The Power of Re-Claiming Your Needs
Unpleasant emotions always veil something deeper. While we often like to ignore and dismiss them, it’s important to remember that they always tell the truth about something. Our thoughts and emotions point to our deepest needs—and to the pain of where they have not been met. We have all known the pain of a need that isn’t met by a parent or significant other. Even more poignant are the needs that we ourselves are unaware of or don’t acknowledge.
A lack of awareness of one’s own needs is apparent in people who had to manage the needs of others in their childhood. Did you have a parent or sibling whose needs always seemed more important or urgent than yours? Meeting the needs of others can be adopted as a survival strategy. It can help to keep the peace, especially for sensitive or empathic types. When this happens, it fractures one’s relationship to healthy needs and needing. Like this, early life teaches you that it is ok for others to need—but not for you.
You’ve probably become really good at sensing what other people need. Attuning to others may have become part of your gift. The downside to this is that you may lack the ability to ask for and receive what you need. You may often feel taken advantage of or find yourself in the role of doormat. A huge part of the healing journey is in the un-shaming and claiming your needs.
“Our needs tend to hide behind our feelings. When you feel a strong emotion, ask yourself what you need right now. If you have a disagreement with your partner, feel exhausted, frustrated, or angry; start by identifying what you feel. Listen to the emotion. Then claim the emotion and ask yourself what the need is that is not being fulfilled in this moment—and is there a way that you can fulfill this need?”
Healing and personal growth are a sweet balance between working on our human needs and cutting through the thoughts and beliefs that keep us trapped in our suffering. Only working on our needs has no end. While some needs are universal and their fulfillment is essential for our well-being, others are continuously re-created through identification with our personality. There will always be more and new needs to attend. Only working on our thoughts and beliefs dismisses the needs of the inner child. This can create a deeper internal split and create more suffering in our lives.
To create happiness, we have to discover the true needs of our heart and soul. The fulfillment of those needs is essential for living an emotionally fulfilled life. The struggle and lessons we learn from dealing with and fulfilling our needs is a big part of why we incarnate on this planet. These powerful needs are what drives the soul to come into physical form—and only when we find an answer to them does our soul find peace.
We also have many wants and desires based on our beliefs of how things ought to be. These needs are products of the mind and are not essential for our survival. They are not necessary for the completion process of our soul—even if we feel they are important. Instead of bringing deep fulfillment of the heart, they merely satisfy the wants of the ego. These wants create suffering because we project them onto life which is unable to meet them all. While these wants do not directly fulfill a deep purpose, identifying and working with them also leads to growth and self-insight.
It can be difficult to distinguish between your fundamental and superficial needs. When we’re suffering and are lacking clarity it can be especially hard to realize what is what. Perhaps the following example can give you a first idea of what I’m talking about. The need for a stable and safe relationship can be a deep authentic need. However, the need that your partner watches less tv is a different story. While it is valid that you would like him/her to watch less tv, it is impossible to change someone. They may be unable to meet your request. Perhaps watching tv is the best way that they know to deal with what they are going through. In this case, your suffering does not stem from a primary need which is unfulfilled, but from you resisting life as it is right now. Your belief that he/she should watch less tv resists reality. The reality is that your partner is watching a lot of tv. Ask yourself, is it true that he or she should watch less tv? The word ‘should’ usually points us to a belief we carry. If this belief is not in alignment with reality, with what is happening right now, we suffer. If you didn’t carry the belief that your partner should watch less tv, you may be feeling a lot happier.
Let’s inquire a little deeper into this need. Most likely your dissatisfaction in this example is not about the act of watching tv itself. If you go a little deeper and look into what your true need is, your answer may be something like, “I would like that he/she gives me more attention”. So, your true need is not for them to stop watching tv, but is a need for more attention, affection, or intimacy. From identifying this need, you can then investigate how you can get this need met. Perhaps you can speak about this with your partner. Or you can do something nice for yourself, get a massage, talk to a friend or nurture your feelings in a different way.
In the first part of this example, we project our own ideas onto a situation which then leads to frustration. In the second part of the example, we identify what our need behind the irritation or resistance is and seek ways to fulfill this need by ourselves or with the help of others.
This process is extremely powerful. It gives insight into how resistance creates suffering in life, and not life itself. It helps us become aware of what our true needs are and to take responsibility for them. When we learn to take care of our own needs, we feel less dependent on others. This feels incredibly empowering. Taking care of our own needs doesn’t mean that we do it all by ourselves from now on. It means fully owning what we need or desire so that we can communicate it clearly and with self-responsibility. Like this, we are more likely to get our needs heard and met.
The simple process of identifying our needs has the power to change our lives. While getting our needs met is important, it’s even more important to learn to identify them. Most of the time we struggle not because of our unfulfilled needs. We remain unfulfilled because of our unacknowledged needs.
“Life always mirrors to us who we are. Our struggles in life are largely a reflection of what we’re not yet conscious of. Unmet needs are often unacknowledged needs. The more we become conscious of our needs; the more life begins to fulfill them.”
“Taking big steps can be scary. We never know what life has in store for us. But as long as we don’t step up, life has no reason to give us an upgrade.”
It’s about becoming your own best friend. Know what your needs are and then go out and get them met. This is the greatest act of self-love. Not only do you learn how to fill yourself up from the inside; taking care of our needs also makes us less dependent on others. It increases confidence and self-esteem.
Sometimes, to get our needs met, we have to make bigger life changes. Often, this is where people stop. Making big life changes can be terrifying. The thing is, if you’ve been unhappy for a long time, don’t expect that to change if you’re not willing to change.
Taking a step into the unknown requires deep trust. The trust that life has a plan. The trust that once we take our first step in the direction that we want to go, life will take care of the rest. And it does. I don’t know anyone who regrets having taken life-changing decisions that were inspired by their heart. I took a leap of faith by moving to a new country three times in my life so far. I have given up jobs I no longer enjoyed without having a safety net. I have let go of friendships that were no longer serving me. And guess what? Life only kept getting better. Because every time I was leaving something behind that was no longer serving me, I was putting out into the universe what were my true needs. And life naturally reassembles itself around that. Because we are life. We are not separate from it.
This doesn’t mean that life is always easy. Challenges keep coming. Situations we can learn from keep arising. But as long as we continue to investigate our needs and follow the calling of our heart, every situation guides us more toward who we are and what we are here for. Sometimes we need to put our fear aside and take a leap of faith. We have to do something different if we want change. If you follow your heart, you will only get closer to it.
Deniz Aydoslu, MA, is an advanced certified yoga and meditation teacher and expert in the therapeutic application of yoga and somatics for mental health. She helps women heal emotionally and restore their connection to Spirit by integrating the body, heart, inner child, and soul into a meaningful whole. She offers deeply transformative work as well as simple tools to improve well-being, creativity, and productivity through fun, easy, and nourishing self-care tools.
As an experienced yoga and meditation teacher, somatic educator, and shamanic psychotherapy practitioner, she infuses her work with the healing power of love and the value of nature as medicine.