baby. Are you alone too much or attention seeking or giving sincere or insincere attention?

Read more on Attention

Are you comfortable with your status in society and with the groups you spend your time with – out of 10?

This is about reward and appreciation, fitting in, or feelings of inferiority, jealousy, hostility.

And if you lack status here, what could you do that would be appreciated by people who you are with. And how might you plan and prepare for this? See yourself having that feeling of greater status and appreciation amongst those who you care about.

Have you a sense of competence and achievement – out of 10?

Are you doing what you want to, being stretched or out of your depth, stuck, bored? And if not (a low number here), then what could you begin to do to change. Learn something, move something. What are your ideals – if you could wave a magic wand? Really begin to be excited by new possibilities. See it and feel it.

Are you stretched by how you live and the work you do – out of 10?

Think about meaning and purpose, about being stretched in terms of new skills, physical and mental. Is there a bigger commitment for you to give and contribute?

Read of Frankl and Meaning

There is a lot here and there is no advantage in spending time with this when you are not thinking straight. On the other hand, just to see your life in terms of essential needs is calming and empowering for many.

Be aware of your reactions to this listing of essential human needs – and to notice how they can be hidden behind yearnings, disappointments, angers and anxieties.

Introducing the Needs Pagoda

The pagoda recognises that all of these needs are not equivalent.  And they are related to each other in a special way. Hence my Human Givens Needs Pagoda.

Read the full Pagoda formulation.

Distinguishing between needs and wants

For example you may fancy that nice place where your new friend lives because actually you need shelter and safety… or it could be that you are aware of the need for space and reflection, rest and regeneration.

Then again, you may yearn for the girl (or boy) next door because what you know is that you need intimacy and friendship and a space with someone where you can be yourself.

And you may have wished that your boss or partner treated you better and heard what you were trying to say. This is because you must have some control over your life or you will suffer.

And all of us from time to time can be envious of people who appear more successful than us – and perhaps this is because you need to have a sense of status and of being appreciated for what you do.

You may or may not decide to give that new art class or church meeting a go as you weigh up whether this will help you meet your essential need to belong to a group bigger than yourselves… or you can meet the essential human need to give and receive attention from a wide circle of other people.

And you may or may not look forward to that family gathering but you know that however it turns out, you need to have people who are important to you and to whom you are important.

And have you from time to time had a sense of dissatisfaction in your life and been aware of an as yet unrealised potential and not quite knowing what you can do about it. Is this your mind/body communication that is reminding you of the need you have to be stretched and so have meaning in your life.


Finally back to the real basics of what it is to be human.

two hands holding, growing and caring a young green plantConsider the life of an ordinary garden plant. We can say that as a living organism, the plant has essential needs – for nutritious soil, sufficient water and just enough of a warming sun.

And we can all imagine how a plant will suffer if any of these essential needs are not being met in the right quantities. The plant would wither, droop, appear lifeless and the blooms would be weak and colourless. And of course, if we were tending that plant, we would know what to do when we noticed this withering and distress. To decide what essential plant need was not being met and set a goal to get that need met.

And from that we might come up with a brief strategy – time, actions and sequences could be involved. And if we thought about it, we would be quite happy that the plant’s lack was evident from how the plant looked. Otherwise, how would we know that something needed to be done?

And so it is with human beings. We humans have essential needs. And these needs are such things as to connect and feel safe with other human beings, to work and to be stretched and to have status and a sense of achievement…… and things like that.


You could say that this is what all of us spend all of our time doing –working to satisfy these needs (though we may not know it or see it that way).

And if an important need is not being met well (despite our best efforts), then we will suffer some distress. This distress is the emotion of your mind/body’s communication that you need to take action and the right kind of action or you will continue to suffer or even get worse.

Your unconscious intelligence instinctively knows what your needs are and your unconscious is communicating this by creating the emotion.
See this emotion, however unpleasant or threatening, as the energy or the motion and movement towards getting that need met.


My therapy is concerned with getting your emotions working well so they can do their proper job.

How can I help you?

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