We’re all human and in this testing time of covid pandemic how are our basic human needs being met?
Humans are social, We are conceived in relationship, as foetuses, we develop inside another, we grow up in relationship to our parent(s), communities and groups. As Muslims the greatest relationship is with Allah swt and He has gifted us with Guidance and other humans in which to survive our time in the Dunyah. We were not created alone so why do we sometimes feel alone?
Human contact is very important to us and in Islam brotherhood / sisterhood, Ummah, family and spouses are a large part of our way towards success. A rewarding and satisfying aspect of relationships are relationships with meaning and a shared intimacy in our life aims. When that aim is a positive match with someone’s else’s it is unifying and uplifting. When our aims are dependent on and negative then a mismatch is conflicting. A simple example of this is a relationship with the aim “friendship for the sake of Allah swt”. A friend who hasn’t understood the full meaning of this intimate unifying relationship aim will have other intentions to the friendship which is likely to at some point clash with the others, they will both expect different outcomes resulting in higher or lower expectations of each other.
When we are with someone who is able to meet us in being real, open, emotionally available and vulnerable this allows us to be creative, allows for feedback and advice, allows for respect, forgiveness, empathy, love and fulfill the true meaning of relationships to ‘love for others as you love for yourself’. This doesn’t just ‘happen’ however, this kind of relationship takes time and the Sahabah (companions of the Prophet) are the greatest example of such a relationship. In this type of tarbiyah (raising) relationship, we learn how to be ourselves in Relationship to those significant relationships and ultimately to Allah swt. Babies, for example, who do not get the love and care they need fail to thrive. We all need contact to survive. We get that contact in different ways at different times.
We have many needs as humans and Allah swt has gifted us in His mercy with a means to fulfill our psychological and spiritual “hungers”. The following is an Islamic adaptation of Bernes (TA) Hungers model.
Eric Berne, founder of Transactional Analysis (TA) has a useful model about the way humans get the contact they need to survive. His model identified a number of ‘hungers’ in all humans that can be met through different kinds of social interaction that he categorized as ways of ‘Time Structuring’. I will use this model with examples of Islamic principles to aid our understanding of what we may need in our lives.
Berne termed the human hungers as:
• Recognition: eye contact, smiles, comments, encouragement, attention, being noticed and valued
• Contact: non-intrusive touch
• Stimulation: sensory: auditory, visual, kinaesthetic, tactile, taste
(We often put all these three together under ‘contact’.)
• Structure: predictable routines, order (out of chaos), followed through plans in time and
space, recognition of special events and their anniversaries
• Incident: novelty, drama, exciting, fresh, unknown challenge and risk
• Sexual: acceptance as a potential or actual sexual physical being; acknowledgment for
being attractive and attracting; recognition of states of arousal, physical needs
And Most importantly
• Spiritual: Fish, S (1996) added this hunger for a deep connection, wonder at life, an urge
to find meaning, a desire to share a special moment with others, to experience connection with a life force or source greater than oneself.
Berne called every unit of contact a ‘stroke’.
He maintained that we all need to get a daily quota of ‘strokes’- without them we began to lose our capacity to thrive. He suggested that we structure our days to get the strokes we need in some of the following ways.
Withdrawal: time alone, without direct contact with others. May be reading, writing, drawing, painting, being creative, meditating, and listening to music. This can be isolating when it is the dominant or only way of getting strokes.
Islamic Practice: retreat, Ramadan, prayer, Quran time, Dhikr, Muraqabah. Too much can take the rights of others and self As the Hadith advice is to keep a balance, your body has rights as does your spouse and others. To little and we fall out of relationship with Allah swt
Rituals: routine social interactions; as if pre-programmed, usually occurring at the same time or in the same place; includes simple greetings; social acknowledgement with neighbours etc. It is low in intensity, generally predictable and not personally revealing.
“Hello, how are you?” “Fine.” Cups of tea; waving when passing etc. This can provide basic safety and yet it is not essentially satisfying on its own.
Islamic: Attending congregational prayer, Simple “salaam alaikum” to passers by. A smile to all, a charity in the eyes of our Prophet swws and importantly the 5 Daily prayers on time.
Pastimes: Past-timing proceeds in a familiar way e.g. chats about last night’s television programme or the weather! It’s generally positive contact, talking about something in the past that is safe, predictable and probably shared e.g. the weather; ; current events , holidays etc Can be regular and valued by both parties. It is not personally engaging or revealing and is often a way of sounding each other out.
Islamic pastime: shared talks and articles of Quran and Hadith. Positive quotes. Friendly positive chat groups to share thoughts and ideas (be careful potential over share or over need in the wrong place can cause misunderstandings and rejection)
Activity: Doing things with others; sports, recreation, clubs, card or board games; doing up houses; going travelling; shopping etc -the focus is on the shared activity and companionship or competition. The degree of risk depends on the activity. Many couples and friendships depend on the companionship of shared activity.
Islamic activities: walking with friends, swim, horses, archery. Social groups and circles of knowledge. Islamic talks and events. Mosque activities and prayers.
life is a balance and Islam is the middle way. Recognising what may be missing in our day will Help us to ask for what we need. All too often as Muslims we hear advice that all we need is Allah swt and yes that is true, This is the ultimate aim! Allah swt has given us many ways to reach him and many ways to climb to spiritual and psychological stairs to His nearness. It is about balance and recognising the rights of our bodies as much as others. Yes as Muslims we give, it’s a servitude but that includes looking at what we need to be In order to be the best servant to Allah swt.
Do you recognise any of these hungers in your own self? What do you think you need? Be careful to dismiss or as Berne says “discount” those needs just because someone misquoted a Hadith or ayat to fulfill their own ideas of what the command or advice means. It pains me when others discount someone’s needs as dependency on anything but Allah! A need is a need and as long as we recognise we are in need and Allah is creator of needs And giver to the needy, then we can carry on and seek help and assistance to understand and support those needs as they come and as they go. We have to begin somewhere, we are born dependent and we need.
So let’s ask ourselves what I’m I empty of today? Some time out? Some contact? Some stimulation? Some fun? Something educational? Something which smells good or tastes good? Then to keep it in the Islamic scale, ask is that need in balance with what Allah swt says I need? Is it a balanced need and not detrimental to my or others needs?
“do I really need To buy this lipstick or do I just need to hear that I’m beautiful?
“Do I need to be shouting at the kids or do I need someone to help me with them?
Do I need chocolate or am I board/tiered?’ A; “Nope, I just like it!” 🙂
yeh yeh we can analyse why do we need to hear we are beautiful etc etc sometimes we do okay! Sometimes your need is different than someone else’s, be careful to not dismiss needs of others as Un-islamic or not befitting to a Muslim. You have no idea of where someone is at in their lives or how they got to where they are. Islam Imam Ihsaan is a 3 stage process, the Quran revealed and raised a generation over many many years, it is a unique Tarbiyah System. Yes we need to understand the need but we also need to recognise it’s existence.
Remember, this Covid situation is putting unusual pressure on us all and for most of us our needs are neglected due to the many restrictions and increased pressures. Be sure to check where you are on your hunger scale and what if anything, needs a good feed!
Georgina (scoff scoff!)
Fronting The Challenge Projects Ltd 2009. Stewart, Ian and Joines, Vann (1987:87) ‘TA Today’ pub Lifespace. Nottingham.