One of the aspects making self-awareness a challenge are habits.
Habits include things we are accustomed to experience as well as the things we regularly do. Both being usually out of our awareness.
Take for example the habits to have some background music while working, to always start the day in the same manner or to discount recognition because it was just normal. All of these habits serve a purpose, at least one of which we aren’t always aware of. They all serve what Berne called hungers and seek to avoid a lack or a too much of it. Hearing music provides us with stimulus and knowing how the day will get started serves our hunger for structure. Whereas discounting recognition helps us avoid too many strokes. In the first two cases we are filling our batteries. In the later we are emptying it. In all cases, we attend to a hunger.
We are so used to our own behavior that we often don’t realize anymore how they serve us and how they are interlinked.
Berne helped us see that we all have some basic hungers. One could describe them as a variety of input we need to feel comfortable. The ways we serve them positively or negatively belong to our habits. It’s only once we realize them, that we can choose how to serve them. Not serving them positively leads to a sense of lack, of hunger. It’s a sense we will try to resolve.
In the beginning, we’ll just assume that if we can adapt our behavior slightly this will be sufficient. The challenge we move into in such moments is that we make ourselves dependent on others. Now it is the other person’s reaction that is supposed to feed our hunger. The assumption being, that if the other person’s reaction corresponds to our expectations, then things will be alright.
It’s a start to feeling stressed. Maybe hardly perceptible and yet already a fear that our expectations will not be fulfilled. That is often the moment when people start to do whatever possible to make it happen. If things don’t change well enough or fast enough, then the fear that nothing happens or that no positive solution is available may lead a person to proactively acknowledge that expectations will not be met, or said differently to discount the expectations. It’s acting as if the hungers wouldn’t exist.
During his research, Taibi Kahler expanded on the idea of hungers as Berne established it. In doing so Taibi specified what he called “psychological needs”. He embedded them in the more specific context of the six personality types he had described with the Process Communication Model. Among the hunger for stimulus, he noticed a need for incident vs a need for solitude. On another continuum within the hunger for stimulus he found the need for contact and sensory needs, which all imply some sense of being touched, may it be physical or through senses. His research also allowed Taibi to describe three different types of strokes people would be looking for to fulfill their need for recognition. He connected recognition for one’s work with the idea to feel competent, the idea of recognition for oneself as a way to feel accepted in the way we are, and the recognition of one’s convictions as a way to be seen for one’s dedication and beliefs. The hunger for structure showed itself in a need for time structure, that is in the ability to plan what is ahead.
Using these more detailed and more specific Psychological Needs, Taibi made the hungers more tangible and more visible. Seeing them within the context of a personality type makes it easier to become aware of how they might be relevant for us individually. The specific description makes it easier to test each one of them for oneself. It allows seeing how people can make themselves aware of these needs and thus attend them. Once they become more clear it becomes easier to address them and as a result, feel motivated.