The relational state is probably the best idea for reconceptualising the state we have seen in a long time. However, it will need a little work to appeal to voters simply because it is an idea about the state rather than about the needs of people. Similarly, relational welfare will appeal to those who are thinking about welfare – how it operates rather thank whether it is available – but less to others.
Nevertheless, because the ideas contained within the relational state / welfare are vital to the well-being of our citizens and success of our society we should push on to articulate them in a way that has meaning to the individuals, families and communities they are hoping to benefit.
Relationship has never been more of a moveable feast than it is today: from Facebook Friends to civil partnerships – they are empty or rich, weak or strong, simple or complex – depending on the context in which they appear. In the age of social networking, we can all get relationship and still die of loneliness.
The offer of relationship, if it is to be helpful, must meet the specific needs being presented. In the past, the state has always been alert to the physical needs of its citizens – a roof over their heads, money for food and clothes, practical help getting things done – but less clear about their emotional needs, possibly because emotions seem somehow out of bounds in any discussion about the state. However those politicians – Ed Miliband most recently – who have identified mental health as our biggest collective problem in the early 21C should note the direct relationship between emotional needs and mental health coming to light in psychotherapy.
New and improved social relationships will depend upon emotional literacy. The work of Ivan Tyrell and Joe Griffin, embodied in the Human Givens model of human development, names ten emotional needs constitutive of mental health:
1) Security: safe territory and an environment which allows us to develop
2) Attention: to give and to receive it – a form of nutrition
3) Sense of autonomy and control: having volition to make responsible choices
4) Being emotionally connected to others
5) Being part of a wider community
6) Intimacy: to know at least one person accepts us fully as we are
7) Privacy: opportunity to reflect and consolidate experience
8) Status: within social groupings above all
9) Sense of competence and achievement
10) Meaning and purpose: comes from being stretched in what we do think
Unlike Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, Griffin and Tyrell have shown that all these needs exist simultaneously from an early age. When even one of these needs is not being met, our well being and, over time, our mental health is compromised. Here is the list of innate human resources that help us meet our emotional needs by ourselves:
1) Long term memory: the ability to learn
2) Capacity for rapport: to empathise and connect with others
3) Imagination: enabling us to focus our attention away from our emotions, use language and problem-solve creatively
4) Our conscious, rational mind: checking out emotions, question, analyse, plan
5) Capacity for knowing: understanding the world through pattern matching
6) Objective / observing self: a unique centre of awareness distinct from intellect, emotion and conditioning
7) Dreaming brain: preserving integrity of genetic inheritance while allowing enriching of patterns from which to generate daily reality
The three main circumstances in which these innate capacities cannot meet our emotional needs and leave us vulnerable are:
1) The environment is toxic: family, work, broader community / society
2) The internal guidance system described above is damaged
3) We are missing coping skills
Looking at the emotional needs and the inherent capacities we have to meet them, it is clear that, in addition to welfare, we will always need to find ways to support people in their pursuit of opportunities to exercise and stretch their minds. In addition a healthy society must offer alternative areas for the pursuit of competence and status other than work – which only rarely delivers.
So, while relational welfare and the relational state are the best vehicles for our growing understanding of our needs as relational individuals, for more relational society – we may have to think of terms that map more directly to our disaggregated emotional needs:
1) human security – better networks for reciprocity and support
2) more time – to receive and give attention to those we care for
3) a better life-work balance – to experience autonomy and control
4) humanised institutions – more personal interfaces for human connection
5) more free technology – facilitating interest group communities
6) more parenting and mentoring – every child must be fully known to someone
7) championing reflective practices at every level – know thyself banker
8) (within the argument for more time) pushing work outside paid jobs from volunteering to hobbies – we need experience of doing what brings satisfaction and
9) being recognised for contributions outside of climbing the ladder
10) more space for women in public life, more space for men in the home – let’s stretch the meaning of shared responsibility beyond the comfort zone
Sound suspiciously like a Good Society.
Indra Adnan, Director, Soft Power Network, IA@softpowernetwork.com