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Getting Your Needs Met Without Being Needy
Having needs is not the same as being needy. No man is an island. And neither is a woman. We all have needs, but we don’t have to go about getting them met in a needy way. Most days as an adult, we can take care of many, but not all of our needs. We probably didn’t build our own house, get the water to run indoors, or farm our own food. Yet growing up into adulthood we acquire the belief that we should be able to take care of everything our self. As a result we ignore the reality of our interdependence. We might even believe the illusion that we can or do take care of all our own needs. This kind of false belief is likely to lead to unhappiness in areas of your life.
If you are trying to project that positive self-image, which is often done in relationships, expressing needs looks like a stain of weakness on the success image we try to convey. Indeed, today’s western economy makes it possible to meet all our own physical survival needs by ourselves. We can earn enough money to provide water, food, shelter, and rest in comfortable fashion. At first glance, it looks like all our needs are met. However, in order to be happy and fulfilled, we need to have other experiences other than survival and that requires we meet other needs in ways we might not have considered.
We are complex beings and therefore have different kinds of needs.
Emotionally, we have a need to love and be loved. These can take many forms like respect, appreciation, compassion, laughter, or other emotions. At other times it will be necessary to be in touch with emotions like grief, sadness, anger, or remorse so they can be processed and released. Without allowing ourselves to experience these we repress them and cut ourselves off from all emotions, not just the unpleasant ones. Suppressing emotions keeps us from being fully present and feeling alive in the moment.
For a relationship to be satisfying it will need to have mutual support, affection, sexual satisfaction, play, fun. It will also need to be emotionally safe with feelings of connection, respect, and appreciation. You don’t need these things to survive, but you will need them to be happy in a relationship. A client, Jason, was finding that he wasn’t getting the kind of intimate time he wanted with his girlfriend, Anna. He asked her if they could spend time during the week with their phones off, just paying attention and listening to each other. He also asked for more time being affectionate, cuddling, and relaxing together. Anna laughed it off, saying Jason was just being needy. In Anna’s world of beliefs, which made her successful in a corporate environment, “needy” meant being pathetic, weak. Not long after, Jason figured out that by having what he asked for dismiss and judged by Anna, that he didn’t really need Anna.
Our mind has its own needs. The mind needs to be creative and dream. It needs to be exercised, inspired, and at times spontaneous so it doesn’t suffer in boredom. At times it will be good to be challenged so we stretch, grow, and learn. We also may have a need for our mind to be quiet and peaceful at times so we can relax and rest.
The aspect of our Spirit has a need for a connection to something bigger, whether you call it the cosmos, nature, or something more divine. The path to this connection will feel like a need for freedom, adventure, or at times isolation. The yearning for a connection to a greater consciousness can cause us to ache. If we do not seek out this connection and activity, whether it be through something inward like meditation, or outward like camping or church, we will ache in an unfulfilled way.
At a soul level we may need a connection to a community, the earth, or our fellow human beings. Sometimes this need is satisfied with a sense of purpose or meaningful work. Sometimes this need gest satisfied with gardening. If you don’t’ find this need met with your job or hobby, then you will have to pursue volunteering. Perhaps this need of the soul is met with a contribution to a community, or harmony with others at church.
Judging Our Needs
If our ego is so intent on not needing anything from anybody, then we are minimizing the importance of our happiness in the areas that nurture our emotions, relationships, spirit, and soul. Our ego will point to a hard outer shell and feel good about being strong and independent. At the same time the voice in our head is busy telling us that these feelings on the inside are not important and that we are being pathetic and weak for having them. This kind of self judgment will create an emotional reaction of insecurity or shame that will need to be dissolved. Sometimes this kind of self-judgment gets compounded with a fear that others will think of us as needy because we have these feelings. It is these kinds of contradicting stories in our head, one that says we are independent, and a contrary one that says we are weak, that are clues that we are out of our integrity. Not only are we isolating ourselves from others in ways that we could connect, we are not satisfying these needs that are essential to be happy.
Judging these needs/desires as weak, pathetic, or dismissing them represses them. When the needs of our soul, spirit, and emotional body are repressed we don’t take actions to have them met and parts of our being continue to hunger and ache. The outcome of this lack of action is that we won’t have what we need to love, feel loved, fulfilled, and happy. In this case we might not be allowing our self to feel our real needs enough.
Over a long time of repressing these very real needs our pain grows and we feel victimized and then become frustrated, agitated, and angry. At this point real needs fester into a neediness driven by the victim aspect of the ego feels and we might desperate. This is when we become the kind of needy other people don’t want to be around.
Good Needs and Dreaded “Being Needy”
As we look at having our needs met, we need to have an awareness of the difference between real needs, and victim needs of the ego or we will venture into suffering at the other extreme. A clue that you are crossing the line from good needs into destructive needs are when your wants become feelings of desperation, fear, or insecurity. Another sign is if we are calculating our gestures in an effort to be covert and get what we want. If we are not being honest with our partner, then we probably aren’t being entirely honest with our self. The Victim aspect of the ego only looks to others, and not to our self to make us feel better. And when feelings persist, or false expectations aren’t met, the victim aspect blames others for the disappointment, toxic emotions, and circumstances.
If you are hurt or blaming, then you are past the ego’s Victim aspect of needy and have possibly turned angry about it. If you find yourself making ultimatums or demanding someone do something for you, or you believe they are the only one that can meet your need then you have crossed the line as well. If your needs aren’t being met and you respond with emotional punishments like disappointment, judgment, resentment, or frustration, then you are engaged in an unhealthy neediness. Emotional punishment is not a good long term strategy for satisfying needs. Heck, it’s not even a good short term strategy. If we are trying to get our needs met in this way, people around us will withdraw, and we will be further away from the satisfaction and happiness we desire.
A quick question to ask yourself is whether you are operating above or below the line of feeling neutral. If your need involves getting out of an emotional pit like of fear, despair, or insecurity then you are likely operating from the Victim part of the ego. If your need involves feeling more love, happiness, appreciation, or connection, then you are probably working on good needs that involve healthy positive interactions with others. The long term answer is awareness of several aspects; what your needs are, when they are victim ego driven, how you ask, and whether the people around you can or will provide for what you ask.
We are complex beings requiring only a few physical things to survive, but many other intangible things in order to flourish and be happy. Holding rigidly to the belief of “not being needy” causes us to blur the line between material and everything else. We think of food, water, and shelter as needs, and everything else as wants. We tell ourselves we can do without “wants” and “desires” because we don’t need them. However, these “wants” and “desires” are what we need in order to be happy and fulfilled. Maybe part of the problem here is that we don’t think of being happy or feeling fulfilled, as important in our life to have the status of a need. How important is being happy to you? Until it is important, we dismiss our wants and desires and live a life unfulfilled and unhappy. You don’t have to consider satisfying wants and desires necessary for survival, but they are essential needs for spiritual, emotional well-being, and happiness.9