Mind Matters: Recognizing your emotional needs

Everyone needs someone. It’s a fact of life. Only from a safe, loving connection with another can we find the emotional fulfillment we desire and need.

Many of us however, feel quite uncomfortable when we experience emotional needs. We want the feelings to go away so we try to deny them. We don’t want to feel empty, lonely or unloved. What we fail to realize is that all living creatures must be cared for in order to survive so craving closeness is a normal survival instinct. The human spirit, in its complexity, needs emotional as well as physical care.

Infants deprived of nurturing fail to thrive and unless they receive adequate love and attention will die. They gradually lose interest in food, cannot respond to human contact and literally fade away.

Many adults have survived infancy on a bare minimum of love. They might have been unfortunate offspring of young adolescents or parents who suffer from mental illness and/or addictions.

Unloved infants come into the world under numerous circumstances. Although these babies can and often do survive they are short-changed and enter adulthood with problems ranging from mild to severe. Often they struggle with underlying emptiness, fear and sense of inferiority. They seem to be always searching for an unnamable something.

Individuals who survived with less than adequate attention as babies may tend to be more “needy” than others. They manifest this in a variety of ways. They may like being the center of attention. Some can be the life of the party with wit and charm; others are great at monopolizing a conversation ad nauseam. Clinginess and aloofness are behaviors at opposite ends of a pole that some people use to cope with neediness.

The need for caring and affection, support and connection is not related to gender. Men as well as women desire closeness with friends and significant others. Men are more likely to hide these emotions behind a stoic façade that deprives them of what they most need. Some women try to get these needs met through dependence and demands for attention, which also is usually ineffective. Denial of one’s needs can only lead to frustration.

We deserve to have our basic emotional needs met. Needs are met only in the context of a relationship. All of our relationships, not only the romantic ones, potentially fulfill us in different ways. We feel competent through work; loved as spouses, relatives and friends. We feel successful when we accomplish something and someone notices.

If we accept the reality that it is natural to have needs we don’t have to feel inferior or guilty about it. Then we are free to let our loved ones know what we need and want from them. It is not inappropriate to let a loved one know when you need a hug, to be listened to, when you need companionship or space. To recognize our needs and learn how to ask for help in meeting them is a healthy goal for which we can all strive.

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Elinor Stanton is a psychiatric nurse practitioner on Marco Island. She has 30 years of experience as a therapist in private practice and with a large health maintenance organization in Boston. Send comments and questions to etseven@aol.com or call 394-2861. Visit her Web site at http://www.etseven.net.

© 2008 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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