Needs and feelings are two sides of the same coin, but most of us keep them separate. We’re happy when our needs are met. We’re frustrated when they aren’t. It is so simple. So why isn’t it simple, really?
It isn’t simple because we’re not accustomed to thinking in terms of needs and feelings; we let the feelings in and think of ways to make ourselves feel better, circling around the no-longer-effective strategies that brought us to this very place. We focus so much energy around the “what”, without asking ourselves “why”. We jump to conclusions of good and bad, or right and wrong because this is what we were taught, it is simple and judgmental, just like the social structure we live by. But there is much more to the world, than just that.
Needs and Feelings in Forming Attachments
Proximity, sameness, belonging, significance, love and being known are the six initial and existential needs that develop during the first ten years of our lives, these are widely discussed here. When these needs are met, strong attachments are built and allow positive, effective, and cooperative relationships to prosper.
The list below is the list of basic human needs, as defined by Marshall Rosenberg, the mastermind behind Nonviolent Communication:
People of all ages, from youngest to oldest; people from all over the world, believers of all religions share these needs. The people you like most, the people you connect with the least, your best friends and your biggest enemies share these same needs.
Your children, your significant other and you – all share the same needs. Doesn’t it simplify everything?
And How Do We Feel About it?
Something sad is happening to feelings around the world; the list dwindles as time goes by. The more technological we get, the busier we get, the fewer feelings we feel, the fewer feelings we express. In addition to us not paying attention to the needs that are responsible for our feelings, most of us can’t name 20. Here’s the list of feelings one might feel when experiencing undermined needs:
If all these words depressed you a bit, let’s take a look at the list of feelings stemming from satisfied needs:
The truth is that this list is endless, but this is enough to show you the wide range of feelings we neglect. Seems like everything comes down to sad and happy, content and frustrated, and that severely diminishes our scope of thought. Having more words to describe our feelings with, will help us precisely define our needs. If you look closely at every word, you’ll see that it tells a story different than any other word; it might include the past or the future, hints for other nearby feelings and so much more. By forgetting these words we forget the true nature of feeling, upon its diversity, intensity and possibility.
How Are We Affected by Our Needs and Feelings?
Needs and feelings are inseparable; when needs are not met, negative feelings arise. Communicating these feelings, defining exactly how each undermined need makes us feel is the first step to learning who we are, teaching our children who they are. Following the judgment-free process of pure observation, we are able to respond to every situation with empathy and compassion, extract the unmet need and refine the feelings revolving around it. Once feelings and needs are defined, we are free to look for alternative strategies to help us meet those needs.
Binary definitions are easy as they don’t require us to think, only to act, and acting without thinking had already proven harmful. Reducing everything to the dichotomous definitions of good and bad, right and wrong, brought humanity to where it currently is; not the best world one could imagine.
Here is the world I imagine. Let’s teach our kids all these words, let’s teach them that these feelings aren’t good or bad, they can’t be, because feelings can’t be bad. Let’s raise them without guilt, without shame, without fear.
Let us not use the word tantrum, let us always look for the sabotaged need, and find another strategy to meeting it. Our little ones deserve it.
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