In the previous post, I reminded readers that “Needs Are Natural!” Furthermore, feelings are a natural consequence of needs satisfaction, or lack thereof. Feelings and sensations give the character and intensity of our level of satisfaction of needs. For instance, if I were feeling lonely, it would be because my need for companionship isn’t being satisfied at this moment.
Feelings are a feedback system to inform the animal in us to consider strategies to satisfy our needs — to satisfy the life-energy in us seeking fulfillment. If our needs are not being satisfied adequately, we will feel the feelings that have us mourning our life fulfillment — e.g. sadness, disappointment, frustration, annoyance, fear, anger.
On the other hand, if our needs are satisfied, we will feel the feelings that have us celebrating our life fulfillment — e.g. contentment, gratitude, happiness, joy. Continuing the example, after noticing that my need for companionship isn’t satisfied, I might begin to identify strategies to meet it, like calling Taylor, Aaron or Joe, or going to the library, or going for a nature wander, or attending a meetup. Once the present need is identified, there’s an endless assortment of possible strategies to meet it. Indeed, awareness of needs invites a shift in perspective that life on Earth is abundant, and that strategies exist capable of meeting everyone’s needs including those of the more-than-human beings, and that it's up to the reflexively self-aware part of the Dream to make a choice on which strategy to select. Indeed, that “with great power comes great responsibility.”
Feelings are the Animal Voice of the Earth
In continuing Thomas Berry's thread: the Earth is dreaming us to life, which manifests in our needs seeking fulfillment; the animal voice of the Earth comes through our feelings, provided we’re connected to our needs.
Part of our role as humans waking up to the dream involves matching words that describe our inner experiences so that we can use some discernment to make informed choices at how best to satisfy our needs and those of the village. Ideally, we’d only select strategies that meet all of our needs, physical, personal, interpersonal and transpersonal — the human and the more-than-human needs, all of which are internally accessible to us. The Earth has provided us with a full set of invitations for living.
It’s poignant to realize that the life-energy of the dream of the Earth is within us, providing self-consistent and congruent streams for living in harmony with itself. Needs are in perfect harmony with each other; there is no conflict in needs. For instance, the needs for autonomy and connection are in perfect harmony; I want to be in relationships that are able to hold both of them. If I believe that there are constraints that must be satisfied in specifying a Person, or Location, or Action, or Time, or Object then I’m holding that energy as a strategy, not a need – and that creates a problem.
If you find any kind of conflict, you are confusing a need with a strategy by associating your need exclusively with a Person, Location, Action, Time or Object (PLATO). How does this confusion typically manifest? Going back to our example: Let’s say I’m feeling lonely – I ask Taylor to hang out, and she’s unavailable at the moment. If I have any pressure on Taylor to say “yes”, then I’m internally confusing my need for companionship with her as my only strategy – this will likely result in conflict, or in her experiencing a demand to comply and the relationship will suffer.
However, if I’m connected with my need for companionship, I’m able to hear “no” from any of my requests to Taylor, Joe or Aaron and be okay with it. And, given I have a relationship with nature, I can always rely on trees, rocks and squirrels to hang out.
Additionally, when this need/strategy confusion happens, we default to strategies that are easy, or have been made easy by some commercial interest, which has provided them in the market to benefit a business entity — most often operating blindly of the needs of all involved, such that the strategies meet the sustainability needs of the business, profiting at the expense of the wider community of beings. For example, single use plastic water bottles (strategies for satisfying our need for water) – they are convenient, but tremendously costly to life on Earth.
It would help if the people that run the businesses were aware and connected to their Earth-Rooted needs, so the products and services they offered would indeed contribute to the wholistic well-being of the village, which includes the more-than-human (e.g. Patagonia’s mission statement: Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis).
Part of the Solution
So, learning a lexicon for feelings and needs, and how these words point to our life energy (through self-empathy) helps us to wake up to the invitation of the dream of the Earth, empowering us to fine-tune our choices on behalf of both enjoying our life to the fullest and supporting the lives of the community and the home planet that is the source of who we are.
Before selecting a strategy, it’s helpful to first sense and connect with the more-than-human world. The nuances of this approach will be explored in the next blog post.
Special thanks to Taylor Johnson for her keen editing help and insight.
 My favorite definition of needs being “life-energy in us seeking fulfillment” is attributed to NVC Trainer Julie Greene
 If not connected to our needs, feelings are just ego-centric expressions of the self.
 I first learned of the PLATO mnemonic from NVC Trainer Miki Kashtan
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