When talking about basic emotional needs and feelings, many of my clients ask me with a sense of concern and shame: “Do you feel needy, too?” I always validate their feelings and explain to them that when we grow up with parents who were too busy, emotional unavailable or engaging in toxic relationships that can be dramatic and distracting, we don’t get our needs met as a children. Many parents perhaps struggled with addictions, eating disorders or were just too overwhelmed with life leaving kids feeling lost and empty. I know that when our needs aren’t met they become bigger and louder. Kids tend to act out and if you grow up with piles of unmet needs then we can easily become people who struggle to ask for what we want and need.
A hierarchy of human needs identified by recognized psychologists included “survival, safety, touching, skin contact, attention, mirroring and echoing, guidance, listening, being real, participating, acceptance, opportunity to grieve losses and to grow, support, loyalty and trust, accomplishment, transcending the ordinary, sexuality, enjoyment and fun, freedom, nurturing, unconditional love which includes our connection to our higher power” (Whitfield, 1987). If you see these needs, you will understand that you are not “needy”, you want what everybody else wants, it’s just that maybe you don’t know how to ask for it or your ways of asking for it are not effective, meaning you can become manipulative and co-dependent, needing other people to meet your needs any cost.
To move from a place of blame to a place of empowerment, we need to take responsibility, learn to be truthful with ourselves and others and move from guilt and shame for asking for what we need to assertiveness and compassion. Not an easy journey, being truthful and assertive requires a lot of courage and vulnerability. Trying new behaviors and ways of being can be difficult but it’s from those challenges that we grow!
(Whitfield, C. (1987) Healing the Child Within. Deerfield Beach, FL: Health Communications, Inc.) .