We All Want the Same Thing

We want to feel valued by somebody else.

Posted Dec 02, 2020

We all want the same thing: simply to be valued by somebody else. Think about every person you have ever met. They just want to feel valued. I want to feel valued, and so do you. By someone. Right? 

I think this universal human need has very ancient roots. Millions of years ago we were not the fastest animal, not the strongest, not the biggest animal. We were isolated mammals scurrying around trying not to be lunch. We were prey.

And then we formed these small social groups, and our survival potential increased so dramatically that human beings are everywhere. But to stay protected by the group you have to contribute: You have to have value.

This survival mode explains why I get angry, anxious, or sad when I feel less valued. The limbic part of my brain worries I may get kicked out of my protective and be lunch. Right or wrong, just the perception of being devalued activates our ancient, irrational, emotional, and often impulsive response. We worry we will be lunch.

Anger is often an irrational and impulsive emotion that originates in an ancient part of our brain called the limbic system. The limbic system can make us impulsive, doing things without thinking about the consequences of our actions or what will happen next.

Anger is the "fight" branch of fight or flight. It is an emotion designed to change things. We get angry when we want someone to do something different. To start doing something or stop doing something. Anger happens when you think someone is trying to take something from you, or has more than you leaving you less than and vulnerable. Anger is an approach emotion, often designed to make somebody else activate their flight branch, the fear and anxiety that comes with feeling threatened.

When we sense that somebody else sees us with less value, we worry we will be kicked out of our protective group and some predator will come and eat us. That we will be lunch. This group mentality has helped us survive. But it can backfire. An entire group can feel devalued by another group. This can lead to war. 

There are millions of people in our country, in other countries, in our world, who feel that others see them as less-than. Many are angry. They want something to change.

Right now, at this very moment in our history, there are a lot of angry people who feel that something is being taken from them. And they want that to change.

They want what we all want. To feel valued. But not just by people in their group. They want to feel valued by people in your group.

We are one group. It’s called humanity.

If we continue to act limbically and impulsively, we are not going to be able to anticipate what will happen next.

The part of our brain responsible for rational thought, for making a plan, executing that plan, and anticipating what will happen next lives right behind our forehead and is called the pre-frontal cortex or PFC. How many times have you done something impulsively, limbically, and slapped your forehead as if trying to jump-start your pre-frontal cortex?

Keep it Frontal. Don’t Go Limbic.

There is nothing wrong with anger: it’s what you do with it that matters.

And when is the last time you got angry at someone treating you with respect?

You don’t.

Because anger is an emotion designed to change things. But being respected feels great so our brains do not activate anger.

Respect leads to value, which is what everybody wants. And what’s amazing is that at any and every moment in time you can remind someone of their value. And whenever you remind someone of their value you increase your own value. And everyone wants to feel valuable.

Respect leads to value and value leads to trust. And trust is the antidote to anger and fear and sadness because when you believe that someone else sees you as valuable you can make a mistake and not worry that the person will see you as less valuable, and kick you out of your protective group.

That’s what we need to do right now.

Value each other instead of judging each other as less than. I would rather wonder than worry about why you do what you do. I would rather be reflective than reflexive, I would rather have the discussion, use my PFC as you use yours, and explore our differences as opportunities to learn. I want to know why you are angry, without being afraid of your anger.

I want you to know that you are respected, valued, and that we can create a foundation of trust. We need this now more than ever. There is nothing wrong with anger; it’s what we do with it that will matter. And never forget that we all want the exact same thing, no matter which group or tribe or country we come from. We just want to feel valued by somebody else.

Keep it Frontal. Don’t Go Limbic.

We can do this.

Joseph Shrand, MD
The I-M Approach
Source: Joseph Shrand, MD

References

Shrand, J.,  Devine, L.  Outsmarting Anger: 7 Strategies for Defusing our most Dangerous Emotion.  Josey Bass, 2013