Pearl Needs

“I need____________.” How do you fill in the blank?

Deviating from Abraham Maslow’s famous ideas on needs, I developed a list of 5 basic needs from my many years as a family therapist. I worked with clients who were languishing in basic survival energy; they reported eating and sleeping problems along with feelings of depression.  Some lacked enough discipline to complete their career-work or homework. And many of my clients, both adolescents and adults, expressed a scarcity of creativity, belonging, and/or ability to meet the potential they wished for in their life.

Often my clients expressed an assumption that “someone” owed them something; their assumption was that IF that “someone” gave them what they desired, THEN their needs would be met. These perceived inadequacies (in oneself and others) relate to one’s lack of perceiving a core self, a calm present-moment consciousness, amidst clamoring desires for needs-in-waiting.

Consider 5 basic needs: Energy, Discipline, Creativity, Belonging, and Ability–EDCBA  (ABCDE’s backwards). Meeting basic needs takes daily attention. It also takes a strength-filled and peace-filled approach.

What does a pearl need to become lustrous and grow in stature? 

Pearls exude strength. Pearls may look peaceful, but it must be challenging to be peaceful amidst immigrant upbringing. A natural pearl is born in trauma, in a disturbance to the parent oyster, mussel, or clam shell. When a foreign irritant, perhaps a parasite, lodges itself into the lining of the mollusk shell, a sac covers the invader and a fluid called nacre coats the intruding irritant. It is the layering of this protective mother-of-pearl (or shell material called nacre) that forms pearls. Nacre is made from a mineral, aragonite; how marine invertebrates secrete aragonite is a mystery.

What does it take for immigrant children to become resilient and grow up with incredible strength?

Children exude strength. Immigrant children may appear peaceful in pictures we see on the evening news, but it challenges anyone in leaving homes and friends for an unknowable destination and outcome. Immigrant mothers and fathers face many irritants and are pearl-makers. They desire a lustrous life for their offspring where they have possibilities to meet basic needs. When we recognize this, perhaps we can address immigration policies in humane ways.

How many years has it been since your ancestors floated to the shorelines of America? Mine came in the 1600’s-1700’s. An English Quaker ancestor sailed in the ship Brittania in 1699 for reasons of religious freedom. While over 200 braved the trip, the crossing was referred to later as “the sick ship from Liverpool;” 75 passengers died enroute or shortly upon arrival in Philadelphia. Other immigrant ancestor reasons for crossings are unknown, but likely all wanted better lives for their offspring. I am grateful for their sacrifices to provide an accepting haven for me and my family to meet our basic needs.  

Pearls of Peace (PoP) Quiz:

121. When and under what circumstances did your ancestors arrive in America?

122. How might you honor your immigrant ancestors?        

By Janis Johnston

Janis Clark Johnston, Ed.D., has a doctorate in counseling psychology from Boston University. She has worked with children, families, and groups (ages 3-83) with presenting issues of anxiety, depression, trauma, loss, and relationship concerns. She initially worked as a school psychologist in public schools and was awarded School Psychology Practitioner of the Year for Region 1 in Illinois for her innovative work. She was a supervising psychologist at a mental health center, an employee-assistance therapist and a trainer for agencies prior to having a family therapy private practice. Recipient of the 2011 Founder’s Award for her dedication to the parenting education of Parenthesis Family Center (now called New Moms), and the 2002 Community Spirit Award from Sarah’s Inn, a domestic violence shelter and education center, Johnston is an active participant in numerous volunteer activities supporting children and families in her community. A frequent presenter at national psychology and educational conferences, Johnston has published journal articles, book chapters, and two books -- It Takes a Child to Raise a Parent: Stories of Evolving Child and Parent Development (2013, hardback; 2019, paperback) and Midlife Maze: A Map to Recovery and Rediscovery after Loss (2017, hardback; 2019, paperback). In addition to augmenting and supporting personal growth in families, Johnston is a Master Gardener and loves nurturing growth in the plants in her yard.

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