From the archives at my Facebook account a post on learning how to meet our basic needs in the recovery (self discovery) journey. This post garnered some good discussion when I first posted on Facebook in 2010 so I thought I’d put it up here as well.
Regardless of the type of trauma one has experienced there seems to be some common basic needs that must be met in order to successfully travel this path to wholeness.
In the work of Dr. Colin Ross he lays out a clear process that can be followed to find healing – and it begins with our basic human needs being met first.
In psychology 101 we learn about Abraham Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs” that indicates before one can reach ones fullest potential, there are some basic human needs that need to be addressed. Things like shelter, safety, food, a sense of belonging and stability.
In my own trauma work, I’ve followed this as a “map” of sorts that has been a reference point that I could refer back to when life wasn’t working for me, when I found myself again struggling with life issues, relationships and trauma symptoms.
The problem that I found was that as long as I tried to “skip” the work of laying the foundation of meeting my basic needs, I was constantly feeling as though I wasn’t making any progress; “two steps forward and ten steps back”.
In hindsight – I realized that it was impossible to do this kind of healing when my attention, focus, time and energy was consumed by simply trying to meet my basic needs of survival and I would continue to struggle and slip back down that slippery slope leaving me feeling hopeless.
Today I still use this as a guide. When life gets bumpy or stressful, when I’m experiencing conflict, feeling panic or anxious, sad or feeling “depressed” i.e. overwhelmed…I can in hindsight see that at some point I neglected making sure that my own basic needs were met, leaving me vulnerable to life stressors again.
What I have learned is to stop and ask myself “what’s missing” was there a place or time where I neglected to meet my basic needs?
Did I feel safe in my home? If not, this became my focus and priority and at one point this meant leaving people or places that while comfortable, where not supportive of the healing path I had chosen for myself.
Was I eating well? Was I actually eating to fuel my body and support this healing path? Or was I consuming empty calories, laden with sugar? I discovered that while it takes more effort it most often was less expensive to eat fresh, whole foods that nourished my body than it was to eat the prepared food or drive thought the fast food drive up window.
Was I feeling angry? Did I need to learn to use “assertive” communication so I could improve my relationships and let go of conflict more easily instead of fueling anger or overwhelm that created a feeling of hopelessness and helplessness for things to change?
Was I feeling stressed out of habit? Would it help for me to learn how relax, have fun, listen to music? I discovered that there was more to “basic needs” than just “surviving” and in time found inexpensive or free ways to incorporate fun things like music, drawing, taking photos and even dancing to the radio into everyday life as well as seeking out other ways to enjoy life vs only “doing the work”.
Was I lonely? In the beginning – the world was a scary place where I lived in anxiety and fear of others. I attended support groups to begin to feel connected and over time gradually sought out places where I could build relationships outside of the issues related to trauma and healing and create that sense of having a place where I felt as though I “belonged”. One thing I did as I practiced finding social connections was volunteering in my community in an environment that felt safe to me. (Note: to “get a life” I had to ultimately learn how to be a part of the bigger world outside of “recovery”).
It was impossible to face and process through the pain when I was struggling to stay safe, warm, fed and cared for, if I was focused on self preservation
And I often found that to use the resources available meant that I had to understand the additional time and energy it would take to access them.
I had to accept that “if it was to be” it was – literally – “up to me” so when one resource did not offer what I needed to survive, my time and energy was then spent on locating and accessing other resources and putting the hard work of healing on hold until I felt safe, fed and cared for. I had to stop looking for someone to “help me” do this and figure out how to do for myself, by myself.
In the end, by focusing FIRST on meeting my own needs through whatever avenues necessary and taking whatever steps that were required to do so – I was better equipped to do the difficult emotional healing required to reclaim my life from the effects of trauma and begin to make that shift from “victim” and “surviving” to creating and living my best life each day.