The Power of Needs

I had a hard time figuring out what I wanted to write on this week. I half-wrote two other blogs but felt that they were not what I was supposed to post. Today, however, I realized what was really on my heart.

Needs.

If you pay any attention to humanistic psychology, you’ll probably recognize Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. If not, here is a visual:

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Essentially Maslow was making the point that everyone has needs, and if basic needs aren’t met then higher needs cannot be met. If someone is starving, odds are they are not particularly concerned with relationships (belonging needs). When belonging needs are not being met then odds are our self-esteem needs will not be met. In a lot of ways this holds true to my own life, and I’m sure this will resonate with some of you.

Due to my upbringing and other circumstances in my life, I became self-sufficient very early on. To me, needs indicated weakness and I did everything in my power not to appear weak. I ignored my needs to feel safe and stable, to be cared for and in relationship with others, and to feel respected or seen. Instead I tried my best to stay out of the limelight, to stay detached from people (therefore keeping myself safe), and focused on my basic needs which were more acceptable. After all, everyone needed food, water, and shelter.

Of course it was not all bad and please don’t take this as the situation always. The hierarchy is meant to be a fluid and dynamic thing. We move through the layers and sometimes we face relapse and fall back to a lower one, but we’re always changing and shifting. There were times where relationships were important and where I wanted to be known for my achievements. However, my fear of being needy still carries over into my life today and when I find myself irritable or upset, I just have to look at the pyramid and it can usually help my figure out why.

Typically I get stuck in the “belonging needs.” I have a very difficult time reaching out to people to fulfill my need for community and love. Even when I do reach out, I have trouble when it comes to voicing my needs, so I walk away feeling frustrated because a need was not met. Yet I have learned something from all this and it is as follows: If I am not willing to be my own advocate, people are not going to be able to read my mind and fulfill my needs.

In other words, I need to learn to voice my needs because that is going to be the only way they get met. If I keep waiting around for people to read my mind, my mood, or my actions and figure out from there how to fulfill my needs then I am going to be waiting a very long time to feel loved. Instead, I am learning that I have to reach out and make requests and let people know that I need them. Then my needs are fulfilled and I’m able to ascend the hierarchy and continue toward realization of the bigger picture.

Don’t wait around for people to become mind readers. It is okay to need things.  

The Struggle

It sucks to know what is going on in my head while having no interest in fixing it.

Often times it is easier to succumb to the voice in my head that says I’m not good enough, that I’m unlovable, that I’m annoying, that I’m a burden, than it is to constantly fight against it. It is easy to be cranky, to isolate myself, to tell the world to leave me alone because I can handle everything just fine on my own, thanks.

Yet it is in the fight that there is growth. It is when I grapple with these voices, these concepts, and these beliefs I hold about myself that I begin to see change. When I cease to blindly accept that I am worthless, unlovable, and annoying I find that underneath it all that I’m actually okay. The lies that I tell myself crumble under the slightest pressure and I feel freedom.

The struggle is still there, though. I went out with a friend tonight and we talked about the struggle. We talked about how, in the midst of all our issues, things seem so bleak and so uncontrollable. All we want to do is be on the other side of them, to be done with them, to be on to the next thing because the next thing just has to be better. We want to be on the far end looking back and admiring how we’ve grown.

It is funny because we both came to the conclusion that when we look back, odds are we’re looking back from a place of new struggle wishing that we were back struggling with the old things. There is always going to be a new struggle or a new lesson to learn. That’s just life, honestly. I’ll discover something about myself, put it into practice or do something about it, only to find myself in something deeper than I hadn’t realized before.

I find out how to cope in one environment and when I’m thrust into another suddenly I’m drowning in old temptations and struggle all over again.

That’s kind of the cool thing about life though: We never really figure out all the answers. I’ll figure out little bits and pieces about myself and understand more about my mind and how I function, but the moment I grasp that I seem to unlock a whole different level. People are like video games, except there is no final boss battle or kill screen. We just keep advancing to the next level and in the process get to turn around and help people out who are a few levels behind because we’ve been there, done that, and know all the secrets and cheats.

It is a process that I’m not particularly fond of, especially on days like today when I’m in the midst of a struggle to adjust to an entirely new situation…but I know in the end I’ll come out of it more refined than when I began.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28