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Introduction to Meeting Basic Needs

Mark Dombeck, Ph.D.

Theory and culture help you to develop an understanding of the nature of your problem. When you have developed a good understanding of the nature of your problem, you are in a position to begin figuring out how you will solve them. Some of the time (but definitely not all of the time!), the best way to solve your problem will be to choose one or more methods for helping yourself, and then putting those methods into action.

In the following sections, we review a wide variety of self-help methods people have come up with for solving various kinds of human problems. We have organized them into groups based on the types of problems they can help solve. Specific techniques are available to help you alter: your behavior, your thinking patterns, your mood, your attitudes, your knowledge, your skills and abilities, the quality of your relationships, your general perspective on your past, present and future, and even your very identity or sense of self. Some of these methods were invented as applications of particular psychological theoretical frameworks (as described above), while others appear to have been created from a more "common sense" sort of place. Ultimately, it's not important where they have come from. What is important is that all of the methods listed here have been effective for some people trying to help themselves handle problems. Some of them will hopefully be helpful and useful for you.

The methods we will be covering have in common that they are both limited and flexible in nature. They are limited in that they are designed to address one sort of problem and aren't particularly useful for solving other kinds of problems. They are flexible in that they can be used to address a wide variety of similar types of problems. For example, one method we will cover is useful for helping you to know how to manage your time better. This method can be applied to a wide variety of time management problems you might want to work on, but it is not terribly useful as a method for improving your mood. Each method is like a tool. You'll want to have a lot of different tools in your toolbox, so that you can have easy access to the specific ones you'll need to help yourself.

Think of each method we'll review as you would a different tool within a toolbox. A toolbox might contain a hammer, pliers, a few screwdrivers, and a saw. Each tool is good for only one sort of thing (a hammer for hammering, a saw for sawing, etc.), but the hammer can be used to nail down a variety of nails and objects, and the saw can similarly make a variety of types of cuts. Each tool has its own purpose and sphere, within which it can be flexibly used to meet the needs of a given situation. No one tool is adequate for solving most complex construction projects. It takes all of them (or at least a several of them), used in a coordinated fashion, to get something complicated repaired.

Having access to a well stocked toolbox is an important part of being able to fix a problem. However, tools don't fix problems by themselves; people use tools to fix problems. You have to come to the toolbox with some knowledge about how to fix your problem before you know which tools to select to do the job. You gain this knowledge in part by reviewing what you know about your problem; by reviewing what your cultural teaches about your problem, and what scientifically and clinically supported theories teach about the problem. This sort of theoretical knowledge is not enough, however. You also need access to practical knowledge about how to solve your problem. When you don't already know what to do, and don't have access to an experienced helper who can show you the way, having access to a "cookbook" filled with recipes for solving the type of problem you are experiencing is the next best thing. With this in mind, after describing the various tools in the self-help toolbox, we'll shift gears and discuss how particular combinations of these tools can be used to solve various common and complex life problems.