For reasons that can fill up volume and volumes of books on psychology shelves, human needs are some of the most vexing topics imaginable. And, another inscrutable topic is the need to pretend that one has no needs! Huh? But, sadly, that is true. The energy spent in pretending we have no needs is astonishing.
Let’s save the heavy lifting (off of the library shelves) and just cut to the core of the matter:
- All humans have needs (ask Abraham Maslow if you don’t believe me)
- The idea of being called “needy” is terrifying to most adults
- Many of us were raised to be embarrassed by our needs, so therefore we may deny their very existence
- HOWEVER, we will still attempt to get our needs met in one way or another…and if we have denied the needs, our unconscious will drive
- Acknowledged or denied, everyone can see our needs anyway!
- Getting un-declared needs met can wreak havoc—on us, and those around us
- It’s “cleaner” to accept the need and get it met appropriately, than to deny it
What does this have to do with better living? Everything! Since we were little, all of us have had encounters with rude, whiny, and demanding people. Our parents and teachers have pronounced that these folks are SELFISH. The lesson? “I don’t want to ever be talked about like that.” So, we proceed through life, ignoring, denying and dismissing our needs.
The punch line, though, is the need didn’t go away. Psychologist Linda Berens notes that when needs are not met, an “individual is drained of energy and suffers dissatisfaction or stress.”
Here’s an example: I coached a vice president of sales who had been enjoying great success, but found herself feeling increasingly fussy and uninspired. Her frustrations were spilling out in work meetings and around her kitchen table, too. In questioning her about her activities, I learned that she is a master gardener. However, over the years, she’d pruned back her time in the garden because of the demands from work. A-ha! In our coaching work, we were able to identify her essential needs: to create beauty, order and to be a master. She realized that returning to the garden would meet those needs in a more satisfactory way than expecting her sales force or children to meet them for her. Within weeks, her team noted that she was less prickly and more developmental in her leadership.
Of course, returning to the garden suitably met a number of her needs…but I also asked her to consider where else her need for order could be met. (She instituted a family calendar in the kitchen, and the children chose their own color for the markers which would signify their disparate activities.) She also concluded that the need to be a master is more graciously attained in the garden than in her book club.
As you explore your own better living center, “owning” and satisfying your needs is an essential activity. Here is one way to see if you have an unidentified, unmet need.
Think about a recent time when you found yourself behaving in a way you really can’t explain or condone. Now, grab your pencil and start answering the following questions:
- What was your behavior?
- What need was not getting met?
- What did it cost you in the eyes of others?
- If this need were met, how would it add to better living?
- Who can help you to get this need met?
Mary Ellen Sailer, Ed.D.