“Judgments, criticism, diagnoses and interpretations of others are all alienated expressions of our needs”.
Pause a minute to take this in.
Consider someone you have recently been judgmental or critical towards.
Bring the incident to mind. Notice how it felt inside you. What led up to your feeling this way?
I realized how detrimental my attitude towards my own needs was when I’d sometimes hear myself talk to one I loved dearly. I cringe as I remember how over the course of our relationship I grew increasingly judgmental, critical and dissatisfied. I was ashamed of my own needs and even more so when I’d hear that I was ‘too’ needy!
Many of us in trying to learn to be independent adults and have healthy relationships have learned to be embarrassed by our neediness: we try to deny, dismiss or disguise our needs. That does nothing to satisfy or transform them. Notice how easy it is to acknowledge some of your needs and not as easy to admit to others.
Truth is, we are inherently needy creatures: from the moment we are conceived… and every day of our lives. We are by our very nature interdependent. No one escapes this aspect of our humanity. Our lives would be much smoother if we started by just accepting this fact!
Without accepting this we cannot begin to meet our needs. Paying attention to our needs is often about listening to and validating their existence. Perhaps something in us wants to feel in control, something that feels just overwhelmed, envious or jealous. Allowing what is already there to be there exactly the way it is is the beginning of its transformation. “Whenever something in us feels loved it awakens to its own healing” writes Kevin McEvenue in Whole Body Focusing.
Pause here a moment!
Bring to mind a time you were critical or judgmental.
Allow yourself to ease into that memory a little, holding it at a distance that allows you to look at it without being sucked into it. Just be curious. Was there something that you sense you needed?
Perhaps it was a part of you that needed to be acknowledged: It hurt, was scared or tired. Perhaps it was a need to be right, or in control of your situation. Maybe it was about being known and accepted… by yourself or maybe someone else. Maybe it was one part of you needing to fit in with others while another part of you needed to hold your own, both real and requiring your acknowledgement in order to help guide you.
It sometimes takes a conscious pausing and introspection to become clear about our real needs. Being open and ready to explore non-judgmentally makes this process shorter and sweeter. Perhaps what may first sound like “I need a walk” may after some reflection appear to be more like a need time to be alone. The walk is perhaps your answer to how that need can be met. If we express our needs unclearly, we may soon have to deal with someone pressing to go for that walk with us and then have the task of saying “No” while perhaps trying not to hurting their feelings. Perhaps it is exercise that you need and not being alone. That would change how you might communicate your need.
Begin to pay attention to your discomforts, the feeling of lacking something, a frustration, restlessness or an envious feeling. Pause and sense the underlying need trying to pop its head out to be noticed.
Let me know what you discover.
Becoming aware of your needs is just the beginning. Communicating your needs to others when necessary is the next step.
Click here for Marshall Rosenberg’s simple and very effective system to make gentle and effective requests of others.
More about the difference between needs and wants in another post!