Jay Rifenbary

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Needs and Fears – Catalysts for Decision Making

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Have you ever asked yourself, why did I make the choices I have made in my life? What inspired me to select a certain educational path, my profession, a location to live, a significant other? Two primary stimuli impacting our choices are needs and fears, which originate during our childhood. Human beings naturally direct themselves to what they perceive they need, and distance themselves from what they perceive they fear. For example, if we experience an event as a child resulting in feeling less valued then our friends and others in society, we may develop a need to be appreciated. Subsequently, this need to be appreciated will markedly influence our future decision-making process.

What if at a young age we experience the loss of someone very close to us, an event which magnified our awareness of loss, pain, and abandonment? This will result in a substantial fear of intimacy, for we never again want to endure those depressing and wounding emotions. This will significantly affect decisions made in regard to future relationships. We may express love for someone but there will be a limit to how emotionally intimate we become with them, based on how vulnerable we are to the destructive emotions generated from that childhood loss.

Neglecting an awareness of our needs and fears creates an imbalance in recognizing our own personal identity. Decisions will be made to satisfy the needs and fears, which may not be in alignment with our core values, and not correlate with what brings us honest fulfillment. For example, if I strive for appreciation and in the process compromise my values, I am being internally disingenuous.

To illustrate how this lack of alignment can create personal conflict let me use myself as an example. After the passing of my father when I was eleven I entered the 7th grade attending St. Joseph’s Catholic School in Kingston, NY. I passed 7th grade but my mother sensing it was an emotionally difficult year had me repeat the 7th grade and attend J. Watson Bailey Junior H.S. I can vividly remember walking into 7th grade, for a second year, seeing many of my friends, and I immediately perceived they all thought I was stupid, a repeater. How do I make up for that apparent stupidity and attain a level of equal appreciation among my peers. How about becoming the class clown, achieve in sports, run for class office, be a team captain, prove to people I am not stupid by attending West Point, major in nuclear physics, be an Airborne/Ranger, corporate sales leader, start my own business, begin public speaking, author a book? That should attain abundant appreciation, shouldn’t it? However, the real question is not how many others appreciate me, but rather how much do I appreciate myself. Why would I have to answer that question? I am doing just fine, drive a nice car, live in a nice neighborhood, have a nice house. How could it possibly be me causing this internal conflict? If it is me then I have to ask myself, what do I honestly stand for and believe in, and what core values genuinely reflect who I am? I do not want to acknowledge that because if I reflect on personal core values I have violated, then I will have to hold myself accountable. There is no way I want to concede that. Therefore, I conclude it is not the result of me, but my internal struggle must be the result of someone or everybody else. So I walk in my house, with my lovely wife and children present, and how do I behave, kind, loving, a good listener? On the contrary, since I am in conflict with myself I behave in a manner where I may be destructive and disrespectful. A “button” is pushed, an argument ensues, people start screaming, the kids get involved, and now there is mayhem in the house. For me this is perfect, why? I do not have to contend with myself. I can point to my family and say, “see I’m not appreciated”, and now I can justify any behavior I want. I can lie, cheat, be dishonorable, because it is their fault. The reality is, every time we redirect personal responsibility to others we are dishonest with ourselves. It explains perfectly why individuals can have things, title, wealth and fame and be absolutely miserable. Take the time to validate those core values, which reflect who you are, and ensure the needs and fears in your life are not distracting you from a path that is purposeful, sincere and most importantly a true reflection of you.



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