“I need a vacation!” “I really need a new pair of shoes.” The term need refers to necessity, compulsion and duty and may have been influenced by the Old English word neod meaning desire and longing. However, what do we really need?
Needs are essential for survival. Beyond the obvious physical needs for survival, such as food, water and shelter, one requires the fulfilment of psychological needs. As children, this fulfilment falls onto the responsibility of our parents or primary caregivers. These needs, called ‘ego needs,’ help children achieve and maintain confidence and self-esteem.
One ego need is called Mirroring and is a need to feel affirmed, recognized and accepted especially when able to show oneself. This is experienced when parents acknowledge and appreciate an accomplished or attempted task or a specific quality in the child. The Idealizing need is a need for acceptance by a calm, wise and protective situation or person that possesses the qualities the person lacks. This occurs when a child looks up to a teacher or parent and the person reflects back care and respect for the child rather than authority or power.
Twinship is the need to experience an essential likeness with a desired person or situation. In this case, the child feels part of the family, a club or a culture. This fosters a sense of support and belonging. The Adversarial need is to experience a caring opposing force who continues to be supportive and responsive while allowing or even encouraging one to be in active opposition. This occurs when the child is given permission to have different opinions than the parents, to debate ideas and to still feel loved regardless of these differences.
Efficacy is a need to feel that one has an impact and is able to evoke what one needs. A simple example is an infant learning that (hopefully) someone will come to feed her, change her diapers or hold her when she cries. The child learns that she has the ability to initiate, to ask for and to receive needs on her own, forming a sense of self-empowerment.
Once these basic psychological needs have been met and as the child reaches adolescence, the task for the individual is to now become less dependent on external sources for the gratification of needs. Ideally, one now has their own inner resources and enough self-esteem so they do not have to rely so heavily upon others to fulfill their needs.
Unfortunately, for the most part, our parents did not do a complete job of meeting our needs. The consequences of unfilled childhood needs is the often unconscious seeking of these needs in our adult relationships whether it is with friends, spouses, co-workers or children. We look externally, as we did as children. However, as adults, we need to look inwardly to fulfill our needs.
It is a worthwhile exercise to reflect upon to what degree each of these needs were met in your childhood. Further, notice how you currently fulfill these needs. Next week we’ll look further into need fulfilment.