On a scale from 1 to 10, how much—ahhhhhhh!
Your emotions provide intensity, a sense of urgency. Must have it now?
Whatever you feel about Donald Trump’s presidency, or about your current job, or just about anything, you feel it as intensely as you need something. Your emotions convey your needs. Where you experience no need, you experience no emotion.
Your cycle of focus with each need
Besides direction, each emotion conveys your need’s intensity. The more intense you feel your need, the more it grabs at your focus. Consumes your attention. Often compelling you to seek relief.
You go from feeling your need to no longer feeling your need. Using new terms to illustrate this, you see how you quickly—or sometimes slowly—shift through four phases.
Nature-based anakelogy uses another four-part-circle to illustrates this in its need focus cycle.
Prior to needing it now, your need laid dormant. If you don’t feel thirsty right now, for example, your body’s need for water remains nonfocal.
You still need water. Just not right now. You have enough water in your system, thank you very much. So you don’t feel the need at the moment. It’s nonfocal.
Most of your needs at any time sit somewhere in this nonfocal stage. They must, or you would be overwhelmed.
As your body’s fluid level drops, it starts to signal you. You don’t feel a full-on thirst yet, but know it’s coming. Don’t you? For now, your need for water waits in a queue with a bunch of other prefocal needs.
You expect your friend to call to ease your loneliness, but you’re doing fine as you wait. You anticipate your paycheck to direct deposit into your bank any minute now, but your account is not yet in the red. It helps to be aware of these needs before they become emergencies.
Meanwhile, you’re dimly aware of this creeping thirst, but likely must attend more pressing matters. That drink can wait. You know to get ready for it.
Now you can’t focus well on other things until you take a gulp from your water bottle. Or get yourself a cup of coffee. Whatever it takes to restore your body’s fluid level to quench that thirst.
About now, your loneliness yanks at you to call your friend, as you feel distracted without her inspiring words. About now, you check your account to see if that check cleared, lest you get an overdraft charge and all the anxiety that comes with it.
You now focus squarely on your most urgent needs. You can do little else. We aren’t built to put our most pressing needs on hold and still function as usual. We feel compelled to do something about such needs, to relieve them as promptly and fully as we can.
After a few sips, you can feel your thirst subside. You no longer feel consumed by it. You can now freely focus on other things, instead of obsessing about what’s available to drink.
After hearing your friend’s reassuring affirmation, you find it easier to focus on what she has to say. After seeing your paycheck post to your bank account, it falls off your radar.
You feel relieved. Your thirst feels quenched. You enjoy the pleasurable warmth from a loving friend. You know the peace of being financially secure once again. You feel these needs fade, but realize they are not completely off your radar, yet.
Thirst? What thirst? Your body’s need for fluid equilibrium slips completely out of your current awareness. Of course, your body’s need for water persists. With the right balance, you simply do not focus on it anymore.
No loneliness. No financial worries. These too slide to the backburners. Leaving ample room for other needs coming into focus.
Eventually, each of these sleeping needs will reawaken. Most of our needs cycle back and forth like this. Which keeps them predictable, and helps us remain prepared. The more of these needs fully of our minds, the easier to enjoy life.
Applied to both desire and pain
The diagram above applies specifically to focusing on desire—on replenishing what’s been depleted. This one below applies specifically to focusing on pain—on removing threatening excesses.
Both cycle around from nonfocal back to nonfocal. Some needs only apply in one of these directions. Like too much pressure on the skin. Others swing in both directions. Thirst is complemented by relieving the bladder.
Stacked atop each other, you can see how some needs vacillate between pain and desire. Your emotions convey the focus of your needs direction something like this.
Focusing on your emotional focusing of needs
While your need for water slides into a defocal stage, your hunger for food may rapidly shift from prefocal to focal. Before you can satisfy that need, your need to remove some stomach cramps suddenly becomes focal. Your hunger must now wait, defocal but not yet fully nonfocal.
How you attend one need readily affects another. Some needs promptly become nonfocal after you start addressing them. Others take much longer. Especially if you’re relying on substitutes—like junk food.
Satisfying some needs only lasts a brief moment. Your need for oxygen remains constant. Instant pain if you can’t breathe freely. Meanwhile, you can go days without hearing from your mother.
Your never-ending emotional focusing of needs
A need you assumed was fully satisfied returns to your painful awareness. Perhaps you left it in its defocal stage and failed to finish replenishing, or removing, what proved necessary. Or the substitute you relied on failed to last long.
What we call peace could be characterized as moments we feel neither the focus on some pain to relieve or desire to fulfill. What we call contentment could simple be these fleeting moments of the nonfocal stage.
Nature doesn’t care what we call it. Or what we believe about it. Nature governs how we experience our needs. And if you reflect on it, you realize you will inevitably feel some focal need right about now. Well, did you?
Steph Turner is the founder of anakelogy, the study of need. Also the founder of Value Relating to apply anakelogy to your painful needs, offering a viable alternative to stigmatizing psychotherapy, by inviting you to speak your truth to power.