Needs to Know: Infancy

Needs to Know: Infancy

The infant is that cute, adorable, pure and innocent human being between the ages of birth and 2 years. This is a very critical time and the most important need at this stage is not just air, water, food, clothing and shelter, which of course are absolutely important. Also of tremendous importance is the sense of trust and security the infant develops. This sense of trust comes about by the parent(s) being responsive to the child’s basic needs of hunger and comfort. The infant is just about totally helpless not able to move on its own, not able to communicate its needs. The only real means of expressing a need or a want is crying. Mothers often become quite attunded to their infants learning subtle expressions of the infant which might mean “I’m hungry” or “I’m tired” and can then act accordingly helping to cement that sense of security and trust.

There are several things parents can do to help build a sense of security and trust within the child:

  • Feed the infant whenever he or she is hungry. Generally infants will cry when hungry and feeding would be one of the first responses to a crying infant.
  • Change diapers as soon as possible after soiled. You certainly would not like to stay in the clothes you soiled, neither does your infant. Be happy, smiling, talk to the infant in a sing song voice ormaybe even sing, during changing
  • When possible, establish a consistent schedule of some activity. For example, if the infant is most often awake and alert at 9am, that might be a good time to be with him or her and sing, read big colorful picture books out loud, google and gaggle at the infant. Basically, provide some visual and vocal sensory input for the infant on a regular schedule, day after day. Of course, such activities can also occur at other times of the day and spontaneity should certainly not be forsaken.
  • Hold the infant often; move while holding the infant, sing or hum while holding the infant. Hold the infant close to your chest and let him or her feel your heartbeat. You can also give your infant massage. There are several websites about infant massage.

Although it is not possible to spoil an infant, it is possible to create an unhealthy aura if the parents are too attentive and too overbearing. The infant can withstand, and actually benefits, from some frustration. The sense of trust and security is strengthened when the infant learns that the frustration is reduced or removed in short order. However, it is also possible to engender a sense of insecurity and mistrust which can pervade the infant’s whole life. These negative feelings would come about through erratic, little or no feeding, prolonged frustration or discomforts, lack of gentle, loving touching or holding. Insecurity and mistrust are certainly not uncommon and many adults must deal with such issues. If you interact with people who are, or are yourself, terribly insecure and don’t much trust others, are withdrawn and solitary, part of the reason may be your experiences during infanthood. There’s nothing you can do about it now other than recognize that it’s your infanthood, not your adulthood, and take steps to become more secure and trusting of yourself and others now.

Generally, the most important person in the infant’s life is the mother. The main activity of the infant is sleeping, eating and perceiving. Much of an infant’s perceiving is with the mouth. The infant is nursing, sucking his or her thumb, putting objects in his or her mouth. This is all quite normal and is part of the infants drive to interact with the world, understand the word, and trust the world.

Needs to Know: The Toddler


Needs to Know – An Introduction

needs to know introduction

Have you ever heard a young woman say “I want to have a boyfriend” or “I want to be loved” or a young man express his desire for a good job? Perhaps you have said them yourself. These are not necessarily just wants and desires but are based in actual developmental needs. We often think of our needs as basic survival requirements such as food, shelter and clothing. But, our needs are much more complex than that. When our basic needs for food, shelter and clothing are satisfied, then what? Well, then we have “higher needs” that move us; our higher needs also strive towards satisfaction and are just as important as our more basic needs. Of course, our basic needs never really leave us. We continually need food, shelter and clothing. But, as we grow, we learn, in most cases, that these needs can be easily met and they take on a secondary nature to higher more pressing needs such as the need to belong, the need for esteem, the need for knowledge, the need for competency as well as several others to be discussed in the forthcoming articles.

Higher needs are more psychological and spiritual than physical. Yet, if they are not satisfied, there can be serious negative consequences to our mental, and physical, health. Our needs can be classified into three broad categories:

  • biological/physical,
  • psychological/emotional
  • sociological/spiritual.

We are not at all aware of or the least bit interested in the psychological/emotional needs, let alone the social/spiritual, when we are not getting our biological/physical needs met. That is, no one strives for meaning in their life when they are hungry. People generally don’t volunteer their time in a community service activity when they are deeply involved in a romantic relationship. New, higher needs arise from within us when lower needs have been satisfied.

During the series of articles entitled Needs To Know, basic and higher needs, along with corresponding developmental stages we all pass through, will be outlined and some tips on how best to meet our emerging needs suggested. This information can be very useful to not only us as individuals, but to parents, managers, teachers and anyone who works with others in a supervisory role. Our behavior is often motivated by our needs and, more often than not, by unmet needs. That is, just about all behavior can be viewed as a means to satisfy needs or wants. Sometimes, adults strive to satisfy childhood or adolescent needs because those needs were never fully satisfied. Understanding the level and stages of our needs can help clarify behavior and may provide insight into how best to manage behavior.

The information in the forthcoming articles is a synthesis of information gathered from the writings of several notable figures including Abraham Maslow, Erik Erikson, Carl Jung, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, Sigmund Freud and other less well known personages whose contribution, though less well recognized, are equally valued. The information presented is not something made up or novel. However, the synthesis and presentation of the material is unique and may help make academic and technical information more reader friendly and readily usable.

Needs to Know: The Infant

Needs to Know: The Toddler

Needs to Know: Childhood

Needs toKnow: Adolescence

Needs to Know: The Young Adult

Needs to Know: Middle Adulthood

Needs to Know: Elder Adulthood

Needs to Know: Seniority


Filial Love

filial loveFilial Love ….

The word love has, of course, many meanings. However, we don’t have many words to express those many different meanings of ‘love.’ We use the same love in the statement “I love my mother” and “I love my new shoes.” But, clearly, the love is not the same.

Traditionally, there are four categories of love: in Greek the words are ‘eros,’ ‘philea,’ ‘storge,’ and ‘agape.’ In English, this would translate to eros: romantic love; philea: brotherly-sisterly love, storge: affectionate friendship love and agape: alstruistic love.

And then there is filial love. Filial love is the kind of love a child has for its parents. This is, perhaps, a kind of ‘root love.’ It’s a kind of inborn instinct, to love parents. Whether or not the parents are lovable is another story; but, that doesn’t matter, the child loves the parents. How a parent responds to a child then becomes part of the child’s understanding of what love is. If the parents are abusive or neglectful, love, in the child’s mind, becomes almost equated with abuse or neglect. It’s as if neglect = love or abuse = love. No child grows up in an exclusively abusive or neglectful environment; now and then, there are also periods of affection. That too becomes part of the meaning of love for the child, as if it is also true that affection = love. Yelling, screaming, crying, laughing, singing, dancing, talking…..all of these experiences, and more, can link in to meanings of love. Because of the many, and sometimes contradictory, meanings of love, love can be confusing.

Because a child is so dependent upon parents for sustenance, nourishment, safety and protection, dependency becomes one of the equations of love in the growing child’s mind, i.e., dependence = love. One of the predominant needs of a child is attention. Children need to be attended to and it is not uncommon for a child to seek negative attention over none at all. If misbehavior gets the attention, i.e., the love of their parents, then, in the mind of a child, misbehavior = love. Temper tantrums, crying and screaming, aggression, and even gestures of self harm, can all be interpreted as a request for love. Love, of course, also equates to touch, affectionate hugs and embraces, caring, fun, joy and celebration…. Love has many, many different meanings.

Because a growing child is so dependent upon parents for their needs, the association between filial love and dependence is significant. Dependence generates territoriality and possessiveness towards that which one is dependent upon. Filial love is often characterized by a consciousness of ‘mine.’ Children are not only possessive of their toys, but of their parents as well. How many families with several children hear any child say ‘our parents’ instead of ‘my parents?’ A consciousness of ‘mine’ is dominant not only in childhood filial love, but adolescent, and adult, romantic love as well. Romantic relationships are possessive, and territorial. The relationship is based on dependence. There may be little difference between the statement “I love you” and “I depend upon you” or “I need you.” Romantic relationships, in particular, are a form of securing and possessing a source of specific needs satisfaction.

There is an element of love, filial love, in that. Of course, romantic relationships are predominantly characterized by eros, the passionate, intimate and sexual love. But, that does not mean filial love is absent, for it is not, just as every adult still has within them all the experiences of their childhood, and adolescence. It is not uncommon for one partner in a romantic relationship to project their deficit filial love needs onto the other partner who may, or may not, satisfy them. A good love relationship will be aware of the many meanings and forms love can take from the filial to the friendly, to the affectionate, to the romantic, and even to the altruistic.

Altruistic love is the antithesis of ‘mine.’ Altruistic love is a consciousness of ‘ours.’ Ideally, romantic love leads towards altruistic love because a single “me” becomes partnered and a ‘we’ is formed; a small ‘we’…a kind of ‘us against the world’ consciousness. But, then children are born and the ‘we’ expands. The children grow up and have their own children, and the ‘we’ expands more; what started as a fairly selfish erotic love has evolved to a family love which becomes neighborhood love, community love, and can extend to include the planet and all it’s inhabitents….The expansion of consciousness from ‘me’ to ever larger spheres of ‘we’ is the movement towards altruistic love, enlightenment, bliss.

It is said that Eskimos have several words for snow, depending on the quality and texture of it, and that the Zulu people in Africa, have several words for the color green, depending on the shade or hue of it. We have several words for precipitation as in rain, drizzle, downpour, sleet, hail and snow. But, for the most part, we seem to only have one word to represent the many complexities, shades, colors, hues, textures forms and meanings of ‘love.’ I love my mother, and I love my new shoes.

The Advaita Approach to Mental Health

 advaita approach to mental health

Mental health, or illness, is based primarily on a philosophy, a collection of beliefs, about who I am, what I am, where I am. Everybody has answers to these questions, even if the answer is ‘I don’t know.’ And, even if we don’t know, for sure, we can give some semblance of an answer to those questions. We often give answers to questions without knowing, for sure. How we think about not knowing, how it reflects on us, is part of our philosophy of life in this world. What does it mean for you to not know?

For those who do know, that philosophy of life, or world view, whether conscious or not, informs just about everything on a macro scale such as society, family, work, money, moods, actions, conditions. All of that informs our micro life, our personal life with our specific family and our particular work, our own individual ups and downs, circumstances, situations. We interpret all of this through the lens of our beliefs about our life in this world. What if a lot of these beliefs, our philosophy of life in this world, is petty, narrow, short-sighted? What if it is not aligned with reality? What if it is based on ignorance?

Advaita is a philosophy of life in this world based on long established knowledge. In most traditional mental health therapies today, there is a ‘psycho-educational’ component. A lot of this psych-education is about how to think rationally instead of emotionally, realistically instead of erroneously. Advaita not only questions and challenges current thinking, it introduces specific philosophical concepts very conducive to mental health. Applying these concepts as a filter through which to interpret experience can change one’s moods and behaviors, relationships and sense of self.

Advaita is an old language word that means ‘non-dual.’ Non-dual is non-duality. That translates into no battle, no attack, no conflict. So many mental health disorders and dysfunctions are based on internal battles, and attacks, and conflicts. The Advaita approach closely examines duality and weaves a way of understanding it as integrated and unified. The ‘self’ of which we are often so concerned with its many stresses and pressures, goals and duties, responsibilities and obligations, dreams and hopes, strivings and achievements, is entirely based on a dualistic philosophy of life in this world. That philosophy is to transportation as Advaita is to teleportation. Advaita is very advanced. It also extends far into the human past.

At the very least, Advaita offers a way of thinking about things which may be to most rather novel, big, comprehensive and wholistic, which does no harm, and may do good. At the most, it can be very helpful along the journey towards that supreme level of human consciousness we all seek. This supreme consciousness which incorporates, integrates and unifies duality, is beyond happiness and pain. It is more than the pair of opposites which make up our dualistic universe. It is a consciousness which like the sun shines equally on the land and on the sea. It is a consciousness which like the ocean receives all rivers from every continent. It is a consciousness of real love and bliss, the supreme state of mind for any human being.

Mental health is a lot more than coping well. A philosophy of life in this world which requires coping, may be a philosophy worth relinquishing. A world view in which war is for peace and violence is for safety may be worth relinquishing. A belief in oneself as independent may be getting in the way of that supreme state of mind. Our current philosophy of life in this world, our complicated, partial, conflicted and dualistic view of the way things are, can be relinquished, and replaced with a wholistic view of all life, which is Advaita. Want to dive a little deeper? Check out the Quantum Psychology post.


Psychosomatic Symmetries

psychosomatic symmetriesWe know from our own experience about the mind-body connection. For example, if you were to imagine or visualize sucking on a lemon rind, you may very likely begin to salivate. Even though that sucking on the lemon rind is entirely of the mind, it can easily generate bodily responses.

It’s possible, with a little imagination, to lay out some interesting symmetries or parallels between our physiological body and our psychological mind. For example, we know we have a physiological circulatory system….but, could we also have a psychological circulatory system? We know we have a physiological respiratory system, but could we also have a psychological respiratory system? We know we have a physiological digestive system; could we also have a psychological digestive system?

Our physiological circulatory system carries blood and oxygen to our muscles and organs. Perhaps our psychological circulatory system carries thoughts and emotions into different parts of our lives….our family, our work, our leisure. Our physiological respiratory system oxygenates and fuels our blood; perhaps our psychological respiratory system fuels and supports our thoughts and emotions through the meanings we ascribe to those thoughts and emotions.

Our physiological digestive system takes in, breaks down and assimilates nourishment in the form of food. It also eliminates what is waste. Perhaps our psychological digestive system takes in, breaks down and assimilates nourishment in the form of ideas, concepts, facts and knowledge. And, it too eliminates what is waste.

Psychological, or mental, health, like physical health, depends on these systems working properly. Though not generally recognized as much of a vital system as respiration or circulation, digestion is critically important, and perhaps the most important aspect of this system is elimination. Most people know how it feels to be bloated and constipated physically, but may be unaware that there can be a kind of psychological constipation as well. If we hold on to ideas, concepts, beliefs and information which is waste, which is outdated, which is not valid….which is not nourishing, it is waste. If that waste is not expelled, it becomes putrid and stale. And yet, it may continue to influence our thinking and emotions.

Mental health counseling is one good way to facilitate the elimination of psychological waste. By talking with a professional, old ideas and beliefs can be challenged, and discarded, making room for new, fresh understandings and perceptions. Also, because of the intimate relationship between the mind and the body, physical exercise (which is a lot like exorcise) can also be helpful in toning the psychological systems of circulation, respiration and digestion, especially elimination. Singing, dancing, laughing and crying, though physical in nature, and healthy, also has a psychological counterpart just as visualizing positive mental imagery has a physiological counterpart. There is a psychosomatic symmetry to our lives.