By: Jill Sodini
So often we find ourselves trying to figure out why we react a certain way to situations, or better yet, why others react the way they do. At times, understanding our own actions is hard enough, let alone trying to understand the actions of others. When provided information regarding how the mind works and what our brain naturally does to protect itself, both aspects can become very clear.
In 1943 Abraham Maslow published Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs
to better explain the theory of motivation in philosophy, which explains that all people are motivated to act one way or another based on what they need. Maslow designed a pyramid with 6 levels of needs, the most basic of these being placed at the bottom. The first and largest level is physiological needs. These needs are those physical things the body requires to survive such as air, water, food, etc. Without these, nothing further can be accomplished.
Right after having our most basic physical needs met, Maslow prioritizes what humans need emotionally to survive. Levels two and three are safety, and love/ belonging. These are the only needs on the pyramid that solely depend on other people and our environment. Since we are unable to control what others might do, issues often arise within our personal relationships. Understanding how this plays a part in our interpersonal communications allows us the opportunity to choose how we react, and therefore can greatly decrease this as a source of stress in our lives.
If at any point our needs for safety, love or belonging are not being met, we will do anything to get them back intact. Our instincts take over and we make decisions, good or bad, that can make us feel secure once again. This is where our needs trump the feelings of others if we allow them to.
For example, if a friend decides to talk about you to other friends in your social circle, it's likely because their sense of belonging is being threatened in some way. This move has the ability to position that friend closer to everyone else at your expense. There is no guarantee that this strategy will be well received and won't cause further distancing, but the benefit outweighs the risk if things go according to plan. The decision to choose you may not be personal, it could be that you were the easiest way to accomplish their goal.
This doesn't excuse their actions or make them right by the "friend code
", nonetheless it helps us understand why someone would behave poorly to people they care about. Even more importantly, once we understand how our brain works, we can better understand how our own reactions and behaviors come about. I can't tell you how many times in my life I have said "I can't believe I did that!" or "Why did I act that way?". I knew my behavior wasn't who I wanted to be, but there was a driving force that I didn't quite understand.
Instead of reacting poorly when we know we shouldn't, we can stop and examine our feelings to see which need; love, safety or belonging is feeling threatened. This refocuses our attention on the root cause of our feelings and gives us a better place to take action.
All of us have acted in ways we regret and simply don't even understand. It leaves us to question what kind of person we really are, however, it is important to know that our emotions do not define us. They are feelings in response to a cause, but that doesn't make them true. Knowing the difference builds a new foundation upon how we view ourselves.
Understanding what motivates us to act in any situation affords us the opportunity to respond in a way that is appropriate and aligns with who we know we truly are. We are able to address what is missing from our lives to improve our quality without sacrificing relationships that are meaningful to us. Jill Sodini
, Founder of Habitual Health By Jill
, is a Certified Health Coach, author, and speaker. She provides realistic strategies for sustainable habit change
regardless of the topic. With over 20 years of work experience and education in the field of health and wellness, Jill is an expert in providing the right system, support and accountability to obtain desired health. Contact Jill to take control of your life. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com.