All posts by Richard

The Currency Of Belonging

Judging that we belong feels great, it is hugely rewarding and is very, very important. To feel we belong we need people to treat us from the Green Zone, and we will come to learn that our own Green Zone behaviour is rewarded with even more Green Zone from others. A virtuous circle where everyone can feel they belong. (Green Zone is behaviour that is loyal, kind, helpful, honest, skilful/able, fair and compliant with the group norms).

If we receive mostly Red Zone behaviour from others we will not feel that we belong. As a result we will feel alienated and distrustful of people, we will not care about them. We may come to learn that our best way of being able to get what we need is to control others, dishonestly taking from them, or even hurting them.

The feeling of belonging is associated with a hormone called oxytocin (shown in the middle of this diagram). This molecule is sometimes called the love hormone or the trust hormone. It is also believed to be involved in a darker side, the suspicion and rejection of outsiders.

Currency Of Belonging
Currency Of Belonging

So, we all need regular doses of oxytocin to create that sense of belonging. How do we make sure the people we care about feel that they belong? That they can trust us, believe us, and feel safe with us.

We have called this the ‘currency of belonging’ and we describe four types of currency: Time, Kind Touch, Smile and Notice.

We can all understand the extraordinary power of these straight away, as they are so natural and should be common place. Sadly, in our busy and stressful lives, we sometimes forget. Our focus goes to what is wrong, rather than what is right. This is natural, as we need to spot things that will harm us, but we should consider the damage this can cause to our relationships.

Unlike money, this currency is free, and always available. Imagine having them in your pocket ready to spend at every opportunity, they are always with you.

Untarnished Time

Untarnished Time
Untarnished Time

Untarnished time means spending time with another person, having fun, not being critical, or controlling, and helping them to think

about and solve their own problems without telling them what to do. It means being curious about them, listening to their stories and taking turns, not just talking about ourselves.

Kind Touch

Kind Touch – Hold Hands and Hug Each Other

Holding hands, having a cuddle, a kiss or a gentle stroke or pat, can be very comforting, so long as it is appropriate and welcome.


Smile and Laugh With Each Other

Why do we smile and laugh? Smiling is an automatic skill that babies develop at a very young age. It is our body response, often automatic, when we feel, or wish to be, connected to another person. We smile when we feel safe, and feel we belong, and we smile to show others that we are happy for them to feel connected to us, that we are not a threat to them.

In the wild, and even in our society, it is people who are most likely to harm us. When we see another person we need to very quickly decide whether or not they are a threat, or whether they may help. Sight is the major sense that we use to satisfy our need to know if someone (or a predator) has seen us, or is interested in us for any reason. This is why we instinctively look at another’s eyes, we need to know what they are looking at, whether they have noticed us. Try looking into someones eyes, they may look away, which is their signal that they are not a threat, or they may smile to break the tension and indicate that they are happy to connect. Holding eye contact without a smile can feel very threatening.

When someone smiles at us, we get a small burst of oxytocin as we feel connected to them, and we also feel the relief of being safe.

Smiling is an instinctive body response to how we feel, this also works the other way around, if you force your mouth into a smile you may well give yourself a nice feeling!

Some people may use smiling and being helpful and so on as a means to take advantage, so we do need to be aware. But generally, people use smiles genuinely.

Laughing is a progression from smiling and is a signal to others that we are enjoying their company. We may also laugh when we are pleasantly surprised (curiosity) about things that are occurring.


Make noticing a habit

We instinctively tend to notice what is wrong, after all it will be the things that are wrong that will cause us harm in the wild, so we need to notice them first.

This can mean that we can come to only notice what is wrong and forget to reward good behaviour. We need to notice good behaviour far more than we criticise or command.

We describe three types of noticing:

How they are doing

Take time to notice the good things another person does and tell them. By doing this you are judging their ability, and will help them to judge themselves as being able, and so increase their confidence. It may be helpful to add how their actions are making you feel.

Relate what they are doing to Green Zone behaviours such as “Sharing your toys with your brother is really kind” and “It makes me feel really happy when you help by putting the dishes away”.

They will start to see themselves as increasingly valuable members of the tribe, and will be seeking to improve their skills. Once a skill has been learnt we should raise the bar, expect a little more the next time.

How they are

Describe qualities or characteristic of a person that please you, so long as it is true! “You have a lovely smile”, “You look really smart in those clothes”. Try to avoid too much of this as it may become counterproductive, “You are so talented”, “You are so clever” etc as they may believe they know enough and stop learning!”

How they feel

When we judge that another person understands how we are feeling, we sense that they are kind and that they may be able to help us. We connect and start to feel a little better as we sense we are not alone.

You may not necessarily agree with how another person is feeling, but you can understand. Seek to be have empathy for them and try to avoid taking control unless you really need to.

“You must be really tired after being at school all day”

“I expect you are really hungry, we are having a good meal later on so just have a little snack”

“Its really sad that Joe and John are playing and don’t want you around today, it doesn’t feel very good to be left out”

Spending Our Currency Of Belonging

Try to make spending our currency, untarnished time, kind touch, smiling and noticing a new habit.  Use them wisely, as others need to be in the Green Zone before you give them. If you reward Green Zone, you get Green Zone. If you reward Red Zone, you get Red Zone.

We need to spend them on ourselves as well!

Early Findings

Before joining forces with Richard and Kathy, Penny completed her MA using the Flourishing Families project as her research project. This is a summary of her story and her findings as recently published in the Human Givens Journal.

Penny Fuller has been practicing as a registered general nurse for 30 years and has specialised within occupational health, with 13 years experience working for the emergency services. As a qualified Human Givens therapist, Penny has a wide range of practical knowledge of successfully working with clients who have experienced physiological and  psychological health issues. She has a special interest in the management and treatment of post traumatic stress disorder, specifically relating to exposure in the work place. She also provides support and intervention for mental health, wellbeing and self-management. Penny recently gained a Professional Graduate Certificate in Education and provides training in  organisational change and leadership within the police service. 

I trained as a nurse 30 years ago and during that time worked in various settings, including general nursing, community and Marie Curie, eventually specialising in occupational health. Fortunately when I commenced my nurse training the curriculum in my training hospital was moving away from a medical model towards a more holistic approach, treating patients as individuals.  This I believe was instrumental in the choices I made during my nursing career, moving from a hospital environment into the client’s home and eventually into an occupational setting. As a Marie Curie nurse, I had the privilege to be with people at the end of their lives and I came to realise the importance of getting our emotional needs met as far as is possible within our individual circumstances, rather than simply focussing upon our physical health. Years later, when I commenced the Human Givens Diploma, I came to better understand the relevance of seeking to satisfy our emotional needs as being fundamental to our wellbeing.

Richard and I met when I joined the police as an occupational health nurse. We found that we shared the view that police officers and police staff suffering from ill health were simply a reflection of a society as a whole that was not getting its emotional needs met. This was the start of a journey of exploration, of personal and professional growth. It has been, at times, incredibly challenging, but above all inspirational.

Together we explored training opportunities that might equip our officers and staff with knowledge that would improve their own health and also transfer into how they deliver a service. We put together a small project within the Wiltshire Police control centre where we explained the Human Givens ideas to all staff on one particular shift, admittedly with mixed results at this early stage. However, the startling success this had with a few individuals convinced us of the merit of continuing this preventative and proactive approach. Richard retired from the police service, but continued to work with us within the police service and started to develop these ideas, transferring them from a therapeutic setting to a general educational one.

I continued to progress with MA Human Givens Psychotherapy, my thirst for knowledge ever increasing. Richard, in the meantime, had been developing the ideas within primary schools in Swindon, and Red Oaks School had secured lottery funding for a year long Flourishing Families project. The timing of this was perfect as I needed a research project for my MA and so I agreed to help with the evaluation of the project. This provided the opportunity to discover how Human Givens could be employed in an educational setting, working with parents, their children and school staff, although my research focussed upon support to parents.

The aim of the study was to see if this approach can provide opportunities for knowledge and skill development with a subsequent improvement in family well-being.

For the period of my research, the Flourishing Families six week parent programme had forty-nine participants, with forty-one attending four or more workshops. We used the Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Well-being Scale (WEMWBS), the Outcome Rating Scale (ORS), and the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) for our quantitative data, and interviews using a semi-structured questionnaire for our qualitative data. This data was correlated with four existing, evaluated and well established parenting programmes.

The findings:

The focus that Flourishing Families has upon individual well-being and the importance of good relationships, rather than parenting, was perceived as highly effective by participants. This contrasted well with the experience some participants had of parenting programmes, which they felt were judgmental upon their abilities as parents. During interviews it became very clear that participants were making strong links between having a deeper knowledge of human nature and how this could effect their own emotional and physical health, their relationships and so impact upon all those around them, not just their families.

The interviews also revealed the vital importance of establishing a supportive group where the ideas can be shared and applied to individual experiences. They reported that the facilitators had purposely encouraged the group to share experiences, to reflect on their situation and tell their stories in a non-judgmental and supportive way. This was a very positive experience for the parents, and they felt that this was an innovative and valuable approach which gave them great confidence in the material.

Parents feedback (sample)

‘Why don’t they teach this in school? If I had understood where my emotions come from and what triggers them, I know I would not have made the mistakes I have. At least I now know, and I can make sure my children understand.’

‘I was so angry with the world. I felt I had no control, my life has been just one emotion after another. My son was the same, we both were lost in our own worlds. My son showed this in his behaviour and me also. Just knowing how my brain works and the fight and flight response constantly triggered just made so much sense. Then, knowing I could do something about this, has changed my world forever and I know not only what it is to be a parent but also how I live my life.’

‘I now realise I was constantly going up anger mountain with my child – life is so much calmer because I do not respond how I did before.’

‘The first time that made me think about who I was , and that I was important and had needs’

‘I have a new circle of friends that I know have felt like me –Now I know that others have felt like this, I have confidence to approach other parents and tell them I know what it feels like and that it is okay.’

The quantitative data indicated that there was an improvement in participant’s perception of their own well-being and compared well with the four parenting programmes reviewed. Programmes held since this research study have demonstrated an even greater improvement in well-being as the approach has developed.

This was a very small study completed over a short period of time, the findings provide confidence and encouragement to suggest that the Flourishing Families (now Flourishing Together) approach may provide valuable knowledge, skills and understanding that will assist with parenting and also help to improve the overall well-being of society as a whole. We are planning for a continuing evaluation of the programme as it continues to evolve.


Taking Action From The Green Zone

I Am/You Are; Green and Red Zone Behaviour
I Am/You Are;
Green and Red Zone Behaviour

Have you ever noticed how much you are judging?  In fact, we are all judging, all of the time, whether we are consciously aware of this or not. And it is how we judge something that determines how we feel about it. For instance, how you judge marmite will determine whether you feel love, or hate. The judgement comes first. Then the disgust, (or the desire to have some in my case!)

The same thing happens when we are judging ourselves, or other people. And our judgements lead to loving or hating, liking or disliking. We care for those we love, and we hurt those we hate, and we can swing between the two feelings, depending on how we are judging them in the moment.

It is vital that we can do this as we very quickly need to be able to decide whether to trust another person or not. In practice we will have an almost instant intuition, or feeling, about another based upon our life experiences. This will be, either directly of this person, similarities with another person, or, perhaps, something we have heard about them. This judging can be wrong and we may misread another’s behaviour. Giving a moment of time may allow us to better judge them, and this can save our relationships.

For our relationships to be healthy, we really need to be treating each other from the Green Zone, at least most of the time. It’s how we behave towards others that determines how they judge us, and so feel about us; whether they like, trust and respect us.

How people judge us over time will determine our reputation and a reputation of acting from the Green Zone will lead to trust and respect. Someone behaving from the Red Zone towards us will lead to us mistrusting, not believing, or disliking them.

Someone with a great reputation will be:

Loyal: They will wish to be in the same tribe, or group, as you and will make you feel that you belong. They will not gossip about you and will defend you when needed.

Kind: They will enjoy being with you and take the time to notice how you are doing and how you are feeling.

Helpful: They will wish to help you to solve the problems you have. Not tell you what to do, just help.

Honest: You can rely upon them to always tell you the truth. They will be tactful, but understand that it is better when we are honest with each other.

Fair: They will ensure that we are treated fairly in all matters, as far as they are able. This is not about being equal; some people need more help than others.

Obedient: They will meet the expectations and rules of our group. This is not about obeying another person but being polite and upholding the social norms of our culture.

Able: They will have capabilities that we value. We may also judge their physical fitness, or attractiveness. Someone with a great reputation is likely to be skilful in some way, perhaps with the way they treat people, or perhaps they are a competent musician, artist or teacher, or have one or more of many other qualities.

“How do you judge yourself? How do you think others are judging you? Are you judging others fairly?”