Why are needs so important? Well if you don’t eat, drink or regulate your temperature then you die. While other needs might seem less dramatic or less of a priority, they can be just as important.
For us to feel happy and to be well we need our needs met and this involves both physical and emotional needs. Getting touched, sex and feeling emotionally connected have a massive impact on our physical health, how long we live and how happy we are throughout our lives.
It also significantly lowers our stress levels and works as a second immune system. When we don’t express our needs, or more importantly don’t get them met, we become resentful, angry or disconnected. We often struggle to even know our own needs and when we do know we might struggle to express them clearly, which leads me to the second question…
Why are needs so hard to express? Shame.
Shame is used to control behavior as we have an innate fear of feeling rejected by the group. In tribal communities’ rejection often spelled death, so shame is a perfect tool to force compliance. As we grow up, we are often shamed for expressing our needs. Not because our parents were bad parents but they were simply unaware of the impact of their actions and how to respond in a healthier way.
We often got dismissed, ignored or told off for our needs as children. This taught us that our needs are not important or that we should not have them, so we learn to stop sensing or expressing them. We might have been made to feel our needs are a burden, that they are not important or that other people’s needs come above our own.
This has no doubt contributed to why many adults simply don’t know their needs as they have lost touch with that part of themselves, whilst others know their needs but can’t express them out of shame.
If we can’t sense our own needs and express them clearly, we are unlikely to get what we want. Going for long periods of times and suppressing our needs, or not having our needs met will likely lead to resentment… the number one killer of relationships.
We can instead teach our children to notice and express their own needs, but also that they can’t always have what they want in the moment.
This shows we still value their needs and that they express them.
The first step is to learn how to sense our own needs and gain self-awareness. Once we have done that, we can go on to practice how to express them clearly. What’s important when you learn to express your needs is that we also understand other people can’t always fulfill your every need. It might cross their boundaries or not be something they have energy or capacity to give us.
Disappointment is a natural part of any relationship and the process of learning to express our needs. What’s often not discussed about disappointment is that it is a great opportunity to create more closeness. If rather than moving apart you sit and listen to each other’s disappointment, show empathy, acceptance, and understanding, it can bring you so much closer.
Often what we want the most is being heard and seen by our partner.
Now let’s learn how to express our needs clearly
Exploring your needs is the first step is to get in touch with your needs and find clarity. If you feel frustrated then it’s often down to unmet needs.
This is a great opportunity to discover what needs that are important to you and which are currently not being met.
Frustration is like an alarm bell for unmet needs. Other emotions can also point you to unmet needs so focus on how you feel and your bodily sensation.
I know now that when my mood drops or I feel tense it’s because I am not getting enough exercise, touch or social contact (probably because I spend half my life writing -)). So, I go do exercise, ask for stroking or call friends to see if they want to meet up.
Write down when you need to—those times when your feelings run wild—so you don’t forget them and can express them later. This will also show you what needs are most neglected and urgent, as they will likely cause repeated frustration and be repeated multiple times in your journal. These feelings are likely tied to your most important needs so be as specific as possible.
Writing down you want to “feel more special” is not specific as different things make different people feel special.
What makes you feel special? Here are two more examples:
- “I want more touch.”
- Is that specific? No.
Your partner might start touching your feet when you want back stroking.
I personally like five-minutes of slow gentle scratching on my back when I come home from work. Now that’s specific and clear.
Or similar the example above:
- “I want to feel special.”
Would you know what I need if I said that? No, of course not.
It’s different from person to person and moment to moment.
I like when/if you make me my favorite dinner, Sushi. It makes me feel special and I have the need to feel I am special to you.
That, again, is specific.
All your needs are natural and good.
It could be that you want more quality time with your partner, that they be more attentive when with you, show more interest in your life, give you gifts, do things for you, touch you more etc…
You might have no idea of your sexual needs if you have never explored this. Go get some inspiration, read books about fantasies or watch erotic movies. Notice what turns you on. Explore with self-touch if you are not sure how you like your body to be touched.
Explore, explore, explore. Only when you know what you need can you communicate it clearly and get your needs met.