Ever noticed how the word NEED gets a bit of a bad wrap in spiritual circles, under the guise of Non Attachment? I’ve had friends & partners talk to me endlessly about their NEED for freedom and their repulsion to feeling needed. And I’ve struggled to marry that with my intuition that needs are a valuable and essential part of human existence. Oh the great irony of the masculine’s need for FREEDOM (fear of loss of Self) and the feminine’s need for SAFETY (fear of abandonment).
I hold both of these pieces within my self and believe that what true union or love is – is a balance between these 2 seemingly contradictory needs. As someone who has a dominant feminine essence my wounding has been predominantly around fear of abandonment, ie my need for SAFETY. A wounding magnified as a result of loss and trauma experienced when I was young and still developing emotionally and then exacerbated during my healing journey when I decided to join a high control group (aka cult) that did it’s very best to reinforce old beliefs that I must comply in order to stay safe/belong.
Thankfully my stay with the high control group was short lived – turns out I didn’t take too well to being dictated to on how to live my life. But my time with them and the self harm I experienced during this time became a catalyst for massive growth and healing. In my attempt to understand why I would abandon myself so dramatically to be with this group I began working with a therapist and together we uncovered the very young part of me who had developed a belief that if I reached out to have my needs met – no one would be there to reach back.
Through gentle exploration I discovered that over time the pain of having those needs go unmet as a young girl became too great and I decided it was safer to just stop reaching. And in time I just eventually stopped knowing I had needs because I’d gotten so good at doing it all myself, or going without. It however didn’t make those needs go away – it just pushed them further into the unconscious and had me unconsciously attempt to have them met by others.
Recently I did some intensive training around touch and consent with Betty Martin (founder of Wheel of Consent) and over 5 days our group explored the HOWs and WHYs of not asking for what we want. We looked at how humanity ends up in shadow behaviours because we’re not able to ask for what we want.
At a very simple level I see this all relating back to our ability to know our needs, AND our believing that we’re worthy of having our needs met. And it all starts with how grounded we are in our body – can we actually feel what it is that I actually want and need in this moment?
The more present we are with our own experience the more trust comes from know what I’m feeling, and from what I’m feeling I know what I need, and from knowing what I need I can use my voice to ask for what I want and to truly own my YES and my No.
So what’s the difference between Needs vs Needinesss?
NEEDS are a natural & necessary part of our human existence. They are present in everyone, they motivate us to take action when they’re not met and help us to feel content when they are. Needs are necessary to survive and thrive. In Maslow’s theory there is a basic hierarchy of needs – we’re really familiar with what we call ‘basic needs’ but there is a whole plethora of other needs that are normal and natural and a part of our evolution, growth and thriving. Our emotional needs are where we tend to struggle more with knowing our needs and having constructive, responsible ways to having them met.
If we struggle to know what our emotional needs are then the chance of us asking for what we want is pretty low. And still these needs will exist and will attempt to be met, but now they’re unconscious so we may slip into manipulation, projection, coercion.
Rather than taking responsibility and initiative for having your needs met and asking for what you want, have you ever hoped the other person would just know, or tried to convince them that they wanted the very thing you do, or maybe you actually didn’t even know what you wanted so you asked them what they wanted instead. Any of this sound familiar?
Fear of rejection, fear of being judged and not knowing what we want are huge factors in why we don’t just ask for what we want. And the sad part is when we don’t ask and our emotional needs go unmet, there is a sense of deficit or lack and we go about trying to unconsciously fill the void.
And if we don’t even know what it is that we’re trying to have met we become like a hungry ghost, where the needs become endless…enter NEEDINESS.
NEEDINESS comes from a place of lack, a sieve that tends to be empty no matter how much you put into it. Neediness is born from expectations and not leaving room for someone to say no. Neediness is when someone else is unable to voice what they want and instead demands attention in an unconscious attempt to fulfil their needs. Neediness is when I am unable to know my own needs or ask for what I want. Neediness is a contrast to having needs. Neediness often creates a sense of repulsion.
So let’s get a little more clear with the words we’re using – are we talking about NEEDS or NEEDINESS. The more we slow down long enough to identify what we’re feeling the more we’ll come into contact with what we need, and the more honest and transparent we can be in asking for what we want. And in asking for what we want we need to practice being OK with receiving a NO, to stop taking it personally and to realise our world’s don’t end when someone says no. Don’t believe me, give it a shot, it’s an amazing experiment to play with.
In my journey of self discovery and self love the first step of reclaiming my power was to first acknowledge & embrace there was a hungry little ghost/little girl in me who had a lifetime of unmet emotional needs and they were insatiable – because I was so unconscious to their existence.
Slowing down long enough to feel this, see this and viscerally experience the grief in my body of these unmet needs was something I avoided pretty intently. Until I was away on vacation in Bali taking time alone to do some creative writing…when my body realised oh finally we have space to do this…and it all began to unravel, I unravelled. The woman who in the past had travelled the world solo and needed no one felt the weight of all those unmet needs and desperately wanted to come home to be with loved ones.
I came home knowing I didn’t want to be an ‘island’ anymore, I didn’t want to be this aloof woman who practiced non attachment aka who pretended she had everything under control and could do it all herself. I wanted secure functioning relationships in my life and I wanted to offer that same security to others.
Armed with a new found commitment to knowing my needs and reaching out to others meant I now needed to practice asking for what I wanted. I knew it wasn’t graceful, I knew it was clunky, I knew I had absolutely no idea how to ask for the simplest of things. But I thought at least I’m in touch with what my needs are. Hilarious to look back and realise how little I knew at that point, and how scared I was of allowing myself to own my own needs but grateful for the unravelling that has continued over the past couple of years.
It’s a work in progress for me, but one I’m committed to in my own relationships and in offering support and guidance for the women I work with.
If you’ve had your own journey with embracing Needs or growing out of Neediness I’d love to hear from you, comment below or send me a message. Together we learn. Together we grow.