Everything we say, do or think is to get our own needs met. This is not to say that we are selfish and it’s only about self-survival, on the contrary, as the recent studies in neuroscience can now prove that we are hard-wired for empathy from birth. We can also see from our needs that most of them if not all are interdependent of others. I think it’s safe to say, we are far from selfish.
So why is it then that we have issues with being needy or spend so little time being connected to our needs? It will come as no surprise that our prior conditioning through our childhood and even our ancestor’s childhoods, we have been raised in a society based on punishment and reward. At many points’ in our lives we have no doubt attempted to have needs met just by being “ourselves” only to have been punished either physically, verbally or non-verbally, who can remember a stare or certain look that they feared. Even a simple exchange such as being denied being allowed to go to the toilet in school is enough to let you know that your needs do not matter. Our needs, and feelings about these being unmet would have been mirrored to us through our primary caregivers during infancy and early childhood. If these were not mirrored then we would have no idea that we had needs. This was certainly the case for me. My Mum would’ve told me that I was the perfect child until I was 15. The reality of this was I didn’t have any awareness of my needs until I was 15, and the strategies I was using to get them met was causing conflict with my parents. It was poor mirroring in my childhood that I believe contributed to this. This unconscious awareness from my Mother was translated that being “needless” was “perfect”. I was also shown many times throughout childhood and adolescence that having needs and expressing feelings was a sure way to be criticised, humiliated and taken advantage of. It’s then not too hard to understand why we deny and disconnect from our feelings and needs.
But the fact of the matter is we have them, and we are always trying to meet some need whether we are aware of not. It was through my discovery of Non-Violent Communication that has enable me to develop a needs literacy and to become conscious of the unhealthy and non-serving strategies I was using in order meet them. Unaware of my need to loved and wanted I was having meaningless sexual relationships. Unaware of my need for ease around being seen and heard I used alcohol to meet these needs. It became clear, however, that my needs were still not being met and further unhappiness was endured.
This brings me to where feelings and emotions come into it. Basically, when our needs are met we experience feelings such as contentment, happiness, connectedness etc and when our needs are not met we experience feelings such as sadness, frustration, disappointment etc. Again, humans have a whole range of feelings each of them giving valuable information as to what we need right now.
When we can allow our feelings to direct us to what we are needing and allow our inspiration and intuition to guide us in life serving ways to have these needs met. Then we can live in harmony with our self and each other.
Don’t just take my word for it, now I invite you join in the practice to develop your “needs literacy”.
Although we have different needs at different times in differing amounts at different time, its helpful to look at them as universal. The needs are autonomy, connection, meaning, peace, physical well-being, play – within these universal area there are many sub-areas. Click here for a list of needs as supplied by the Center for Non- Violent Communication (CNVC).
Have a look through the list of needs or print out.
I invite you now to take a moment and think of something you have said or done recently and connect to the needs that were met. It could’ve have been lunch with a friend or colleague, making a phone call (maybe one you have been putting off, or something you said or did to your significant other, child or neighbour.
My lunch with my friend today met needs of connection, fun, inclusion and contribution
A teleconference I attended last night met needs for learning/growth, purpose/meaning, faith, contribution
Think of something someone else said or done that you may have experienced some judgement or experienced feelings of discomfort and see if you can connect to what needs of theirs they were trying to meet
My son ignored my pleas for him to do his homework and stayed in his room watching TV his needs for autonomy, rest, play and choice may have been met
Using the situation that you answered in Practice 2 see if you can connect to what needs of your were not met
My son ignored my pleas for him to do his homework and stayed in his room watching TV
My unmet needs were to be heard, shared responsibility, to matter
It would give me great pleasure for you to leave a comment or email me with feedback from these exercises. I am interested to hear any shifts in perception or feelings after connecting to the needs or equally if this had no affect.
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Current events (Click Current Events for booking and more info)
1 day workshop in Belfast 12th November
Monthly Practice Evening in Crossgar 22nd November