“The human soul… simply wants to be witnessed — to be seen, heard, and companioned exactly as it is.” Parker Palmer
It was more than two decades ago that a therapist explained to me about what he understood as 3 fundamental human needs: to be heard, to be cared for, and to be accepted (by someone or some thing significant).
I don’t know about you, but his proposition certainly rings true for me. I have frequently pondered, applied, and even relied upon this framework.
To Be or Not to Be… Known
These three elements are all about personal identity and dignity. One of the key matters I have historically wrestled with is that of non-existence—that although I may have been physically present, I once felt as if no one even noticed, that no one cared, and no one wanted me. What I know now is that these feelings were the result of physical and emotional abandonment until the age of eight.
As Parker Palmer wrote in the quote above, “my soul simply wanted to be witnessed.”
And then came along my adopted mother—Aunt Billie—who demonstrated that I was the most important person in her world. She was Jesus for me; my savior; my salvation. And yes, it took takes years/decades to recover psychologically. But recovery did occur, and it was all due to the love I received from one significant person.
So, my question for you is twofold: what do You need for your soul to be witnessed and what are you prepared to do to provide other people with the dignity they so hungrily desire?
Let’s explore Dr Phil Sutherland’s observations…
To Be Heard
It has to do with the feeling that you really matter. When your ideas and feelings are acknowledged by another you truly “exist” as a person of value. Your words when expressed reflect a large part of your very core. And when you divulge your core, you are most vulnerable. If your very deep and personal words are rejected then you feel as if you are rejected as a person.
But when someone listens, you spring to life because the real you has been acknowledged. And so, it matters if you take time to genuinely hear the words of someone else, especially the words of a loved one.
To Be Cared For
By “cared for” I do not mean like a “caretaker.” Perhaps what I mean is more like “cared about.” You feel your best when others demonstrate love. They are sad when you are sad, and most especially they are joyful when you are successful. You know that you are cared for/about when your others rejoice (without jealousy) at your successes.
To Be Accepted
For me this may be the vital of the three. My son has always played on a team of some sort, now as a professional. He fights dearly for his comrades because “team acceptance” is what drives most athletes.
We all admire significant people or groups, and when they “invite us into their group” we feel significant as well.
What About You?
Which of the human needs is most important for you? You do matter.
And which of these needs are you most expert in demonstrating. Others matter as well!
Finding Acknowledgment for Your Core
Will Lead to Unparalleled Satisfaction in Your Life
Photo courtesy of NanoStockk at istockphoto