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