Many of us can relate to the power of being hungry. We have in fact created the term hangry in our culture to signify that not only are we hungry but angry as well. When we are empty physically we cannot be at our best. In the world of mental health & mental wellness hunger has a broader definition. This entry will discuss how the hungers that come with being human directly affect our ability to be present to ourselves and to others. We will also dive into how to determine what is happening when your hungers are at odds with each other (yes, there are more than one types of hunger) and what you can practically do about it.
Foundationally it is important to understand that human beings are far more complex than any of us think we really are. Many people I work with will tell me that when I bring this topic up to them they believe it does not apply to them. Or, my favorite, I can “will” myself to not experience that hunger. Here is the hard truth, if we do not address our hungers they will come out in other ways behaviorally, emotionally, and in our self-talk.
Hunger can happen physically when we need food or rest.
Hunger can happen emotionally when we need to express our feelings about something that is important to us or we need connection with someone important to us.
Hunger can happen sexually when we need physical contact and sex with someone we care for and who cares for us.
Hunger can happen spiritually when we are struggling with finding purpose and meaning in life.
Hunger can happen psychologically when we are struggling with identity or knowledge to implement our purpose in life.
Hunger can happen socially & with family when we feel at odds or lost because we do not know our kin or tribe.
When we do not know where we belong we can feel lost and confused. These hungers can be independent or happen in groups or all at once. It is also important to state that these are broad brush definitions. They are not meant to define everyone in the same way. The categories are what is important. How they get interpreted depends a great deal on the person asking the question.
Consider how you are experiencing this conversation right now. Are you uncomfortable? Are you asking yourself if any of these apply to you? Consider how often we judge the behavior of others without knowing what is really happening. Have you ever done something you later regretted because you were “hungry?” I am not in any way condoning behavior that harms others here. When we act in a way that causes harm we have moved beyond the stage of hunger into another place. I will leave that conversation for others to attend to in their expertise.
Abraham Maslow was a psychologist who in 1943 developed a tool that is still widely used and criticized today. It focuses on the hierarchy of needs. In Maslow’s pyramid below we see that there are many layers to the pyramid. The gist of his work was to demonstrate that without accomplishing the foundation and then each layer in turn, many goals in human development cannot be attained. You cannot become a neurosurgeon or a dog catcher if you are starving for food and medicine. See the image of Maslow’s hierarchy (from Wikipedia)
With this framework we can now begin to understand what we do when we are in trouble. When we find ourselves stuck and confused we need to go back to a basic question what am I hungry for right now? What do you need in this moment to allow you to return to a place of balance and harmony? Once we can answer this question we then can create an action plan.
For example, imagine you have held anger toward your sibling for years because of an argument you had in early adulthood about something important to you both. Consider that this argument was bad enough that you both have had resentment about it and have not interacted in some time. Consider what the “cost” is to you to hold on to this anger and resentment. Would you consider this a “hunger?”
All we as humans have the power to do is to tell others how we feel, what we want, and what we have the capacity to do to get this accomplished. That is, it. The rest is on those around us. How might this tool help in the above situation? I tell my sibling I am angry because of the situation; I want them to acknowledge their part in it as well and how they treated me; and I am willing to do what I can to make it right between us. What they decide we have no power over at all. Even if in the end it is not resolved the way we want it to be we have stepped forward in a new and different way.
What do you think? Does hunger play a role in your life? Join me in the discussion and let’s chat.