Human Nature

School has started up again.  My first lesson in Rio Salado BHS205 – Therapeutic Intervention Models is to write an essay on my beliefs of human nature, how people develop problems, and the most effective ways to help them.  These are my thoughts:

I believe that humans share fundamental universal needs. These needs include connection, physical well-being, honesty, peace, meaning, fun, and autonomy. If the needs of a person are not met, then it is human nature for that person to seek to meet that need. People use a lot of strategies to get their needs met. For instance, someone that is not getting enough appreciation may react to that state by feeling angry, sad, or perplexed. They may seek to get the need for appreciation met by complaining, by striking out at someone, by working harder, or by asking for appreciation. Some strategies may work better than others in getting the need met. Many people do not use effective methods for getting their needs met because they either have not learned effective ways and/or they are not clear on what their need is.

People, their circumstances, and their reactions to those circumstances are a result of causes and conditions that are extremely complex and multi-faceted. Both genetics and environment play a role in creating the experience a person has of life. However, wondering about what has caused a person’s current experience or circumstances is not as important as applying strategies that can lead a person away from an undesirable circumstance to the one that is more optimal. I am a practical person. The past is harder to influence than the present. While lousy genetics and a terrible upbringing may present obstacles to achieving a person’s desired state, I believe all obstacles can be overcome.

A problem is anything that is unwelcome or unpleasant. Not all problems reach a level that instills a person with motivation to change. Many “problems” are either tolerated or “dealt” with using ineffective strategies. The threshold for personal action to change varies with people and is dependent on a person’s tolerance for discomfort and belief that change is possible. It is the individual that decides what is a problem and what is not.

All problems stem from a person having an unmet need and attempting to get a universal need met in ineffective ways. As such, any solution must apply methods to satisfy the unmet need. However, before a solution can be determined, an awareness of the problem must develop. Even when people are aware they have some problem, they may not have examined the problem or their life deep enough to realize where the problem is coming from.

For example, the apparent cause for a DUI may be that they were unlucky enough to have been driving down a street with a sobriety check point. A deeper reason for the DUI was that they made the faulty decision to drive after drinking. Another reason may be that they made the decision to drink. Deeper than that we may find the person was driven to drink by a need to escape or a need to have fun. Having fun is a universal need and the need to escape may be due to feeling pain from having another universal need like connection, meaning, or ease not being met.

The solution a person adopts will depend upon the level of problem they discover. If driving down a street with a sobriety check point is the cause of their DUI then the solution is to be more careful what streets they drive on when drunk. If they find they are using alcohol to escape from the pain of unmet needs (and do not like the consequences, i.e. DUI) then they can adopt strategies to get their needs met and/or alternative methods to care for themselves when they are in pain.

As a helping professional, I can help people identify what is the root cause of their problems and/or dissatisfaction. Incredible changes can arise from someone simply adopting a worldview that is based on awareness and non-judgment. This is the first step. After the problem is identified, or perhaps even more helpful, after the person identifies the kind of life they want to live, I can help the person plan strategies that will create that life and eliminate problems. This is the second step, deciding what strategies to use and coming up with a plan. The heart of the plan is that we cannot change other people, places and things directly, but that we can set up the conditions for both external and internal changes. Then, in order to implement the plan, often new skills need to be developed. I can help the person identify what skills they need/want and guide them in developing them. This is a dynamic process of change with each step giving feedback and informing future growth.

Gladding, S.T. (2005). Counseling theories: Essential concepts and applications. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Merrill Prentice Hall.

Rosenberg, M.B. (2005). Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life
Encinitas, CA: Puddle Dancer Press.

The Perfect Food Plan

For years I’ve asked myself whatharvest from november 2014 phoenix arizona would be the perfect diet for me.  (I’ll clarify, right off the bat, that when I speak of “diet” I am referring to the sum total of the foods one eats, not some caloric restriction food plan.)  I’ve have spent years tweaking my food and have found that the way I eat has evolved as I’ve watched how I feel and how my body reacts when eating certain ways.  While I have reasons for all the food choices I make, I also know that each individual is different and needs a different food plan.  Anyone that advocates a one size fits all diet is bound to catch people short.

My most important goal in eating is optimizing my physical health and avoiding lethargy, upset stomach, and headaches.  I know other people choose diets based on spiritual reasons (vegan or vegetarian) or simply on taste or convenience.   Some people, when they don’t feel good, use drugs (coffee, tea, chocolate, ibuprofen) to make themselves feel better.  This actually doesn’t work very well and long term their health just deteriorates.  I prefer to ensure good health with good diet.

When I was a teenager I had headaches daily.  This was in part due to stress.  However, my way of eating contributed to it strongly.  Finally, in my mid twenties I found the perfect food.  It made me not have headaches and I always had energy.  For about a year 75-85% of my diet was nothing but blue corn flakes, soy milk and raisins. I felt great! I eventually, outgrew the plan and that food combo, unfortunately, doesn’t suit me anymore.

These days I’ve settled on a plan that is omnivorous in order to maximize my feeling of well-being, but still I think their may be a change needed.  I don’t always feel great after every meal and I have a lot of cravings.  The cravings are stress induced in part, but I think there may also be a physiological component.   Since I read about the tooth decay diet I’ve been considering changing my food plan.  To protect teeth a diet that limits grains and focuses on vegetables, dairy, and meat is recommended.  (When I say meat, I mean the flesh of animals that swim, fly, and/or walk.)

Food plans are another thing that must be designed based on inner direction.  I get information about food choices from outside sources, but the final word is my own inner experience.  A quick analysis of what I’ve been eating for the past year reveals that I consistently choose meals that are 48% carbohydrate, 14% protein, and 35% fat.  I was surprised to learn how low in protein my diet was.  I always feel like I am eating a lot of protein.  I also thought I was higher on the fats and lower on the carbohydrates.

A typical day looks like this:

Breakfast:  1 cup rice with 1/2 T coconut of flaxseed oil.  A bowl of homemade lentil soup or chili con carne.  1/4 pound raw carrots.

Lunch: Salad:  4 ounces of Kale or other dark greens, 2 ounces of feta cheese, apple or handful of raisins, 1 avocado.  maybe 1 ounce corn chips

Next Meal:  3 ounces figs, 2- 3 ounces sliced cheese

Dinner:  2 slices homemade banana custard rice bread with 2 cups yogurt.

My breakfast was always the same and the rest of the day could vary more.  My goal would be to balance some protein with whatever I was having at each meal.  That’s why I thought I was eating so much protein.

I think my reservations with increasing protein is that I ultimately would like to not have to contribute to the killing of animals or the slavery of animals (milk production).  And while I’m on the topic, milk production can only be possible if a animal has a baby and those babies find themselves transformed into meat at some point.  So, to me, eating dairy may be less ethical than just eating meat.  And this is from someone that has raised and slaughtered animals and kept a few milk goats.  Although, my milk goats were pygmies and their babies were sold as pets and not food.  But I digress,

Anyway, I am a curious sort of person and after reading the tooth decay diet I tried reducing my carbohydrate intake.  This worked for a couple of days then it slipped back up.  Yesterday I started a more concentrated effort.  My plan is to increase my protein to 21%, my fat to 52% and keep the carbohydrates at 27%, roughly.

In my looking around at diets on the web I stumbled onto Dr. Mercola’s nutritional typing and his nutrition plan for beginners, intermediate, advanced souls.  His information seems to be pretty good and at least worthy of contemplation.  The free nutrition typing test he offers relies mainly on self-reported reactions to food and meals.  This is exactly how one needs to be evaluating a plan designed for optimal wellness.  He groups people into three categories: protein types, carbohydrate types and mixed types (which of course is me).  The protein people do best with 40% protein, 30% carb and 30% fat (but that can vary -see his site).  The carbohydrate people (about 15% of the population) are happier with 60% carbs, 15% fat, and 25% protein.  And the mixed people are somewhere in between.  (Mixed types get to use trial and error to figure out the optimal plan.)

What I noticed is that in all instances the protein was higher than what I was eating and substantially higher than the recommended daily allowances.  I’m curious if the change will reduce my cravings.  So far I’m having less trouble with cravings.  Perhaps I’ve outgrown my “perfect” breakfast of beans and rice.  It worked for many years.  More will be revealed.  I welcome your thoughts.