Needs. Emotional and psychological ones to be precise. I think they are a huge part of empowerment and healthy relationships, and I’ve written about ’em before. Disowning our needs is disowning ourselves.
What’s important to remember that when we disown our needs, we are still finding ways of getting them met. Crazy you ask? I can see how that seems incongruent, yet think about this for a moment. When a young child throws a tantrum in order to get candy at the checkout, he or she is using a very unhealthy and manipulative way to get that need met. The need is to ask for what he wants. Being so young, he is learning how to ask for that. Or the ways people are continually in crisis so others will have to stop and rescue them. The need to feel loved and cherished is being met in a very unhealthy way. Or the last time you noticed someone flipped out in anger because they are frustrated and tired.
These are all examples of unhealthy ways we can get needs met. There are many more. Often, it’s really because we didn’t set a boundary that we act out – often because we secretly don’t believe it’s ok to ask for what we need. WE really know no other way. And worse, if those around us are doing the same kind of thing, we think it’s normal!
Years of stuffing our needs, to the point where we’ve become so disconnected from them, is a big part of why we leak them out. Together with this struggle is the resistance to vulnerability. It’s really putting yourself out there when you say, “Hey that hurts when you do that”, because you could be shamed, rejected, yelled out or left. Who wants that risk? You may also struggle with even knowing how to do this better, especially when stressed.
Now here I think it’s important to mention the Karpman Drama triangle and how it can help us understand our acting out better. Karpmen’s triangle describes the roles in any drama: on one point is the Victim, the other the Perpetrator and the third is the Rescuer, who swoops in and rescues the victim from the perp. Pretty straightforward, right? The basis of any good epic story. However, we need to get real about how that triangle actually is in real life for many of us.
You see, if you see yourself as the righteous victim on the triangle and feel indignant about how your needs are not met, how others and circumstances are consistently unfair to you, it is inevitable that you will become the persecutor. How? You ask! Because, if we are victims, we are not fun to be around at all. We whine we complain ad nauseum about people and things we can’t control. Poor us. And we become irritable, angry, anxious and depressed. AND we must admit that we take all this out on others! Not easy to swallow I know, but so important that we get real with this fact. Now instead of really “doing anything about” our situation, we continuously rescue others from having to change, thus allowing our supposed victimhood to continue. You get the point.
See, it’s nothing but unhealthy to act out our victimhood, yet it may have been way too scary to take the risk of setting boundaries, honoring what we need and letting go of people and things we cannot control. (more about boundaries next month!) It means we have to lose something, and we really fear we cannot handle changing jobs, leaving a relationship or letting go of something because we won’t be ok. Biggest Lie in the World. Write that down. The Biggest Lie in the World. Remember that phrase when you get in these situations. When you start to fear abandonment. Know you will take very good care of yourself, and you will handle it. It will probably suck, but you won’t die.
I prefer to think about how emotionally dishonest acting out our needs is – and a form of emotional manipulation. We are lashing out at them because we can’t say no. We overreact because we haven’t been taking care of ourselves and so we displace the frustration. We are displaying anger when underneath we are afraid or loathe ourselves at the moment. We just can’t be open and vulnerable. Yet.
So if you have more of these moments than you would like, I encourage you to begin taking note of how you are feeling, why that makes sense, and what do you need? A nap, a rest, a meal, a boundary…whatever you need in the moment is ok because it’s about you. Now I don’t expect you to then immediately meet that need. Just start noting it. Notice how you might just start feeling a bit more grounded! Tune into the podcast this week and join us in our journey about healthy needs. Join the new Ownit! group on Facebook and gather support and connection – very important emotional needs for us to grow and change 🙂