The basic needs of movement, rest, fuel and engaging your mind have been around for all of time. No person in the history of time can survive for very long without these basics. And yet, there are so many ways to think about *how* to get those needs met. So many belief systems or mindsets that we, as the human race, have evolved around getting our needs met. I’ve been focusing on two.
The first mindset is what this blog is all about. I call it Inside Out, or the Care and Feeding model. The idea is that you put your basic needs first, and that you are responsible for both making sure your needs are met, and for trusting that they will be met in the future. This may mean other people actually meeting the need, or it might mean you meeting it yourself, but if it’s not working, then it’s your job to do what it takes to get it working.
The second, I’ve been calling Rise the Ranks, or Hierarchy mindset. In this system, everything is ranked, whether it’s salary, job title, academic grades, clout, authority, success, personal preferences, social ladders, or how hard you’re trying… It’s all ranked. I see each ‘thing’ as a ladder, and then as a person, you choose which ladder(s) you want to define your identity, and you try to rise. Rising is good, and staying still is acceptable, but falling lower is shameful. And because shame is a social construct, image is really important – more than your actual position on the ladder, it’s about where others perceive you to be.
I call them mindsets, because which mindset you’re using colors how you see everything. This article sums that concept up nicely. The way you do anything is the way you do everything. It’s a kind of a limbic imprint.
We are very familiar with establishing the basic settings in our TVs, cameras and other devices. Imagine setting the tint of your television to maximum green. No matter what appears on the screen, everything will have a greenish cast. Similarly, if the brightness is set on dim, your screen will show an unusually dark picture. A similar mechanism is at work in our brains. This mechanism, called a limbic imprint, has been deliberately used for thousands of years to train animals, everything from dogs and horses to elephants and circus bears. For example, baby elephants are routinely chained to a small stake in the ground early in life. The elephant rages against the stake with all his might for a few days, until he finally stops. When he grows up and has enough strength to pull this stick right out, he doesn’t ever try.
In each mindset, you have needs, you have rewards – what you expect to get once your needs are met, and you have tools that you use to get your needs met. And in each, there are things to avoid, as they will make life harder.
In the Care and Feeding mindset, your primary needs are the basics – Movement, Fuel, Rest, and Engage your Mind. By meeting those needs in a social environment, you meet your need for Connection. When your needs are met, you have organically found an identity and you know who you are. You are more empathetic and generous. That is your reward.
In the Hierarchy mindset, your primary needs are your Identity, and to Rise. The idea is that if you are successful enough, if you play the game well enough, your basic needs and your need for connection will be taken care of. Being taken care of is your reward.
It has been an interesting exercise to take different things and try them on in each mindset. Listening, for example. In Care and Feeding mindset, listening is a useful skill, that leads to more connection and helps everyone rest. It is very powerful for improving life for everyone – If I can listen to you, you can process and rest. You can then use your energy for meeting other needs more efficiently, AND we’ve connected. And maybe as you’re meeting your needs more efficiently, I can benefit. Or maybe I can’t, but someone else can. Once your needs are met, you are free to be generous with others. In Hierarchy mindset though, it’s a different story. If I listen to you, then I’m helping YOU and hurting myself. It’s all a competition. By boosting you, I’m endangering me. It’s like grading on a bell curve in school – if there are only so many A’s, then it’s not in my best interest to help anyone else learn the material. Or maybe I listen to you and it hits too close to home and now I need to spend energy thinking about it instead of rising the ranks. Or maybe you listen to me and now, horrors, you see that I’m not the image that I’m projecting. Ooooohhhh that’s shameful. I’m not as good as you thought I was. And now I won’t be taken care of.
Similar thought patterns could go into the concept of generosity. In Care and Feeding mindset, generosity is great. You’re fulfilled, the other is helped, everyone’s happy. In Hierarchy mindset, the primary motivator is to show how high up the ranks you are. Which can also make it shameful to be the *receiver* of generosity. Or maybe you’re grateful for the generosity, but only so far. Once you’re out of your hole, you’d better be the one giving.
How about judging other people? In Care and Feeding mindset, there’s no point. Oh, you’re dirty and hungry? Here, use my shower and eat my food. You’re struggling? I’ll listen and help you brainstorm. You did WHAT!? I’m going to watch and see if I can learn something new. In Hierarchy mindset, it’s a super powerful tool. About as useful as listening is to Care and Feeding mindset. Oh, you’re dirty and hungry? Well I’m clean and fed, I’m better than you! You’re struggling? I’m glad *I’m* not in your shoes. You did WHAT!? I am clearly higher up the ladder than you, that’s nonsense.
Shame is really useful in the Hierarchy mindset because it reinforces the ladder, and motivates rising. And really, if what you’re doing *isn’t* rising the ranks, then I don’t want to be associated with you because you’re likely going to bring me down with you. The bottom is a shameful place to be. Falling is even more shameful. If you’re important to me and I see you falling, I’m going to shame you to remind you of where you’re headed! Stay on track! Our lives depend on it! We won’t eat! I picture ancient agrigarian cultures who had to work so hard just to survive, there was no room for the bottom of the ladder, you really would die and bring the whole family down with you.
I define shame as the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging – something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection. -Brene Brown
It’s interesting to note that the tools that are so useful to Care and Feeding mindset pretty much sabotage Hierarchy mindset and vice versa. Care and feeding thrives on listening, curiosity, and collaboration. Hierarchy mindset thrives on shame, judgement, and authority.
I’ve been pondering the feeling of ownership lately. Ownership is about a sense of control and a sense of authority. It’s about power and decision making. Ownership over your own life is really important. While it’s technically possible to get all of your needs met without it, it makes the trust factor very difficult unless you submit all control and have someone or something or a system in place that you can trust implicitly. If that system fails, though, it’s still up to you to find something that works, and so there goes ownership again. But if you’ve been dependent all your life and suddenly the system fails, chances are you won’t easily step up to own the situation. And so for the sake of a robust system, I choose to develop the skill of ownership as much as possible.
What is appropriate ownership? Where are the boundaries? What’s stepping out of line? Let’s start with, you have ownership over anything that is yours. If it’s not yours, you don’t own it. So what is yours? You have possessions. Those are yours and you are in control of them. You choose where they belong, what they’re used for, who can use them and when. They’re yours. You don’t have to share, and if somebody takes them from you, they’re out of line. That said, if you want to keep your possessions, it’s your job to defend them.
Now let’s extend the concept of ownership beyond possessions. You are responsible for making sure that your needs are met. You own your own needs. What does that look like?
Fuel. Ownership of what you eat and how you nourish your body is about having preferences, and having the ability to choose what you eat. It might mean listening to cravings and disgust, or it might mean choosing what diet you want to follow. It’s freedom and liberty to make your own decisions about what goes in your mouth. It’s the opposite of being told what you have to eat (Eat your vegetables! Finish your plate!) or what you can’t eat (No salt! Sugar is bad. Limit your calories. Low fat. Low carb. No red meat. No antinutrients. No processed foods!) It’s the opposite of food regulations that prevent you from consuming what you want to consume (raw milk, undercooked meat, locally butchered meats), or being forced to consume something you don’t want (pesticides, preservatives, artificial color and flavoring, GMOs).
Engage your Mind. Ownership of how you engage your mind means choosing your own interests and projects, and choosing what you want to work on and when. It’s the opposite of being told what to learn or where to work or clickbait. It’s the opposite of zoning out in front of the TV, watching whatever comes on next. It’s freedom and liberty to say what interests you and what you want to be doing with your time.
Movement. Ownership of movement. I’m going to have to come back to this one. Freedom and liberty. Is it about being free from reflexes? Is it about developing at your own pace? Is it about moving your own way, when you want to? Is it the opposite of being stuck inside or stuck in a desk? The opposite of being forced to run or forced to do something you don’t want to be doing? The opposite of moving on someone else’s schedule?
Rest. Ownership of rest would be about choosing when you take a break and how long of a break you need. It’s going to bed when you’re tired and sleeping as long as you need. Ownership of your space is choosing what goes in it and how it’s organized and decorated – your possessions. Having ownership of your emotions means being able the express them in a method of your choosing, as needed. Ownership of your mind means you are in charge of how it’s organized. Others can listen, but they can’t tell you how to think or what’s right and wrong. It’s the opposite of being forced to share, of not having your own space, of forced apologies and holding back tears.
Connection. Ownership of connection is about choosing who you spend time with. Choosing your social environment, and the culture in which you’re living. It’s the opposite of your parents choosing your friends, or living somewhere with a culture that just doesn’t fit who you are.
Separate from the needs, I’m thinking about timers. When you set a timer for yourself, you’re owning how you use your time, but you’re not really owning meeting your needs. If you’re deeply involved in a project and loving it and the timer goes off and you have to stop and dig yourself out into a different mental state – maybe to go eat lunch, that’s something. It’s not having full ownership over how you engage your mind. You’re not eating because you’re hungry, you’re eating because you should. Which might not necessarily be a bad thing, but I think it should be distinguished.
The common theme coming through is that ownership is about freedom and liberty, and it’s the opposite of external control. Rational thought still feels like a form of external control on this one to me. Which isn’t to say that it’s bad or unnecessary, just that it’s not the same as total freedom and liberty. We’re caught in a major transition time period of history. Just the fact that this blog is interesting is an indicator that we can’t trust all of our instincts and we need/want to be doing personal work to grow from how we were raised. Rational thought and control is a critical tool for that process. I would argue, though, that a few generations out, when we are so well practiced at getting our needs met first and foremost, and it’s been completely ingrained into our limbic systems and society, it would be totally instinctual and we wouldn’t need the rational control anymore. And timers might seem ridiculous.