Mapping out Your Core Needs
Episode #4 of the course How to become happier: A guide to reprogramming your thinking by John Robin
Welcome to the fourth day of our course on becoming happier.
Yesterday, we improved our inversion skills by adding a fourth step:
Step 1: Notice negative thoughts.
Step 2: Catch a negative thought and reword it to be positive.
Step 3: Notice patterns in the negative thoughts you record.
Step 4: Develop the inverted thought that resonates with your core needs.
By making lists of possible “best fit” inverted thoughts, we were able to develop the best inverted thought by paying attention to the feelings behind each core need and how the “fittest” thought is the one that helps us feel those needs are met the most.
But where do these core needs come from? I promised you there was a faster way to improve your ability to invert negative thoughts, and today, we’re going to see just how that works.
Peering Beyond the Thinking Habit
Thinking is a habit. In fact, it’s so deeply rooted in each of us that we don’t “think” about it.
You have been thinking since before you can remember. Even in your earliest memories of life, your world was a world of thoughts and beliefs you formed about the world, carried forward into those tattered pieces of memory that form your earliest years, knit together with finer stitching as you matured. Thought after thought, all the patterns that define you and how you think about your life have formed the thinking habit that is “you”.
This insight is extremely powerful, because if thinking is a habit, that means, like any habit, you can develop better thinking habits.
We have already been working on the small habits that start this change. Learning to spot negative thoughts is an opportunity to notice your thinking habit. Taking action and writing down a list of inverted thoughts, paying attention to patterns, noticing how you feel when you pick the “best” inverted thought — this is an opportunity to seed new thinking habits. These new thinking habits form new patterns as you continue with them. They are smartly designed now since you can draw from your awareness of what your best thoughts need to have, what core needs must be met.
A new “you” emerges through this new world of thought. What you become is really down to what new thoughts you choose to pursue.
But doing this as best as possible means going beyond just noticing a few patterns. Our goal is to identify all the core needs under all of our negative thoughts.
This brings us to step 5 of our process:
Step 5: Map out your list of core needs as you notice more patterns.
As you continue to write down negative thoughts and notice further patterns, you will come across different core needs that aren’t being met.
It’s possible that quite a few core needs will emerge as you continue to analyze your thoughts over days and weeks. Let this list grow, just like you learned yesterday to make a list of many candidate inverted thoughts.
Then, select only five.
To understand why this is important, imagine by way of analogy, the process of trying on clothing. To determine what fits best, you only need a few critical measurements: hip size, leg length, arm length, chest size, ease of movement, feel of the fabric, visual effect. You could go on and on with other minutiae like hem diameters, ratios of different circumferences, at different angles, etc. It’s not that these aren’t important. They’re just not critical.
Imagine this is your list of core needs: feeling valued, feeling safe, feeling wealthy, feeling fit, feeling attractive, feeling trust, feeling energetic, feeling confident.
Maybe you’ve noticed these from thoughts about being broke, stressed about money, being out of shape, hating your boss, failing at your job, thinking everyone is out to get you, not liking what you see in the mirror. These are all valid but the critical ones are: feeling valued, feeling safe, feeling attractive, feeling trust, feeling confident.
Notice something about all the critical ones we’ve kept.
They are all deep-rooted, long-lasting feelings you are in need of to feel you can survive in the world. These are called relational feelings because they depend on how you relate to yourself, the world, or others. Don’t mix them up with “simple” feelings like hurt, sadness, joy, fear.
With this list of critical relational feelings you are in need of, you have the best measurements to develop the best inverted thoughts.
And there’s a reason why your negative thoughts come from not feeling what these core needs provide. That will be the frontier of tomorrow’s lesson!
Expand your list of core needs from further analyzing more negative thoughts. Try to get your list 8-12 items long.
Now think about which five core needs reflect relational emotions you must feel to be able to survive in the world. Which are the most critical?
Select those, and keep them handy. We’re going to put them to work tomorrow!
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