Lately, I have been thinking about what it means to have needs, and what we do or don’t do to try and get our needs met. Beyond the basic requirements for survival, such as food and shelter, we have an inborn need for satisfying relationships and connection with others. What strikes me, however, is that we are often afraid to let these needs be known – as if we must be utterly self-sufficient or risk exposing some deficiency.
Women in particular tend to act as caretakers, but we often don’t know how to reach out when we feel alone or depleted. Perhaps we struggle with perfectionism – perhaps our families depended on us to “keep it together” – and asking for help now feels like weakness. Perhaps we have partners with whom we are locked in rigid communication patterns, where we desperately want to understand but somehow keep missing one another. Perhaps we’d like to tell someone that we really care about him/her but can’t for fear of rejection. The longing for authentic communication – to receive and be received as we are – is so strong that we hurt terribly when it somehow fails. So the needs are swallowed up, suppressed, tamed – at least momentarily.
It’s important to “check in” with ourselves from time to time. To get in touch with what we are feeling, to honor the truthfulness of what we’d like to say, rather than holding back or running away in fear. It seems to me that the disavowal of needs is at the heart of many an eating disorder. We’re hungry for something, though we may not be able to always identify it, or to even feel we deserve satisfaction and contentment.
As we transition from fall to winter – and to another holiday season with its joys and challenges – I hope that we can continue to be mindful of these needs and experiment with new ways of expressing them. Is the solution to simply ignore our desires and painful feelings and grimly “plow through”? Might it be worth the risk to approach an argument differently, to tell a loved one that we’ve been hurt, or to simply say “no” and create some quiet time for ourselves? Even subtle changes may affect our relationships and self-concepts in positive and surprising ways.
Luna leads the GO! Generating Opportunities for Successful Employment group on Tuesday afternoons at The Awakening Center. This group is for those who are job hunting and who want a supportive group setting to stay motivated. Call Luna at (773) 929-6262 x12 for more info.