The human givens (HG) approach originated in the field of psychotherapy and the many new insights provided by the research of its founders, Joe Griffin and Ivan Tyrrell, have been quietly revolutionising the effective treatment of mental health and behavioural problems for the last 20 years.
The organising ideas and framework contained in the human givens approach have subsequently been found to be so universally applicable that HG principles are now also used in many other settings, such as education, business and diplomacy – improving outcomes and increasing our understanding of human nature and how to interact with people in a way that enhances their emotional health and helps them make the most of their abilities and talents.
The human givens approach – which was developed 20 years ago – derives from the understanding that, when essential emotional needs are met and our innate mental resources are used correctly, a human being will be emotionally and mentally healthy. Essential psychological needs identified over decades of work by health and social psychologists include needs for autonomy, sense of control, security, connection, attention, achievement, status and meaning. Innate resources, much studied by neuroscientists, include our abilities to learn from experience, plan, judge, imagine, relate one thing to another, empathise, develop a moral sense, remember, etc.
It is when emotional needs are not adequately met, or are met in unhealthy ways, or when innate resources are damaged for any reason, or are unintentionally misused, that undesirable mental states such as anxiety, anger, depression, addiction and psychosisdevelop. For instance, misuse of the imagination – to conjure up worst possible or threatening scenarios – is a common feature of all these states.
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