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  • Writer's pictureZebulon McCain

Men: Having Needs isn't Needy

Some years ago, my wife and I along with our teenage son took a local parenting class offered by our county Social Services. It was a group class called the Nurturing Parenting Program and it ran each Monday evening for thirteen weeks. A variety of other families with teenage kids attended the sessions. An eye-opening exercise in our fourth Monday introduced us to the six needs idea: Social, Physical, Intellectual, Creative, Emotional, and Spiritual. In the curriculum, the authors called it SPICES. We, as individual students, assigned a numerical value from one to five for each of those needs, rating how much we valued that particular need. The telling part of the exercise was that we were also assigned to rate on the one to five scale how frequently we actually got that need met. The idea being that we would be able to easily visualize those areas of discrepancy and then proceed to form a strategy to remedy that disparity. The gist being that when we remedy the disparities in our needs, we can then afford to be more loving and patient with our loved ones while establishing boundaries and expectations at the same time. I believe that most men (particularly those with a family) sacrifice tremendously and neglect themselves in the process. That neglect leads to frayed nerves, chronic stress, and makes us quick to become angry.

The six needs exercise proved to be such an excellent tool that I had to borrow it from the Nurturing Parenting Program and share it with the private men’s group I was also attending separately at that time. Each member was able to identify at least one or more of those needs that he valued highly, yet failed to meet consistently (if at all). We each began working on our individual areas that had been lacking. A couple of men were lacking in the intellectual area, so began some reading or study. Some of us were hung up on the creative and sought to improve that situation. In my case it prompted me to begin writing on men’s issues. Physical was a need that a couple members began to take seriously by improving their diet and exercise. Occasionally our group would check back in on this concept to hold one another accountable for making improvements as far as getting our needs met. I recommend that my readers (both male and female) consider examining and then pursuing these six needs as a means of obtaining a better overall quality of life.

The Social need can initially be an uncomfortable one, particularly if, like myself, a person has some degree of social anxiety or introversion. Social interactions can become “stress inoculation” that eventually pull us away from that end of the spectrum towards a more comfortable place of social functionality. At this point we can reap the healthy benefits of social interactions, friendships, and a social network. Opportunities primarily manifest through relationships, so by cultivating those relationships we will have abundant opportunities.

The Physical need can be addressed according to one’s place of physical health or development. Perhaps it means baby steps in improving diet and exercise. Perhaps it means more physical human contact in whatever form is appropriate.

The Intellectual need is just as it sounds. Furthering one’s education, researching something, or even teaching others. Expanding our mind is crucial. Reading, exploring, debating, and problem solving are all forms of stimulating our brain.

Creative may not be vital to everyone, particularly those that have no obvious need to be creative. I recommend being honest with oneself; creativity might be more necessary than we think. Some of us need to express ourselves creatively and that need must be met for our best possible mental health. Painting, writing, welding, or woodworking are just a few examples. The list is long, and we must find what creative outlet(s) speaks to us and pursue it.

Emotional would be intimacy, trust, and acceptance. Professional counseling (a counselor with understanding of men's issues) would likely help with emotional security. Participating in a men’s group (or fathers support group if one is a father figure) may be helpful.

Spiritual is the need I struggled with most initially (as a more atheist leaning man). Spirituality or religion can give a person a sense of purpose in life and help us through tough situations. The need may be hardwired into humans as a result. Having a more agnostic view, now, I can find spiritual connection through flow state, martial arts, or climbing a mountain.

I have referenced Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in previous blog posts and my Ethos of Men book series. It is a powerful thing to get involved with as it has the potential to meet multiple needs simultaneously. The cult-like following is not without its reasons. The Social need is obvious, as students we interact with fellow students and form relationships based on trust and respect. The brotherhood I have found in the fight gym is phenomenal and can offer many of the benefits of a men’s group. The Physical need gets addressed in a couple of ways, through physical conditioning as well as physical contact. The intellectual need could be met by the learning process itself as we form strategies and tactics. Of course, the creative need could be met through the quick-thinking application of those strategies. The emotional need can (at least in part) be met through coping with the humbling challenges of the martial art. The spiritual need could be helped by the mindful and meditative flow state of grappling. I prefer not to rely exclusively on this martial art to meet all six needs but recognize it as a serious supplement to doing so.

When a man abandons one or more of the six needs or possibly is just unaware of the existence of these needs, he likely won't be at his full potential. It isn’t easy at first, but we must find ways to meet all six needs. It is important and can be life altering. Let us gain more of that full potential and experience a better quality of life.


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