For many of us, the first time we reflect on needs is when we become parents, grappling with what our children require from us to thrive in the world. Others reach their 20’s, 30’s, 40’s or 50’s without realising that they have actually have underlying needs, or that effectively meeting them will lead to psychological health. The idea that needs are neither mysterious, enigmatic or abstract but rather universal is certainly not mainstream knowledge. I think it is also true to say that for most of us, even if we are clued into our needs, we are not always sure how to use this knowledge for our own wellbeing. Nor is it salient in our minds when we’re feeling depleted. And perhaps pop-psychology wellbeing practices sometimes seem a little, well, feeble when our souls feel like lead.
Did you know that just like children, adults also have needs? It makes sense, doesn’t it, that our needs don’t just disappear with age. In the same way we might consider what need underlies a child’s presenting behaviour, we can also pose this question to ourselves. While we are all familiar with the need for rest, for exercise, good nutrition and for being connected to others, what about our other core needs? The psychological literature is a rich resource to draw from, and the following needs (Young, 2017) form a quick self-audit to check in on how you’re managing things at a deeper level.
How are things going for you in these areas?
1.Secure attachments to others (safety, stability, acceptance)
In your closest relationships, do you known, safe and loved?
2. Autonomy, competence and sense of identity
Do you feel confident enough to take care of things for yourself? Do you have a sense of what you’re good at?
3. Freedom to express valid needs and emotions
Are you able to express your feelings, thoughts and needs and have an understanding response in your attachment relationships (parents or partners)?
4. Spontaneity and play
Do you allow yourself to be creative, silly or imaginative?
5. Realistic limits and self-control
Are you able to recognise when you need to set limits, take responsibility or exercise self-control?
If your audit reveals an area or two you’re not sure about, don’t drop your sandwich! This is the process isn’t it? Towards deeper insight and being a healthier adult? It helps to be curious and non-judgemental about how you are currently managing those needs; to observe, to track, and to learn. If your audit reveals that some of your needs are not currently met, it is possible that you may also be using other, less helpful strategies to soothe, compensate or distract yourself. And it is also possible that you have a gap in your learning, that for some reason your parent or caregiver weren’t able to help you learn how to take care these needs, due to their own challenges of insight, availability or competing demands.
What has your self-audit revealed? Do you:
- Feel comfortable with the idea that you have needs?
- Attend to all of these needs with balance?
- Note that something often gets in the way of addressing your needs? (Such as prioritising the needs of others before yourself or a sense of defectiveness or shame for having needs)
What can you do to begin to meet these core needs today?
If you find this topic problematic or overwhelming, or are looking to spend some time exploring these ideas at a deeper level for longer lasting change, why not spend some time with a therapist?