MEETING BASIC NEEDS AND PROBLEM SOLVING
Adapted from Engs, R.C. Alcohol and Other Drugs: Self Responsibility, Tichenor Publishing Company, Bloomington, IN, 1987. (c) Tichenor Publishing Group. Used with permission. All rights reserved. (c) Copyright Ruth C. Engs, Bloomington, IN, 1996
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Meeting Basic Needs
All of us have certain basic needs that must be met in order for us to survive. If these needs are not met, we will die or else will cease to function on a positive psychological, sociological, or emotional level. Abraham Maslow characterizes these needs as-
1. Physiological, such as oxygen, food, water, and elimination.
2. Safety, which includes shelter, clothing, and protection from hostile beings and the environment.
3. Love and belonging, which includes close family, friendship, and love ties.
4. Self Esteem, which includes feeling good about oneself, one's job, status, work, and career.
5. Self Actualization, which is the fulfillment of creativity, peace with oneself, and detachment from stressors
The Need to Change Conscious Awareness and Drug Use
Andrew Weil feels that we have a basic need to change or alter conscious awareness. This appears to be a need that transcends culture, race, age, intelligence, and other human and personal characteristics. It is a universal need and can be seen in a variety of activities people have done for centuries. Young children in all cultures like to swing on ropes or swings until they are dizzy, and individuals in many different cultures will dance and sing for hours without stopping. Moreover, members of all cultures have engaged in some type of meditation or physical activity that changes conscious states. Even drug use has been common throughout history to change conscious states.
This need to change conscious awareness is just as strong as the other basic needs. The need appears to be instinctual, and it is cyclical. In many ways it is similar to the sexual need. The urge to relieve tension is felt spontaneously from within the individual. It reaches a peak, finds pleasure in relief, and then dissipates. The rhythm is different for everyone. However, the satisfaction of this need, like the meeting of any basic need, can be accomplished in a responsible and safe way or in a dangerous and irresponsible manner.
The fulfillment of the need to change conscious awareness has been achieved throughout history in medical, religious, and recreational settings. It has been facilitated through the creative process, in the enhancement of physical performance, and in risk taking. Moreover, this need to change conscious awareness has been realized through these activities and social processes both with and without the use of drugs.
Religion. Meditation, chanting, prayer, Yoga, Zen, and similar exercises are found in most societies as a means of changing consciousness in a religious setting. Alcohol, the most commonly used drug throughout history, has been used by many cultures in conjunction with religious ceremonies. Some groups have used hallucinogenic mushrooms, cactus, seeds, and other herbs to better communicate with the gods or higher powers so as to gain inner peace, inspiration, or prophecy as part of this religious consciousness-changing experience.
Medical Settings. In medical settings, the relief of pain in particular has been accomplished throughout time by such techniques as chanting, hypnotism, acupuncture, the "laying of hands," and herbs such as opium, marijuana, and alcohol. In the cures of many illnesses, changes in consciousness occur that relieve the symptoms, especially if the symptoms are psychological in origin.
In the average primary-care physician's office, it has been estimated that approximately 75 percent of all patients have psychologically induced illnesses or symptoms, including ulcers, headaches, rashes, weakness, and even the common "cold". In many cases, the symptoms of these and other illnesses will disappear with the administration of a placebo or "sugar pill". A change in consciousness has occurred in the person, who believes that he or she has received some kind of medication to relieve the problem, and the symptoms go away. This placebo effect is undoubtedly the primary reason behind healing from prayer, chanting, incense, voodoo, and other methods that have been and are still used in a variety of cultures to cure illnesses.
Recreational Settings. The desire to change consciousness has also been exhibited in recreational settings and secular festivals. Most celebrations, such as the winter, spring, and autumn festivals in many cultures, are accompanied by the use of alcohol or hallucinogens. The greeting of relatives and friends, the making of peace or war, the vanquishing of an enemy, the celebration of love or a loved one have all been accompanied in most cultures by a change in consciousness induced either by dancing, chanting, or using a variety of natural drugs.
Physical Performance. Throughout history, athletes and warriors have used various drugs to change conscious awareness prior to undertaking tough physical ventures. Alcohol has been used before battles by many armies to dull pain and give courage. Coca was used by relay runners in Peru to dull fatigue and hunger and to give strength for running. In the past few years there has been mass media coverage of athletes and body builders using a variety of drugs, including steroids and cocaine, to stimulate psychological states and physical performance. Some Vietnam veterans have said they smoked hashish before going into a battle, to quell their fears.
Risk Taking and Rebellion. An altered conscious state or "thrill" can result from doing something that is risky or against prevailing social mores. Potentially dangerous activities such as skydiving, hang gliding or motorcycle racing can cause a "high" or change in conscious state. The person feels energized and excited while engaged in the behavior. Negative social behaviors, such as street gang fighting or "joy riding" in a stolen car, can also produce this effect in young people. These activities, however, tend to cause anxiety or anger in adult authority figures such as parents and teachers. The use of illicit drugs is also considered exciting and thrilling to adolescents because it is illegal and causes anxiety and anger in adults. Unfortunately, society's attempt to control drug abuse by making the substances illegal often makes them more attractive to rebellious individuals.
Peer Pressure. Many individuals begin to use drugs or engage in certain behaviors so as to be "one of the in group." They feel that if they do not use a certain substance, they will not be accepted by the individuals with whom they wish to associate. Peer pressure can be subtle, and it is not limited to youth. For example, at a restaurant meal, a person may feel he/she has to have a drink when he/she really does not wish to because "everyone else is doing it."
DEVELOPMENTAL TASKS AND DRUG USE
The excessive use of drugs or other substances more readily occurs during adolescence, young adulthood, and midlife developmental crisis stages as a way for the individual to escape the confusion of the situation. These periods are necessary turning point's in the person's life, critical moments at which successful resolution can help the individual find his or her way to a more happy and mature life.
Five tasks in the young adult crisis period may cause problems for the individual for the rest of his or her life if they are not successfully accomplished. These adolescent life development tasks, as defined by Coons are as follows:
1. The Resolution of the Child-Parent Relationship. Individuals often have conflicting feelings about being independent from their parents. They want to be on their own, but at the same time they often want their parents' financial support. Leaving home and taking care of oneself, including doing the laundry, cooking, and other day-to-day maintenance problems, especially if this is the person's first time away from home, may be difficult for some people. Some individuals, particularly if they have come from an overprotective environment and now find few parental restraints, may escape into excessive drug use or sex to prove that they are independent. Others are afraid that if they go against their parents' wishes they will not receive any more financial support. They, too, may escape into a variety of substances so as to avoid facing their parents. In helping to resolve this parent-child conflict, especially if the child needs to ask his or her parents for money but really wants to be independent, a part-time job may ease the situation.
2. Solidifying Sexual Identity. In early adulthood, many individuals still have insecurities about their own sexual identity. This is often true for the shy male who hears his more aggressive male buddies talk about the many sexual exploits they are having. These shy young men then begin to feel insecure and go into what is sometimes called "homosexual panic." According to Coons, if a male is fantasizing about having sex with women, he is not a homosexual. Sometimes these individuals try to prove that they are manly by escaping into heavy drug or alcohol use as a way of building up their confidence to get a date or have a sexual experience. Women rarely have this problem, but many often do not have the skills for meeting men and so become lonely. Learning communication skills for meeting people so as to form better dating relationships often helps to improve one's sexual image and self esteem.
3. Development of the Capacity for True Intimacy. The establishment of true intimacy is a major problem in our society. Delayed autonomy and independence, and the lingering puritanical ethic, make the development of psychological intimacy difficult. Coons feels that some individuals, in an attempt to achieve this intimacy, may hop from one bed to another, as this may be easier for them than establishing a close psychological relationship. Other individuals may begin using a variety of substances to relieve their symptoms of loneliness. Counseling can help people to learn new skills for meeting new people and establishing a close relationship without necessarily getting sexually involved.
4. Choosing a Life's Work or Vocation. The freshman year in college for most university students is filled with excitement and newness. However, during the sophomore year, many individuals become discouraged, disillusioned, and confused about what they really want to do with their lives. Often they feel no purpose in the college experience and begin to feel that college for them is a waste of time and money. This period is sometimes called the "sophomore slump."
For some individuals who begin to feel this way, it may be best to "drop out" for a year or so and get a job. Doing so often helps the person decide what he or she really wants to do, and the person can then come back to school with improved motivations.
Some individuals who choose to stay in school but who lack motivation and are confused about what they want to do escape into alcohol, drugs, political, or religious activities. Others become professional students and change their major yearly or "hang around" the university for a number of years.
When a person is going through these tasks of late adolescence-young adulthood, he or she will usually be struggling with two or three of these tasks at the same time. Some people never successfully complete some of these developmental tasks and are still having problems with these areas when they are in their forties and fifties. Counseling while still in one's late teens and early twenties can often help the individual come to terms with himself or herself on these issues and can lead to a much happier life.
5. Developing a personal value system: Children generally have the values of their parents. If you want to know what a parents religious or political values or beliefs are, ask a school age child. The onset of adolescence often results in a clash of values. The young teen wants to stay up all night with his/her friends, but the parent says, "no". The parent may be very adamant about not wanting his/her teen to smoke, and the teen smokes. Adolescents often try the patients of their parents experimenting with a variety of behaviors as a way of asserting independence and finding their own values and beliefs.
In the process of meeting one's basic needs and going through the tasks of young adulthood, a variety of activities are carried out daily. If these actions are undertaken in a responsible manner, the individual usually develops and continues to grow as a mature human being. If, however, the behaviors are exhibited in an irresponsible way, negative social, physical, and emotional problems can occur. This brings up the question: What is responsible action or behavior? Because we, in North America, are multicultured and have widely differing values, this definition is often filled with controversy. Responsible behavior is generally believed to be those actions, decisions, and attitudes which increase trust among people; enhances self respect; dissolve barriers separating people; aid creativity, work, and job performance; and augment social, physical, and mental wellbeing. Most people also feel that responsible behavior would include any action or activity that did not harm self or others.
Self Responsibility, then, is making your own choices about a variety of behaviors in your life and accepting both the positive and negative results from your choice.
Irresponsible behavior would include those actions which cause barriers in interpersonal relationships and cause problems with work, family, and society. It would also include behavior in which the person did not accept the consequences of his or her actions.
These definitions of responsible and irresponsible actions could be used for activities that include the use of drugs, alcohol, and other substances, food, watching television, sex, jogging, gambling, political or religious involvement, and many other activities.
Examples of responsible behaviors using this definition could be the use of alcohol at a party and then waiting for the effects to wear off before driving home, completing a job as best as you know how, using paint-removing solvents in a well-ventilated place, taking prescription drugs at the right time and in the correct dose, and using an appropriate family planning method when you do not wish to have children.
Examples of irresponsible behavior would include driving a car when you know you have had too much to drink; watching television all day long and not studying or doing homework; becoming so involved with a political group so that you neglect family, friends, and job; or giving some of your prescription medication to a friend with the same symptoms as yours.
Responsible choices about using drugs and other substances and the responsible use of these substances may be different for each person because of different values, backgrounds, and physical and psychological makeup. However, any action that will hurt others and oneself would probably not be considered to be responsible, no matter what it was.
What are Responsible Choices and Actions for You?
Making responsible choices and responsible decisions is something each individual must do for him or herself. No one else can tell you what responsible behavior is for you. An action for one individual may be a responsible activity causing positive results. However, the same action for another person could be irresponsible and would lead to problems. For example, if you have a headache and choose to take an aspirin, this might be a responsible action on your part as your headache goes away. On the other hand, your friend who is allergic to aspirin and knows it could also take an aspirin and then develop an allergic reaction. This would be an irresponsible action on his or her part. For you to choose to drink beer with your pizza might be a responsible action for you. However, if a recovering alcoholic drank beer with his or her pizza, this would be irresponsible behavior, as it could cause the person to go into an acute phase of alcoholism. The old saying, "One man's meat is another man's poison" might be apt when thinking about responsible behavior and action for yourself.
Self Responsibility and Problem-Solving Skills
When attempting to exhibit responsible behavior in any area of life, or when confronted with a crisis or problem situation, it is often easier to solve the problem and come to some rational conclusion for yourself if you use problem-solving skills.
To use problem-solving skills is merely to examine various parts of the issue to find one basic problem, to decide upon different courses of action, to act, and then to evaluate the action. The steps are as follows:
1. Evaluating the Situation. It is important to define the stress, problem, or hassle accurately. Often a person feels angry, frustrated, or tense and does not know where these feelings come from. It often helps to think about what has happened and to piece various activities together that may have led up to these feelings. After this process, the real problem will usually emerge, or the individual will find that there are several problems, all of which are interrelated. In problem solving, it is best to tackle one problem at a time and not all of them!
2. Formulating Alternatives. After one problem has been selected to be worked on, the individual needs to think of all the alternative approaches to the problem.
3. Recognizing Obstacles. After you have thought of all the alternatives, you need to think of obstacles that might stand in the way of a solution. These obstacles could come from the outside or be within yourself.
4. Evaluating Each Solution. After considering all of the solutions to the problem along with various obstacles, you need to weigh them and study the pros and cons of each solution. You also need to examine the possible outcomes of different solutions and determine if some solutions in themselves might cause further problems.
5. Taking Action. After you have chosen what you think is the best solution, you then need to take action.
6. Final Evaluation. After you have carried out the solution, you then need to go back and evaluate the effectiveness of the solution, reconsider other alternatives, and determine what you would have worked better if this particular action was not effective. No matter what the outcome, you need to take responsibility for your choice.
In utilizing this method for solving a variety of problems, daily hassles, and crisis situations, individuals often have a better grasp on their lives, are able to meet the demands of life and their basic needs more easily, and find that they are exhibiting more responsible behavior.
As humans, we have a variety of basic needs and go through diffrerent periods of crisis in our lives. We also have a need to alter our conscious states. Meeting this need of altering consciousness, like meeting any other basic need, can be done in a responsible and safe way that increases the pleasures of living and positively affects others. In meeting basic needs and changing conscious states, problem solving skills can often help us to examine and evaluate a variety of choices, in order to make the best possible choice in many aspects of living.