When I ask client’s, “what do you need right now?”, they usually look at me like I’m speaking a different language, which makes sense since most of you have never been asked that question before.
Many families give the message- whether it be implicit or explicit- that your emotions are “too much” or that your caregiver’s emotions are more important.
As a child you were responsible to meet the emotional needs of your caregiver--as long as you weren’t a “problem”, they would be happy.
But when you're not allowed to fully express yourself, shame and self- judgement develop because it feels like something’s wrong with you when emotions, needs and desires arise.
You learn to suppress your emotions but those emotions don’t go away, you just coped with them in other ways, i.e. dieting, perfectionism, control, self-criticism...
These coping skills worked when you were a kid, in fact they helped you survive, but they stop working as you become an adult.
These beliefs impact your adult relationships since any emotional need makes you “needy” and love has to be earned from your partner, rather than inherent in the relationship.
There tends to be a fear that your partner will leave if you express any need or desire.
Basically, you can be in a relationship as long as you go with the flow and don’t “burden” your partner with your existence…
...which usually doesn’t lead to long-term happiness in a relationship...
So how do you actually know what you need?
It begins with self-awareness so that you learn how to identify and understand your needs as an individual and a human being in this world.
Awareness changes the patterns of neglect because it fosters self-connection.
As you learn to connect with what you feel, it gives insight into what you need.
By developing a connection with your body, you can notice what you’re physically feeling to understand what you’re experiencing in the present moment.
As you observe your experience, you can get curious about what you might need to soothe, comfort or be with yourself when difficult emotions arise.
If you can allow for these experiences it reinforces the fact that you exist and your feelings are real and valid.
When you realize that you allowed to exist in this world then it opens you up to understand that having needs is normal too.
All of us have needs--the need to feel safe, accepted, connected and loved-- are part of our humanness.
We all crave love and connection because it helps us feel alive!
The connection with yourself spills into a connection with others, a connection with the world and it becomes safer to be seen.
You’re allowed to have needs. You’re allowed to take up space. You’re allowed to exist in this world. You’re allowed to be here.
Notice how your body reacts when you think of a mildly uncomfortable situation like sitting in traffic or that work meeting you're dreading; take a moment to realize what you feel on your body and how you’d describe those sensations.
Now, do the same for a pleasant situation like a special vacation or a happy memory that resonates with you. Notice how your body reacts to those memories and how you’d describe those sensations.
See if you can practice this exercise with a sense of curiosity, rather than judgement.