How do you know whether your needs are being fulfilled at any moment? Begin by looking at your feelings as they tell you if your needs are being fulfilled or are lacking. Ask your self, “How am I feeling?” when doing a certain activity (i.e. watching TV, doing a task, being with a certain person.)
A simple way to monitor how you are feeling is to look at your energy level. Is this a thumbs-up or a thumbs-down situation? ‘Thumbs-down’ feelings (i.e. sad, anxious, frustrated) indicate needs are not being satisfied. ‘Thumbs-up’ feelings (i.e. joy, relaxed) indicate that the situation is meeting your needs. In each situation, try to identify what exactly is draining or filling your needs cup.
In getting your needs met one has to be careful not to be tricked into meeting needs in unhealthy ways. These appear as addictions, risky or obsessive behaviour or any other undesirable activity. Although these actions temporarily meet our needs, they are not in the long, or even short term, best for our soul. When the drug, activity or person leaves, we literally come down from our psychological high, often feeling worse. What can we do instead?
Think of instances when an inner voice has said, “I need … .“ You could finish this sentence with ‘more chocolate,’ ‘another drink,’ ‘to go shopping’ or ‘to call my ex-partner.’ The key is to identify how were you feeling or what you were thinking just before the need statement popped into consciousness. Most often you were feeling uncomfortable feelings associated with negative self-talk (i.e. ‘I’m no good,’ or ‘I feel lonely.’) Recall the types of needs from last week. What needs do you think were not being fulfilled at this moment? Name an action or thought you might do to fulfill that need. This might be going for a walk or saying an affirmation to your self such as, “I am loved.”
Unhealthy need fulfillment often appears in relationships. Both people unconsciously fall into dysfunctional roles such as Care-giver, Rescuer or Wounded Child. We may feel comfortable in these roles but we are really acting out childhood roles, unconsciously hoping to get our unfilled needs met. We may temporarily get our needs met, but more often than not, we are disappointed by, even resentful of, the other person. If insightful enough, we realize we are actually resentful of our self for once again trying to obtain something we cannot get from someone else.
Author and Jungian analyst, James Hollis advises one to ask, “What am I asking others to do for me that, as a mature adult, I need to be doing for myself?” Additionally, we can reflect upon, “Am I taking too much responsibility for the emotional well-being of others?” If so, why? These are tough but necessary questions to ask.
When you take care of your self, fulfill your own needs, you relieve your partner, family or friends of this impossible task, freeing them and you of dysfunctional roles and expectations. In the end, everyone can just be who they truly are.