We are all born with innate knowledge programmed into us from our genes. Throughout life we experience this knowledge as feelings of physical and emotional needs. Meeting these needs is essential for our physical and emotional survival.
These feelings evolved over millions of years and are the driving force that motivates us to become fully human and succeed in whatever environment we find ourselves in.
Along with our innate needs nature gave us ‘guidance systems’ or ‘resources’ to help us get our innate needs met. It is because these needs and resources are our common biological inheritance, whatever our cultural background or experience, that they are called human ‘givens’.
Our given physical needs are fairly obvious: we need air to breathe, water to drink, nutritious food and sufficient sleep. These are the paramount physical needs. Without them, we quickly die. In addition we also need the freedom to stimulate our senses and exercise our muscles. We instinctively seek sufficient and secure shelter where we can grow and reproduce ourselves and bring up our young.
These physical needs are intimately bound up with our emotional needs — the main focus of human givens psychology.
Emotions create distinctive psychobiological states in us and exist to drive us to take action of some kind. The emotional responses that nature has programmed us with are there to connect us to the external world and survive in it. They mainly seek their fulfilment through the way we interact with other people and the environment. Consequently, when these needs are not met, nature ensures we suffer considerable distress — anxiety, anger, depression etc. — and our expression of distress, in whatever form it takes, impacts on those around us.
In short, it is by meeting our physical and emotional needs that we survive and develop as individuals and a species.