I think we would all agree that, as human beings, we have rights.
What seems less clear, however, is how to acknowledge those rights and understand how to actually implement them in our own lives. Many of us experience a great deal of suffering, and even cause suffering to others, because we aren’t able to do this.
Wilhelm Reich observed a series of stages that humans pass through as they mature, and in this work he named a set of “Organismic Rights”. By understanding these rights, we can increase our self-awareness and improve the way we live and exist in the world.
The right to exist
The right to have needs
The right to take action
The right to have consequences for one’s actions
The right to love and be loved
Ideally, we all grew up in loving homes where these rights were constantly validated and honored. Realistically, however, that wasn’t the case. Even parents with wonderful ideals are unable to create perfect environments, which means that you probably experienced the result of missing out on at least one Organismic Right.
Why does that matter?
After spending over 10,000 hours working with people who desired to change their behavior, I found that the issues many of my clients struggle with are directly connected to deficiencies in the way they understand and experience their Organismic Rights.
Instead of trying to immediately change unwanted behavior patterns, we work to identify areas that there may be lack, pain, or threats to the ability to actually use these rights. A simple rating scale often works as a starting point.
Using the list above, take a moment to rate your own Organismic Rights on a scale of 0-5, with 5 as the highest.
Review your results. Were there any surprises? Areas that you didn’t even realize you haven’t felt acknowledged, supported, or empowered?
Those areas that ranked low are areas that you’ll need to address – you want to be able to understand, name, and claim all of those rights if you want to be able to heal past wounds and make changes to current behaviors or thought patterns.
Don’t fall into the trap of focusing on who deprived you of these rights. This is personal work, and we want to focus on how we can learn to understand and implement your rights now, not dwell on why we haven’t been able to do so before.
I do want to acknowledge, however, that when Organismic Rights have been threatened or withheld, or when we’ve been treated as if we don’t deserve these rights, our own humanity was essentially dismissed. That’s big, and you may have to process that over time.
Now that you’ve become aware of your rights and named the ones that you haven’t received, you can recognize areas that are going to trigger your stress responses and start dealing with how you can adapt your responses and behaviors in a positive way. Organismic Rights are meant to be empowering!
Christine Comaford is a leadership and culture coach who helps businesses achieve growth. Learn more at SmartTribes Institute and see Power Your Tribe: Create Resilient Teams in Turbulent Times and SmartTribes: How Teams Become Brilliant Together.
By Christine Comaford