Do you know what it’s like to wake in the morning and feel on purpose? A feeling that the way you are about to engage with your day is chosen by you, brings satisfaction and fulfilment on a regular basis? Do you welcome the challenges that await you in your day? Do you have an underlying sense that you have value and that at least one part of your life has meaning for you? Do you meaningfully or lovingly engage with other people on a regular basis? Are you growing and thriving?
We all need to feel that our lives have meaning and value, purpose and connections, active engagement in goals and aspirations. We need to be aware of our personal values and live to them; kindness, compassion, honesty, trust, integrity and so on. When we meet these needs we feel good. When we don’t we feel at best uneasy, at worst depressed or anxious. If we consistently neglect our innate drive to meet basic emotional needs, it can result in a loss of motivation, a feeling that life lacks meaning and feelings of drudgery or emotional distress. It’s an open doorway to addictions, depression, or other emotional problems such as anxiety.
Nobody wants to feel bad, so what’s the answer?
Do you know what you need?
As part of our genetic make-up, we all have an inbuilt inescapable drive to meet a set of physical and emotional needs. When these are well met, the brain triggers the release of chemicals that give a feeling of satisfaction or contentment. If life has little or no ‘feel good factor’, we suffer and we also make ourselves vulnerable to emotional problems and addictive behaviours.
Over the last 100 years there seems to have been a loss of the natural healthy resourcefulness of tackling emotional challenges that arise. One of the problems of our ‘can have it all instantly’ culture that has grown so vast in the last century, is that we have learned to expect to not have to work at feeling content. Marketing tells us every minute of every day that you can be content now ‘just by having this’. All you have to do is to be able to afford it. Fast-track to bliss can be yours, if only you have the right clothes, the right drug, the right car, the right lifestyle. In other words, enough money. Instant gratification. Consumer culture has traded our emotional needs skills for a lottery ticket. We have learned that money equals happiness.
When we experience the emotional deficit of needs not being met (and everybody will at some time or another, wealthy or not) our innate drive to relieve the feeling will result in a coping strategy of some kind. Strategies tend to be either active or avoidant. We will either actively seek out a way of changing the situation and getting the need met or we avoid the need by overriding the feelings. We live in a culture where avoidance is easy. At our fingertips we have the ability to find an instant gratification that will change our feelings to something more acceptable. We can play computer games, drink alcohol, take drugs, watch TV, do some retail therapy, go to the casino, go on chat forums, watch porn – the list is almost endless. These choices are fine when they are occasional but for some people, they become the default and they lose touch with the ability to use any other ways of managing. The false feeling of satisfaction that is experienced as a result of addiction or harmful behaviours is a poor substitute for a life that feels good and works well.
When you meet your fundamental emotional needs it helps to soothe the mind and body, creating fertile ground for inspiration, passion and an expansive fulfilling life. When important needs are not met, people fall prey to emotional distress and the need for instant panacea.
How do I know if I am meeting my emotional needs?
The easiest way to tell if you are meeting your own needs is to become aware of how you are feeling. You don’t need me to tell you that the sensation of thirst is an indication that your body requires hydration, or that eating food can satisfy a hunger. You already know that hunger and thirst are signals from yourself that you need to take action to meet a certain need. If ignored, the discomfort will increase to such a level that it will dominate your attention until you are compelled to act.
Just as you will experience a physical discomfort if your physical needs are not met, neglecting emotional or psychological needs will result in emotional or psychological discomfort. A person who is isolated from others will likely experience loneliness. A lack of creativity and stimulation will result in boredom, a lack of control or autonomy brings a sense of helplessness or anxiety as things become less predictable. A lack of direction or goals and aspirations can result in feeling lost or stuck – purposeless. Any neglected need will make itself known by sending you an uncomfortable feeling. That feeling is designed to make you take action to meet the need and create satisfaction or contentment. Healthy action is the key. Habitual instant gratification is a tap.
What are my emotional needs?
When you consider what your basic needs might be, there will be some that are obvious and some that are less so. There are some needs that we cannot ignore. Basic survival relies on immediate physical needs: breath, hydration, nourishment, shelter, sleep, warmth and movement.
Beyond meeting these needs, we require safe territory, a secure environment, and a reasonable amount of predictability in the way things are. As tribal creatures, we have the social needs of intimacy, friendship and community, providing opportunities to make a contribution and to feel that we belong. We need to give and receive attention. Connection, feelings of love and care and community are vital to the core of our being. There is satisfaction in doing for others and making a contribution. For most people, when this need is neglected anxiety and depression are the company they keep. Human beings have a need for emotional feedback and recognition.
We often overlook the importance of being mindful of the connection between mind and body. Everybody knows that it is important to get the right nutrition and good exercise but not everybody has made the simple link between nutrition and feelings. The more we choose denatured foods and toxic ingredients, the less likely that the body and mind will feel good. Think about it. Your feelings of well being are generated within your physical body by the chemical signals being passed from one cell to another. If you want your body to make the chemistry of contentment, joy or bliss, then it stands to reason that you must give it the right raw materials to do the job.
So, with important basics in place we need to feel as though we are growing and thriving and moving towards something. Just like when you plant a seed, you prepare the soil and spread on some wonderfully nutritious organic fertiliser and then plant the seed. The best bit is to watch the seed poke its little green head out of the soil, full of expectancy and possibilities. You tend it with care so that it can flourish. The interesting thing about this growing process is that the seed doesn’t need to know what it will become, it just wants to grow and expand and feel the joy of itself.
A sense of personal growth and well being rely on providing yourself with creativity and stimulation. Seek out activities where you can experiment with creativity. Do things that stimulate thought and ideas. Get a good balance between doing these things with others and on your own. Sometimes you might feel as though you don’t know what to do. If that’s the case it’s usually because you won’t do anything unless you are certain you would like it, or be good at it. If you make those two things unimportant you can try things that you don’t know you would like or don’t know you would be good at. You might get a surprise… or you might cross it off the list.
All these things help to move you toward another vitally important emotional need – a sense of purpose, a feeling that you have value and can see the meaning in your life. This is mostly achieved by directing your attention outward – what can I do for others? What can I do for that person, that organisation? How can I make a contribution? What are my values? What do I stand for? Knowing the answer to these questions can help you to meet your need for purpose.
We have an emotional need to set and achieve goals. There needs to be a sense of ‘this is where I am going, this is what I want to achieve’. Without meeting this need, we become aimless.
All of the above will contribute greatly to some other fundamentally important emotional needs – a sense of autonomy, being in control of your life, self-esteem, confidence and personal value. When your emotional needs are being well met, you will feel contented, joyful and happy. You don’t need to be wealthy to have these things, you just need to make a plan.
If you don’t know where to start, seek out some resources. Who could help you to make a plan? There are a number of great books that describe how you can set out a good plan of action – check out your library, see if you can find Human Givens by Joe Griffin & Ivan Tyrrell. Use the thumbnail below to buy it from Amazon. Maybe you’d like to find a good Life Coach who can help you make a plan and stay on track. If you are currently feeling too unresourceful or overwhelmed, or feel you have too much to tackle, seek out a good psychotherapist – preferably one who uses hypnotherapy, just to help you get off to a good start.*
Give me a call, I’d love to help. 01273 500136
*Disclaimer: Please be aware that the results of any treatment will vary from person to person and no specific guarantees are being made. Mary Condell always endeavours to give her best work to each client with a commitment to the best possible outcome. Please call to discuss any queries or concerns you may have.