Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Why Need Isn't A Four Letter Word

We are taught very early that being "needy" is undesireable. Our culture reveres self-reliance, sometimes to a pathological extreme. And our "needs" are often considered dirty, shameful or bad. Needs are often treated like a "four letter word," but to our detriment.

When we are children, our needs reflect what is required to keep us alive, initially physically, and eventually emotionally and spiritually as well. Today's culture focuses on the existence of and value for our basic and higher human needs as individuals than in past eras. In prior generations, more attention was paid to how well we conformed to societally defined roles. We were to be molded to fit the roles, rather than developed as unique human beings with inherent worth.

As a result, many of our basic emotional, relational and spiritual needs went unmet, and sometimes our physical needs went unmet too. People who have not had their emotional, relational, physical and spiritual needs met, will grow older chronologically, but they will not mature emotionally and relationally, because they will suffer from the gap created by the unmet needs. They will not have the skills nor the capacity to provide what others need, since they have not received what they need themselves.

Our task as we mature includes learning to identify our needs, and to learn how to ask others for what we need in respectful ways. This includes discerning who might be capable of meeting our needs, and who cannot meet our needs, so we ask in appropriate places. It is also important to not expect a close friend or a partner to meet all of our unmet needs. Close friends and partners can meet many of our needs, but there is a big difference between choicefully meeting another person's adult needs, and being a substitute parent for what someone never received as a child.

Our adult needs are often a mixture of unmet needs from childhood and adult needs, which may be related to or unrelated to our childhood needs. The more clearly we can understand, define and communicate what we need, the more successful we can become in getting what we need from ourselves and others. And the more respectful we are of the limits, boundaries and gifts of others, the more grace can be found as we seek places to have our needs met...and learn skills to reciprocate and meet others' needs.

Most simply, needing is part of being human. We are not meant to be islands. We are not meant to do it all alone. As we peel away barriers of shame that have been passed on to us by our families or the generations that came before them, we can see needs for what they are: basic ingredients that feed the human being--emotionally, physically, spiritually and practically.

When we learn how to get what we need, we have more space to give others what they need. And when we can both give and receive, the circle of our interconnection strengths.

Copyright 2011 Linda Marks

How Love Evokes Our Unloveable Parts

Last month I wrote about how what might appear to be incompatibility in a relationship, might actually provide a pathway to deepen love. In the mirror of love, as intimacy grows, we feel safe to be more of who we are. We can then take the risk of letting our wounded, unhealed and less developed parts, the parts we fear are "unloveable," surface for the purpose of healing.

Sometimes this happens consciously. But often it happens subconsciously or unconsciously. In the safety of love, our defenses start to melt, and our shadow parts emerge, the way a shoot emerges from a tulip bulb buried under the earth, sensing that spring is coming soon.

Initially, we may be horrified to feel so exposed, and to feel the discomfort of the parts we judge are "unloveable." What we reject, we distance from. This creates a barrier to intimacy with both self and partner. When we withdraw, we remove our energy, and it is the presence of this energy that allows intimacy to grow and flow.

It takes a lot of energy to keep our "unloveable" parts in the shadows. And sadly, most of these "unloveable" parts are very human. If only we feel safe enough to share them in a safe and loving context, we may find more compassion from others than we might anticipate given our own internal judgments.

And this very sharing, where we are received with compassion, may provide the very healing we crave and need. When we are brave enough to share our "unloveable" parts with our loved ones, we may find out that we are more loveable, "warts and all," than we might have imagined. And being embraced as a whole person, with human foibles, wounds and strengths, is what most of us yearn for deep down inside, in our heart of hearts.

Offering the gift of full presence to our loved ones, with an open heart, free of judgment, creates the safety to melt through barriers of self-judgment. In the end, we all win. Removing judgment creates more room for intimacy and love.

Copyright 2011 Linda Marks