Intimacy, A Path Toward Spirituality

Relationships and mindful living.

Having Needs Doesn't Mean We're Needy

Growing up in a society that worships independence can leave us feeling isolation and disconnected. Feeling shame to honor our legitimate need for connection deepens our isolation and unhappiness. Read More

Thank you, thank you, thank you

As an extremely independent "loner," I employ many methods to fulfill my own needs and self-soothe, but there are some things that improve upon my daily existence that I just can't provide for myself. Not to be crass, but I can masturbate all day, while whispering sweet nothings to myself, yet I cannot EVER replicate the feeling of another person's touch and words of affection. Can I survive without that? Yes, but life is so much sweeter with the physical and emotional intimacy of another.

Aside from sexual intimacy, I "need" other people for other things. I support my lifestyle by working for others, and I "need" my employer (and colleagues) to value my contribution. If they don't, then I'm homeless and destitute. If I were self-employed and provided a service or product, I would "need" others to like my product or service. I would "need" the approval of my customers or my business would never survive. I also "need" others to grow, harvest, transport, and sell food. I need others to provide electricity to my home. I "need" all kinds of things. Does this make me "needy?" No, because this is how we all meet our needs--through other people. If I turn to others to supply the goods and services I need to live a healthy and comfortable life, why should I not turn to another to share in life's joys and travails--someone from whom I would like love, affection, inspiration, and motivation beyond what I can provide to myself?

Sadly, I was raised by a narcissistic mother and was abused by my siblings and other family members. Thus, I had to learn to be independent to survive. I also developed severe trust issues that have complicated all of the relationships in my life. I'm now extremely isolated and lonely, and find it extremely difficult to reach out to others for comfort. When I do try to reach out, I find that so many people are depressed and too tired and wary of others to provide any support. I also feel shame for reaching out, since I've been told (by mates, friends, therapists, media) not to be "needy."

Thank you for saying what I have always felt to be true, but was repeatedly told was wrong: I can need without being needy.

Good thoughts!

I appreciate your very articulate and heartfelt response to my article. So glad to hear that it was helpful and validating.

I do not deny the need for

I do not deny the need for connection on a variety of levels to live a fulfilling life. However, I think it can be argued that in our hyper-connected world, many of us do not "want" or "long" for connection but solitude. The opportunity to quietly reflect is much rarer for me that the opportunity to connect.

Sure

Point well taken. I think there's room for both. A need for connection and a need for solitude. I can certainly relate to that. I think we each need to find a balance that works for us. Thanks for your views.

Neediness is culterally unattractive

And generally shunned. Hence my total lack of emotional intimacy in my life. The only way to not be socially isolated is to be superficial and not take anything even remotely seriously. I'm starved to share intimacy, but it is interpersonal poision nowadays

Very affirming

I was in a very abusive relationship with a husband who refused to get help for severe paranoia but I stuck by him, hoping he would get help, because I saw it as an illness that was not his fault. I ended up being the one seeing a psychiatrist for medication and therapy in order to cope and I found her to be so judgmental of my attachment to my husband.

I have strong religious beliefs that encourage mutual surrender in a marriage and because I had no trouble with the surrendering aspect, my doctor diagnosed me with a dependent personality disorder. That bothered me so much because that is not how I see myself. I have been on my own with my son for 5 years now and I am quite independent when I need to be but I ask for help when it is available. In fact, I am one of the most independent women I know and yet she labeled me as dependent because I allowed myself to have needs.

It took me a while to realize that maybe she has a problem because she told me once that we are all alone in this world and we should never expect anything from anyone. I respected her advice because she is a psychiatrist but now I see her as a sealed off person who is out of touch. I almost made the mistake of letting her convinced me I was wrong to want a bond with someone. Thank you for giving an expert opinion that confirms what I have always felt in my heart ... that it takes strength to allow yourself to be vulnerable.

Having needs without neediness

Hi John,

Thoughtful and thought provoking article. As we talked about, I'd like to share my sense of this last piece and hear your thoughts in the hope that that brings some added clarity and maybe a bit of connection.

I think we agree that the judgement of 'neediness' is almost always the result of some form of manipulation whether it be subtle, deceptive, persumptuous or persistent. I would guess that the expression of clearly stated needs without pressure would not sound needy to most people, although sometimes we might want to check out our statements of need, to be sure they sounded clean: Hey, when I mentioned that I'd like added connection, did that sound a little pressuring or presumptuous?

I think we should familiarize ourselves with each of our basic needs, and have them close, right at the tip of our tongues. Accessessing needs would help us identify our feelings which simply arise in response to our level of our fulfillment of these needs. Knowing basic needs also helps us to guess other people's needs. This guessing is an act of compassion and it is basic to the approach involved in Non-Violent Communication.

I'm wondering if you ever have a problem with the word 'need'. I've always had a difficult time with that word, even though I know how important our "needs" can be to our mental health. I don't know how much difference that particular word makes, but I do know that the concept of necessity is worth looking at. It is reasonable to feel entiltled to what is necessary. If I am starving I will take food. But many of our "needs" are not necessary. This paradox highlights my problem with the word 'need'. The Elliot Roger's massacre in Santa Barbara is an extreme example of a young man who believe he needed affection and was entitled to resolve the thwarted necessity violently. Extreme as that example is, if we have unfulfilled "necessities" we may be more inclined to use deception, manipulation, and pressure, possibly even including violence.

Although I would use the word 'need' for food, water, and shelter from the cold, and would understand the need for some degree of violence in procuring them if peaceful means did not exist, I would prefer a different word with less of a sense of necessity and urgency for emotional and spiritual "needs". Of course the word 'need' has room in its definition for a little nuance, but not so in its common usage. The word 'longing' might be an up-grade. Even the word 'hope' has hope. If we know that our longings for connection, affection, touch, transparency, fairness, and understanding, are infrequently all fully fulfilled, and do not even need to always be fulfilled, we are more in touch with the humaness, the compassion, and I think the play of life.

I think it's exciting to be familiar with as many of the drives of the spirit and the soul as possible so that we can access those qualities and share how we're doing and feeling in regard to our good fortune, or current lack of it, in fulfilling our longings . As you implied, when we communicate on the level of these drives and emotional responses we get to be humans with each other and share the beauty of 'getting' and 'being gotten' by another human being. And getting and being-gotten are needs, or longings, as big as any other.

In appreciation of your writing,
Ken Crittenden

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John Amodeo, Ph.D., MFT, is the author of Dancing with Fire: A Mindful Way to Loving Relationships and Love & Betrayal.

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