Julie loves dogs. She is a member of PETA, and a vegan. When she was a kid she had a dog named Bella. Bella was her best friend because her mother resented her in a way that most children only think their mothers resent them, and her scam artist dad had pissed off years prior.

Julie moved every few months from one hovel to the next. Bella went everywhere with her. They slept in the same bed, and ate off the same plate.

Also, Julie beat Bella mercilessly, until she bled. Bella yelped and screeched in that way that instantly makes your heart pound when you hear it coming from down the street.

Human beings all share six fundamental needs. One of the needs is for certainty. When things get too ambiguous, too confusing, we look for refuge in people and situations that are sure things. Certainty is one of those needs that gets fulfilled no matter what because people can not and will not stand for too much uncertainty for very long.

We want to know that our friends will be there for us when we need them. We want to feel that we can predict what will happen to us if we follow the laws of the land, we want to have stable employment, and a steady girlfriend.

Crumbling Foundations

And when all else fails we want to be certain that the world really is as fucked up as it seems. When we’re buffeted around by parents who don’t give a shit about us, and have no stability from day to day, the only sliver of comfort we get is knowing that everything will always be fucked up, and everyone will always let you down. It’s a constant, so it provides certainty.

So when you get a dog that adores you and follows you everywhere, that dog is violating the only shred of stability you have in your life. It’s giving you hope, and hope hurts.

So you beat her. You know she’s going to leave eventually, or viciously attack you and be taken away, so you might as well speed the process along. She’s making you love her. The dog chain you use to beat her is stained red, she yelps when you touch her back from the deep bruises.

But still she stays.

The dog becomes a new anchor of certainty. She stays no matter what, even if you beat her mercilessly. And just to make sure it’s still true, and will always be true, you keep beating her. Just to be certain she hasn’t changed her mind.

And then some day, many years later, you attack your husband just as brutally. There’s no way he’s as loving or dedicated as he seems. You’ve been abandoned before, this is no different. The hope hurts too much, and you’re so in love, that you can’t stand the suspense of wondering when it’ll all end. So you throw your tantrums and your barbs, and all the vitriol you can muster. The longer he stays the more it hurts, because you’re so in love, and you so want him, but you can’t have him because having him gives you hope that he might stay, and that will never happen. So you push, and push, and push until he leaves.

Some people need more, some people need less, but you will create certainty in your life somehow. Whether the certainty comes from brutalizing those you love, or from a deep well spring of self confidence is up to you.

Filling the Need for Certainty

The shift required to go from beating your dog, to loving without fear is deceptively small.

Some people look to religion as their rock. Some to a respectable career. Become a doctor and you’ll always have a job and the respect of your community. Some create large networks of close friends who will be there, in aggregate, no matter what. Those are workable solutions that may even fall on the healthy side of the spectrum.

But the strongest, most poignant shift you can make is to certainty about yourself.

Self-made

When you create yourself, that self is always present, and can never falter. When you are confident that you are strong and smart enough to make a perfect and complete life no matter the circumstances, then you are always there to rely on yourself.

I’m not advocating becoming an island—love and social connection is a whole different fundamental need that I’ll talk about later. What I’m advocating is cultivating the ability to trust yourself as a rock in the turbulence of your life to degree that your trust in other people (or lack thereof) is not crippling to you. Create yourself to be so strong that if every trust you ever created was broken, you would still be able to rely on yourself.

Counter intuitive: when you learn to rely on yourself above all else, your ability to trust other people blossoms. That’s because the trust isn’t plagued by anxieties about being broken. You don’t need the trust anymore, you just enjoy it, and deeply appreciate it while it’s there. It frees you to trust abundantly because you yourself become a deep spring of infinite trust.

What Julie went through as a child was not her fault, and Bella surely forgives her. Every child should have the opportunity to learn that those she loves can be relied on. When that happens the stage of development passes without fanfare into the stage where you cultivate self reliance.

But now you’re Julie, all grown up. You learned a coping mechanism when you were a child that worked—it got you through the time. Honor it, be grateful for your resourcefulness. And then let it go.

It’s time to cultivate new resources, it’s time to build deliberate, unshakable certainty in your life. From the ground up, starting with yourself.

Fundamental Needs #2: Hookers & Bombs →