One of the biggest confusions in this world, and the one causing us a considerable amount of pain is the confusion between what we need to do, and what we think we need to do. Here’s how we can minimize this pain.
If you want to skip the introduction and scroll right to the breastfeeding part – please go ahead and do so 🙂 But you might miss out on some important stuff!
Like the fact that everything we do, everything we say, everything we think is a strategy to having our needs met. Meeting our needs, and (to an extent) the needs of our loved ones, is what we have to do. How do we choose to do it? These are strategies. And there are various strategies for meeting each need.
In my previous video, I promised that the next one would be all about differentiating needs form strategies, and I will start with breastfeeding. If you’re a part of a parenting group on Facebook (or twenty of them), I’m sure you read discussions on breastfeeding between 10 to 68 times a day. How many of these moms want to stop breastfeeding, but can’t, because of the guilt and the same they inflict on themselves? How many of them believe this is a selfish decision that means they are not as good mothers as they would be if they continue breastfeeding. So they continue; and they suffer.
The subject of breastfeeding might be an explosive one, yet it is a very good example for this confusion. So before we start at the very beginning, let me jump to the very end and say – no, you do not have to breastfeed your baby.
What Are Existential Human Needs?
Existential human needs are seven (yes, only seven) needs that all human beings share; these needs are crucial not only to our well-being but to our survival.
Needs don’t change from one person to another; you, me, your mother-in-law and my mother-in-law, your teen child and my toddler, my grandmother and the newlyweds on the other side of the world – we all share the exact same needs.
These needs are connection, physical well-being, honesty, play, peace, autonomy, and meaning.
All of us, no matter how old we are, where we live, which food we like most, what we do for our living, or which music we love; regardless of our gender and perception of self, and what parenting philosophy we follow – we all have these needs. These seven needs are what we all need to thrive in this world.
How Do Needs “Work”?
Everything we do, everything we say, everything we think – are strategies we choose (mindfully or not) to have our needs met. Let me explain.
Eating is a strategy to meet our need for food (physical well-being); quite simple right? So let’s dive a few inches deeper.
Needs At Home
Engaging in a conversation when we come back home, going for a hug, trying to get one’s attention, explaining something once and again trying to reach an agreement with us or to validate our feelings – all these (and many others) are strategies to meet our needs in connection (acceptance, affection, appreciation, belonging, cooperation, communication, closeness, community, companionship, compassion, consideration, consistency, empathy, inclusion, intimacy, love, mutuality, nurturing, respect/self-respect, safety, security, stability, support, to know and be known, to see and be seen, to understand and be understood, trust, warmth).
Did it get a bit more complicated with the sudden breakdown of what the need in connection really entails? Yea, quite a lot, isn’t it? These are the sub-needs we bring with us when we enter a relationship (any relationship).
Needs At Work
Want to dive another inch deeper? You know how you absolutely have to curse your evil boss and call her a bunch of bad words after she had entered your office as you were literally gathering up to go home, and dumped yet another URGENT task on your desk?
That urgency that you feel to curse and get visually upset is your strategy to meet your needs of being seen and heard, to regain some of your authentic self-expression in light of your boss’s violation of it, and meet your needs for respect, independence, and choice. When these needs of ours are sabotaged by someone else, we are compelled to meet them ourselves. This is why we judge.
You see, everything we do, everything we say, everything we think is a strategy. This is true for you, for your partner, for your kids, and for everyone else around you.
Happiness is Not Accidental
As soon as we begin being mindful about our needs, we will witness another transformational realization, and that is the way we feel about our needs. Happiness is not accidental. When our needs are met – we are happy, when our needs are not met – we are not happy.
As soon as something that WE DO no longer leads to our feelings of happiness, content, empowerment, compassion, love, delight, satisfaction, pride, or calm – we know this strategy is no longer an effective strategy to meet our needs.
This is when we go back and explore our needs. Which need of ours is no longer met by that strategy? What changed? When did this happen? How did this strategy feel before? How does it make me feel now? And last – which alternative strategies can we find to meet that same need (that will forever be there)?
Download my printable needs cards; this is a great place to start practicing being mindful to our needs; follow this link, download the cards, print and laminate them, and take them with you wherever you go 🙂
Breastfeeding: Is it a Need or a Strategy?
Remember how we said that ALL HUMAN BEINGS share the same needs? This means that both men and women have the same needs, and this, in turn, means that breastfeeding is not a need we, women, have.
The needs that might disguise the breastfeeding strategy and make it look and feel like a need are the needs to nurture, to feed, to keep safe and warm, to shelter, and of course – to connect, but breastfeeding is only one of the strategies that one can choose to have the needs of her child met.
Don’t Enjoy It? Don’t Do It
As long as we, moms, enjoy breastfeeding and derive pleasure in breastfeeding, this isn’t even a valid discussion. It becomes a needed discussion when we begin suffering from the very thought of breastfeeding, when the pain, the agony, and the feeling of being touched-out overwhelm us, when our needs for autonomy, choice, space, and freedom are buried well under breastfeeding bras – this is when we need to stop and reconsider.
This is when we need to admit that our needs are sabotaged by breastfeeding and fathom that not breastfeeding doesn’t make anyone a “worse” mother (in the same way that the mere fact of breastfeeding doesn’t make a mother into a “better” mother).
Breastfeeding is a strategy, and it’s a strategy with countless benefits, but when it starts hurting you, physically or emotionally – it is no longer a beneficial strategy. And when you suffer from doing something – everyone will know. Your baby, too.
Breastfeeding – When Is It Okay to Stop And How To Own This Decision
Here’s a little tip. Most moms talk about weaning their children. But this is not what this is about. The decision to stop breastfeeding is about YOU, it is YOUR decision. Own it. You are responsible for the reason for which you made your choice, it is about YOUR well-being.
As a result your child will wean off breastfeeding, but you are not weaning your child – you are taking care of your well-being. When we claim the responsibility for our needs, when we hold ourselves accountable for our actions, when we keep the reason as top priority, we’re free from self judgment, from the guilt, and from the shame.
Be honest with yourself – not breastfeeding will not change the mother you are. And you know it.
And how about you? Are you doing anything daily, that you believe that you absolutely have to do, yet it is causing you pain (physical or emotional), and discomfort? If you are, and whatever it is – it is not a need of yours, it is a strategy that you have to reconsider for your well-being, and for the well being of your family.
One Little Change – One Big Affect
In Marshall Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication, the Language of Life, he tells the story of a woman who hated cooking. The task of making dinner day in and day out aggravated her in so many ways and for so many reasons, yet she believed this is her job, her duty to her family.
Rosenberg then explained that feeding her family meets a need, yet cooking for her family is a strategy that she doesn’t have to choose. She found this concept hard to grasp, yet one week later, in the following workshop, this woman’s husband and son arrived to thank Rosenberg. Not only that this woman wasn’t a great cook (how can she be good doing something she hates?), but every night they had to hear how unhappy she was about cooking and share in her pain, aggravation, annoyance, and sometimes even rage.
All she had to do, to contribute to her well-being as well as to the well-being of her family significantly, is to stop cooking.
Join my parenting support group on Facebook, I’d love to continue this discussion with you 🙂