Building on the Basic Parameters: Living the Good Life
Christian Jonathan Haverkampf, M.D.
Living according to the basic parameters means an increased quality of life, living a better life. The basic parameters are the needs, values and aspirations of an individual. Communication helps to make this possible.
Keywords: depression, treatment, psychotherapy, psychiatry
Building on the basic parameters means doing what one loves and which adds
Identifying our true needs, values and aspirations are what makes us happy in the long run. While the reader may immediately interject that ‘true’ is very elusive, this word is used to distinguish basic parameters we have reflected on from those which we have not. This reflection implies that given full freedom of communication within oneself and with others, one experiences these parameters as not requiring a pressure to change them. While we involve as individuals over time, basic needs, values and aspirations remain relatively constant.
While needs and aspirations may be more straight forward as psychological motivators and yardsticks to measure health and individual achievement, values may be more difficult to place within a psychological framework. But if we define as a value anything that has intrinsic value towards the person by having meaning and relevance, it becomes much easier, and more accurate at that.
If one knows what one values and does this, one will value oneself more. The path to an experience of happiness and ‘success’ will be quicker. However, identifying one’s values requires connecting with oneself in an honest way, looking back over past experiences and how one felt about them.
An important step is to cut through the intermediate steps and go to the underlying values. Money is not an end in itself, maybe not even the things one can buy with it. If one feels money gives security, one is most likely looking for a feeling of security and not money. If you want to build a house with your money, you may value having a family more than the shape of the lawn ornaments. However, then the real value is about having a family.
If you want to become famous, you might not want to be alone anymore, or you may be looking for another strongly felt way of connectedness, and there may be easier ways to accomplish this without the need to become famous and at any price. Unfortunately, too many people are trying just that, becoming famous to take care of an old hurt or resolve other issues and perceived and felt deficits.
We will be looking at al three basic parameters in turn (Haverkampf, 2018):
Gaining insight into the basic parameters means acquiring information, and this usually happens in communication processes. Whether it is to ask the right questions oneself, which leads to the processing and generating of new information bundles (maybe even answers), or it is posing questions to one’s environment. Questions are very powerful because they lead to the generation of new information constellations (Haverkampf, 2017).
Your social networks and your communication abilities are resources you use like any other resources to succeed. They both complement each other. Social capital is that portion of your contacts which help you in generating value for yourself and others.
When you build your social networks you improve your abilities to communicate, which is again the key to leveraging your achievements and successes. Every market transaction, every invention, every piece of art, and any close personal contact happens because of the willingness to communicate, to exchange meaningful messages that can effect change.
Your social networks are what leverages your achievements and success into even greater successes. Being able to mold and modify your social networks in ways that benefit you, and potentially others, is what you want to achieve.
Many people achieve something, succeed, and then stop, not because they want to but because it just happens this way. When you are successful you want to use your successes to build even greater success. Much has been written about constant improvement and the like, but what keeps you going is a good vision and a sense for yourself and others, plus persistence.
Building success form success requires that you communicate your achievements well. It is the key to leveraging successes into even greater successes.
Finding value in the world also means finding value in oneself, as finding in the world also requires finding value in oneself. Since the internal worlds and interconnected through communication within themselves and with each other, the exchange of meaningful information, within oneself and with others, becomes the connecting link for meaning in the world.
Valuing oneself also means caring for oneself, for example, by saying ‘no’ to someone or doing things that have an intrinsic value to oneself, and are not being done just because other people may expect or validate it.
It is an interesting question why people on one hand are literally going to the ends of the earth to find out more about their values, while on the other hand, they are scared of them. It is as if something which could impart a lot of strength, becomes something that induces apprehension and right out fear.
People are often even more afraid when they have to define their own values, which often becomes necessary when ready made ‘value templates’ cannot be adopted as a whole, or adopted ones are in conflict with each other.
So, does this mean that there is no common basic of values? No, it doesn’t, but not because one has to adopt certain values, but because as humans we share too much biologically to come up with very different values. But it does require that individuals are truly connected with themselves and can acknowledge when there is unhappiness or discontent, and that they are open to adjusting and changing their perceived values, if they feel out of sync.
My work is forensics has taught me that people who truly are communicating with themselves and others in a meaningful way may make mistakes but shrink back from intentionally hurting another human being. Empathy is communication, and a lack of it usually indicates that a person’s communication patterns and modes of working with information are somewhere not working, or one might even say broken. I have worked with people who committed murders, bank robberies and rapes. All of them had problems in communicating with themselves and others. Empathy is only a part of communication, but its lack in certain areas was obvious. This is one reason why in literature and film the dark anti-hero always has a deficit or wound somewhere that prevents him or her from communicating in some respect with himself or herself in a meaningful way. Happiness and full contentment are absent, as they are also in individuals with narcissistic or some other personality disorders. Even manic states, episodes of elatedness with racing thoughts and feelings of being on top of the world, are not sustainable and usually associated with great suffering, almost always leading into a significantly longer enduring episode of depression.
Needs are often viewed as just basic needs, but they also include such things as being able to exchange meaningful information with other people and being connected. If these basic needs are not fulfilled, the quality of life decreases. Prisoners who are kept in isolation, for example, develop serious mental health conditions over time.
Aspirations are what connects the future with the present, the way values to a certain extent connect the present with the past. They have to align with values and needs in order to be sustainable and really motivating.
The basic parameters play an important role in therapy, not just because they reflect what may be motivating and unique about an individual, but because they are tightly linked to communication with oneself and the world. They help to commence and maintain communication processes.
Working with a patient to identify them can often be an important first step in elucidating them. This is an important process in therapy and helpful in the process.
Searching for the basic parameters can become a quest that is helpful for the individual.
Since it requires a connectedness with oneself, the quest itself is a psychotherapeutic tool. Going on this quest can not only keep a patient engaged with the therapy, but also be helpful in everyday life. The question asked also influences and determines how one interacts with oneself and the world.
The communication patterns one uses can provide insight into the basic parameters. This is because how we interact with others also says something about how we see others, which also reflects on how we see ourselves. For example, if we treat another person with respect, that also shows that we demand respect for ourselves, and this applies to all interactions.
A closer look at the communication patterns also creates in a person greater awareness for communication itself, the process how meaning is created in the world. Since the basic parameters are tied to meaning, greater awareness also provides stronger insight into the basic parameters.
This does not mean that the basic parameters are in flux, but that they reveal themselves into how an individual interacts with oneself and the environment.
Asking the right questions (Haverkampf, 2017) is a powerful tool in moving therapy forward. The reason is that from a communication perspective a question leads to more meaningful information.
To elucidate the basic parameters it is also important to interact with the world because needs, values and aspirations depend on the structure of reality, and what reality has to offer.
When people do not live according to their basic parameters, they will notice it. Anxiety, depression and many other conditions are then often the result. Since the perceived needs, for example, can deviate from the true needs, life can be suboptimally adjusted.
Making adjustments is often not easy. However, part of that is, that one may not have identified the basic parameters. Another reason is that it can be difficult to make the changes in life. Here the best strategy is to do this gradually.
One question may be what to do when the parameters appear to be in conflict. The reason why I say ‘appear’ is that the true parameters are usually not in conflict. One may cite many reasons for this, from evolution to the simple acceptance that there is not really any other choice, because otherwise a human being would be destined to permanent unhappiness and reduced quality of life.
Usually it helps to go back on a mini-quest for the basic parameters. A good starting point is to look at the parts that seem to be in conflict with each other. Let us say there is a perceived need for sex, but with the options open to us they would go about something we find important, such as not hurting someone, particularly not someone we love. There are a couple of questions one might ask oneself:
- What are the different options of proceeding?
- Is this a true value?
- Is this a true need? May there be some other need below it?
There may be ways of proceeding where the basic parameters do not have to be reassessed. Often, we may not be clear on all there are. Broadening the horizon and exploring new ways can be a good option.
Secondly, it helps to identify if there really is a conflict from the value side. Social edicts and rules may not help us or anyone else, or they may only be suited for narrowly defined situations. In any case, it is important to identify why we have a value and where it may come from. Leaving the illness of a sociopathic personality disorder and the lack of empathy and real emotional connectedness that comes with it aside, people have values because they make sense, emotionally and rationally. But if a value feels right, the next step would be to look at the need, or aspiration if that is what the conflict is with, and see of that is really a true need.
Thirdly, one would thus look at the need. Going back to the example of sex, or another dopamine rush, one may actually look for more excitement in life, such as the excitement of meeting and getting to know another human being, relaxation, escape from private or professional life. However, one may be afraid to acknowledge the underlying need, often because of an apprehension that one’s life would need to be change in impossible ways. This is, however, underestimating the creativity of the human mind. Change may happen very gradually, as it does mostly, but if a true basic need is violated, the quality of life and overall happiness, satisfaction and contentment will usually be severely impacted and reduced.
Dr Jonathan Haverkampf, M.D. MLA (Harvard) LL.M. trained in medicine, psychiatry and psychotherapy and works in private practice for psychotherapy, counselling and psychiatric medication in Dublin, Ireland. He is the author of several books and over a hundred articles. Dr Haverkampf has developed Communication-Focused Therapy® and written extensively about it. He also has advanced degrees in management and law. The author can be reached by email at jo****************@gm***.com or on the websites www.jonathanhaverkampf.ie and www.jonathanhaverkampf.com.
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