Privacy is an essential emotional human need according to the Human Givens. And these needs, again according to HG are not optional extras but essential for our survival. So, without these needs being well met, human beings will endure serious mental distress and in extremis wither and die, as they would suffer similarly without food and shelter.
Human Givens identifies nine separate needs and believes that they are each as important as the other. My view is that it is not quite as simple as that, which is why I developed my Needs Pagoda. You can view it in all its glory here. My basic point is that some needs – Control, Meaning, Relationships and Satisfying work are more fundamental than the facilitating needs of Privacy and Attention and second, that the relationship between these nine needs to each other is not linear – more like a pagoda in fact. But that does not mean that our need for Privacy and the giving and receiving of Attention can be ignored. Far from it – as a life without either will erode and become desperate – and easily feed a depression.
I have been reminded of this by my experience recently with an extremely depressed client (F). Her suffering could be understood as entirely driven by a complete absence of any privacy at all. And what was interesting was that it was not privacy in the obvious sense – as she certainly had space in which she could be alone and which she could keep her things. No, for F, it was that she had no place that she could go to or be in or even be: that felt at all safe – where she could allow herself the time to begin to process and daydream. F’s family viewed her as dangerous and mad even and she had literally no place to turn to for any sense of safety at all. For her the complete absence of any privacy was about being emotionally unsafe and threatened and so always either watchful or running away. For F it was impossible to relax for a minute
It occurred to me while listening to F that being profoundly unsafe meant a complete absence of any privacy and that this was the simplest description that one could find for what a depression is. There seems no possibility of escape to a safe place and so it was impossible to be private enough to allow time to process and quieten down and see things differently. Depression is being lost in a never ending nightmare and unable ever to escape.