Today I move on to the next step of learning how to identify and define our personal needs. Before we are able to express to another how they may be able to assist us in meeting our needs, we have some personal reflective ‘work’ to do. Get down to the emotional needs that we are seeking to fulfil can take some time and effort. By this I mean, our needs may not be apparent to us immediately and peeling back the layers to come to a place of knowing what our needs are is a contemplative process that requires a commitment to self-discovery.
The first step is for us to take a look at our emotional realm and the associated thoughts that go hand in hand with these feelings. This means stopping and assessing our inner emotional/feeling/sensing experience to get to a place of naming, at least partly, what it is we are actually feeling. Being able to name or label our emotional experience helps us to regulate and manage our emotions as well as to go a little deeper to find the associated need that is often ‘buried’ beneath the emotion.
Once we have got to naming what the emotional experience is, we can begin to ask ourselves reflective questions that help with the ‘uncovering’ process. Great questions to ask are:
What is it that I really need here? Not just what action do I wish this other/life would give me or do differently, but what does this action/experience represent to me? What is it that I am longing for or craving here? What does my heart/soul/body/mind need right now?
The answers to these questions can be found by selecting one/more of the personal needs that I drew our attention to last week. Think in terms of “to feel”, “to have”, “to experience”, and “to be”. An example may be: “I am needing connection”. The next question to ask is: “What does ‘connection’ look like to me?” By doing this we define, more precisely, the specifics of what our need looks like. For some, ‘connection’ may mean going out for dinner and chatting, for another, it may mean cuddling up in front of a movie with our loved one. Knowing the specifics helps us to clarify whether we can meet our needs alone or whether we need to enlist the help of another or others.
Some needs may take longer for us to discover as we continue to unravel and contemplate the layers of our emotional and psychological understanding. Other needs may be highly significant to us, such as when we need to make a job change, move house, get married, or do something that radically transforms the direction our life is moving in.
As you may well see, discovering our deeper needs requires that we make decisions about what, when and how we are going to meet them. It also involves believing that we deserve to have our needs met and that it is okay to ask safe others to help us in meeting those that we can’t do alone. Learning to identify our needs is a personal growth skill that gets better the more we use it. It also has both the immediate and long-term consequences of contributing to the creation of a life that is enriching and fulfilling.