We hear a lot about our “needs” yet do we really understand why they are important? My years of sitting with clients who are struggling with self-esteem, their relationships, poor communication, etc have taught me that understanding the importance of emotional and psychological needs is paramount to healing, and to moving forward.
Think of it this way: we all have these needs, and we will get them met one way…or another. The evidence of this is all around us, on both the micro and macro levels. On any given day we can notice someone acting out because they do not know how to get them met in healthier ways. Think about the last time someone in line at your grocery store or Starbucks threw a fit because they were given the wrong latte, the wrong change, or had to wait. Or the horn-blowing and expletive shouting driver on the road the other day because someone cut them off. When someone you care about simply sulked and sighed instead of sharing with you what was bothering them…or worse – when they stopped speaking to you for days!
These are all examples of either passive-aggressive or aggressive ways of getting needs met. The needs themselves are genuine and valid, such as needing to get out of the store to pick up a child, to feel safe on the highway, or to express hurt feelings and have them validated. Unfortunately the WAY they have gone about expressing these needs can add up to a form of emotional terrorism, where you cannot deal directly with anything because the real truth is being hidden from you.
No problems get solved this way, either. The usual outcome is that others feel defensive and emotionally unsafe around those folks who are acting out – and the poor soul who is shutting down or being aggressive becomes even more disconnected from the very thing that can heal them, which is connection and acceptance.
Ignoring what we need never goes well…at least after awhile. They are called “needs” not “wants” for a reason, because they are essential to our well-being. We cannot truly be authentic without honoring our Truth, a big part of which are our emotional and psychological needs. If I continually pretend that I don’t need to feel accepted, I will have to shut down that need and thus act out in insidious ways for acceptance, such as making myself out to be what others need me to be – like nice, appeasing, etc.
You get the picture. Ignoring our needs can greatly contribute to anxiety, including panic attacks “for no reason” as well as functional depressive states. We are disowning the self when we ignore the self. I have watched so many times over the years how people really come alive when they begin to own their truth, honor what they need and either meet those needs themselves (such as a goal met) or assertively ask others for what they rightfully need.
Taking personal responsibility for what we need in the moment by first recognizing, labeling and expressing that need is the first step. The second one is learning how to honor ourselves and respecting others by getting our needs met in healthier ways. But some of us were never taught how to, and perhaps we modeled after poor behavior in our family such as folks either yelling or shutting down, telling us “we didn’t need” what we needed. If our family members didn’t know how to honor and express their own needs in responsible ways, it is argued they would not have been able to teach us how to do the same, and respect us when we tried to!
So the next time you see someone acting out, think for a moment what must be going on for them that they cannot simply ask for what they need in an assertive, safe way. More importantly, take a good look at your own behavior, since there may be small yet insidious ways you may be acting out or ignoring your own needs. More to come on this topic, as owning and addressing what we need is essential for empowerment.
For now, Keep Soaring!