Resisting cultural needs

Cultural programming


Over the past week, could there be more explicit examples of cultural programming? First, we are expected to gather together to celebrate a holiday based on a fictional version of history. Then, we are bombarded with the expectation to shop for things that, according to the advertising, will make us better and happier. Did you know that on average, 95% of our thoughts are a result of cultural programming versus 5% of conscious thought. Need proof? Today, be aware of how many times you think or say, “I should” or “I shouldn’t.” These are not necessarily things you truly want to do to meet your needs, they are expectations from extrinsic forces such as culture, family, society. This is why it is critical to know what your needs are and how you can best meet them.


Basic needs vs. extended needs


Basic human needs drive us on a real, animalistic level. We need food, air, water, shelter, and rest to survive. Once those needs are met, we seek to meet the need of a sense of safety and security, stability and consistency (routine), physical well-being, sexual expression, confidence, support, and trust. How do you know when you feel safe and secure? Most of us know and can easily describe how we feel when we do not feel safe. What does physical well-being mean to you? I know when I suffered an injury that caused two herniated discs in my lower back, well-being took on a whole new meaning for me. Healthy would be pain-free, able to be physically active, at a healthy weight, able to get a restful sleep, able to care for myself, strong, flexible. How do you trust? How do you earn trust? How do you trust yourself? You need confidence in yourself as well as in those whom you let into your life. What does it feel like to feel supported? What does it feel to be appreciated?


As basic needs are met, we seek to meet the deeper needs of our psyche. Do you know what it is like to feel connection and empathy? I think this is the deepest wound for most of us. We want to feel accepted, appreciated, close, a sense of belonging, respect, and that we matter. In our relationships, we want to feel a sense of affection, consideration, consistency, humor, intimacy, and trust. We want to feel heard and we want to know what is really going on inside those we care about because we want to make life more wonderful for those people. We want to feel a part of a tribe or team, to have that sense of community. We want to have fun. We wonder if those we let in will be there for us when we need them; can you trust them? This is the place where many people tap into the experience of feeling “abandoned.”


As children, when these needs go unmet, we develop a sense of unworthiness, of being unlovable, of being not good enough. We develop thoughts such as, “… if I were stronger, smarter, funnier, quieter, I could be accepted, appreciated, belong.” Unfortunately, trying to be enough is not only impossible, it completely goes against your essence (which is already enough), creating suffering and disconnection. These feelings are deeply rooted into the subconscious level. We are not even aware of how they affect us on a daily basis.  I started with connection and empathy because they drive so many of our decisions.


Each and every one of us has at some point questioned how to meet our highest needs. We look for our purpose. We become aware of our highest self, something beyond our ego, and it drives us to be conscious, creative, and compassionate. We want to make a difference and to contribute. We see injustice and want to do something about it. We aim for self-efficacy. We want to discover and grow. We need to celebrate successes and mourn losses. Not meeting these needs taps into our deeply rooted original needs and fears, setting us into patterns of “stuckness” and of suffering.


Throughout life, something in us seeks to fulfill our need for autonomy. We need empowerment. The less we know our own needs though, the easier it is to become enslaved by the needs and desires of others. No one wants to be told what to do; we want to choose for ourselves. Our soul seeks freedom and independence to make choices to express our essence. We need space to grow. Our soul needs adventure and spontaneity from time to time. I, however, think my soul needs adventure daily, so I have a blast creating adventures out of the most ordinary activities.


Then there is the final set of needs, probably most at odds with cultural programming: authenticity, integrity, and good communication. All of us need others to be present to us and we need to know how best to be present to others. Living in this place is highly functioning, self-efficacy. You know those people that you just want to be around because they are so wonderful, and you always feel good after you have been with them? They have reached this level of meeting needs and they know how to help others meet those needs. There aren’t many people out there at this level, so you always know it when you meet them.



Now that you have explored, however briefly, what are your needs, as you get sucked into the shopping or should frenzies that prevail in this season, as yourself three simple questions:

What is this about for me?

Why do I want this?

What needs does it meet?

As you become clear on your intentions for your actions, you gain power over yourself and liberation from the mind-control of our culture. You also take personal accountability. You likely will find that you feel happier for seemingly no reason. This isn’t completely accurate. You are happier because you are aware of and appreciative of the simplicity and beauty every day life has to offer. Getting back to the basics brings childlike wonderment, curiosity, and adventure. Life is play. As Martha Beck says, “Play till you are tired and then rest until you are ready to play.” Imagine a holiday season based on that concept!


© 2012 Wendy Reese/Peace in the City

But go ahead, take my stuff. Publish it on your site, tweet links, post it on Facebook, print vast paragraphs in your destined-to-be bestselling book…with attribution credit to yours truly, of course.