“Don’t you have a magic pill or something?” she laughs and then…stops. This is a person who doesn’t want to feel “this” anymore. She’s been hurt by the ones who were suppose to love and protect her. She is so disconnected from her own needs, wants and emotions as a result of being abused, denied, and neglected.
It’s hard enough to know our own needs and then, on top of that, to find safe people to help us meet them. Especially when all we’ve ever known is abuse, ridicule, hate and shame.
How do we overcome it and, as Brene Brown shares, show up and be seen authentically with our whole hearts?
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Core Symptom #4: Difficulty Acknowledging and Meeting Our Own Needs and Wants and Being Interdependent With Others
Needs and wants are tricky things. We so very often get them confused.
Lets get this out there: we’re all dependent. Kids are the most dependent as they come. They rely on their caregivers to teach them what their needs are, what their wants are and provide a safe place to get them met within the caregiver-child relationship. A great caregiver teaches their kids how to identify their wants and needs and eventually transitions them to meeting them on their own and learning how to ask others to meet them in an interdependent type of way. Beautiful.
As adults, our basic dependency needs–as Pia Mellody see’s them–are food, shelter, clothing, medical/dental attention, physical nurturing, emotional nurturing, education, spirituality, sex and financial resources. With the exception of a few, we can have these needs met on our way. However, we have to be taught how to first recognize our needs and then how to seek others out to get them accomplished via interdependence (not codependence).
Wants are not as high on the hierarchy list. Needs are foundational. Wants can be seen as “wants” and “Wants.” Little wants versus Big wants. The former are more like preferences whereas the latter typically take our lives in one direction or the next–“I want to be a Doctor,” “I want to build my own business.” “I want to be the CEO.” These types of things.
There are 4 main categories of struggling to identify and meet our own needs and wants:
- Too Dependent
- Needless and Wantless
- Confusing our Needs and our Wants
So, where do these dysfunctional adaptations and strategies come from?
(This is where it gets good)
I am too dependent
This is a person who knows their wants and needs but refuses to meet them on their own. They rely, solely, on others to meet all their needs and wants. This is a kid whose parents did everything for them.
Helicopter parent, much? To be fair, these parents truly believe that their being the best parent by providing every single thing for their child and doing everything for them. In reality, they are creating an adult dependency monster. Yikes.
I am antidependent
This is a person who literally gives the finger to everyone around them when it comes to their needs and wants. They do acknowledge their needs and wants, they simply don’t want anyone else to help them. Typically, this is born out of a childhood where the primary caregiver constantly attacked the kid. “Mom, I’m hungry” was often met with a slap to the face and/or a “you’re such a little brat, I’m trying to enjoy my show. Get it yourself.” Kids who were raised in this kind of environment, learned from a very early age that no one else is to be trusted. They have to fend for themselves. We often see this played out in super dysfunctional ways via pornography, sexual addictions and a host of other adaptive strategies to get their needs and wants met.
I am needless and wantless.
This person knows they have needs and wants but has no clue as to what they might be. It stems out of a childhood where they were consistently and constantly denied, neglected, abandoned, abused. They have no idea what their wants and needs are because they were never identified by their primary caregivers much less met. This kid grows up to be an adult who exerts so much energy into meeting others needs and wants at the expense of never knowing himself/herself fully to meet them.
I get my wants and needs confused.
Have you ever heard someone say, “yeah, I felt like I was needing something so I went out and bought a bunch of clothes.” Or perhaps “I know I needed something so I want out and slept with a bunch of men/women this last week.” Their needs and wants are massively confused. As kids, they most certainly got all of what they wanted and very little of what they actually needed. To overgeneralize, we see this a lot with kids from wealthy families. They got so much of what they wanted growing up but so little of what they needed–intentional time with mom/dad, playful engagement, emotional nurturing, having a sense of belonging.
“Not tending to one’s needs and wants appropriately is often connected to a feeling of low self-esteem (shame). Whenever the “adult child” feels needy or has a want, shame flares at the onset of the experience of needing or wanting…The adult codependent feels as if he or she is terribly selfish to need or want something, however legitimate it may be.” Pia Mellody in Facing Codependency.
This is so incredibly foundational. If you hear or read nothing else, please know this: your needs and wants matter. Knowing what they are and how to get them met through interdependence is massively difficult but incredibly life giving. You’ll achieve a sense of intimacy in your relationships that will blow you away. It’s beautiful. I pray you discover this for yourself.
Olivia specializes in restoring relationships, recovering intimacy and unlocking people’s true potential. Check out her website to get to know her a bit better and how counseling could be the key to unlocking all that is keeping you small, feeling insignificant and disconnected from yourself and others.