Anger in the Age of Entitlement

Cleaning up emotional pollution

Love is Desire, Not Emotional Need

To be free to do something, we must be free not to do it.

The best chance of finding freely-given love in a safe relationship (one unlikely to suffer betrayal) is to approach it out of desire, not emotional need. An emotional need is a preference that you've decided must be gratified to maintain equilibrium, that is, you can’t be well or feel whole without it. The perception of need begins with a rise in emotional intensity—you feel more strongly about being with someone or having something. As the intensity increases, it can feel like you “need” to do or have it, for one compelling reason: It’s the same emotional process as biological need. (You can observe the process by planting your face in a pillow; emotional intensity rises just before you struggle to breathe.) When emotion suddenly rises, your brain confuses preferences with biological needs. In other words, the perception of need becomes self-reinforcing: “I feel it, therefore, I need it, and if I need it, I have to feel it more.”

To love freely and safely, get in touch with your deepest desires, lurking beneath surface feelings of loneliness or shame. Your deepest desires will lead you to a relationship based on compassion, kindness, fairness, intimacy, and loyalty, rather than temporary excitement or relief from shame and loneliness. “I want you,” is far more loving (and likely to produce a safe and satisfying relationship) than, “I need you.”

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 CompassionPower

Steven Stosny, Ph.D., treats people for anger and relationship problems. Recent books: How to Improve your Marriage without Talking about It, and Love Without Hurt.

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