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  • Writer's pictureAnnelisa MacBean

State of Need

Many clients come to me with the preconceived notion that it is not okay for them to have need. Or that it is certainly not very “spiritual” to be a needer. As little ones in their families of origin, expressing a need wasn’t always very safe and was often met with dysregulating empathic failure. These clients learned that having need was the fast track to hopelessness, disappointment, and shame. They saw the possibility of attunement, connection, and affection disappear from the field around them.

Because it was too anxiety-provoking to allow for the reality of any sort of limitation in their caregivers, these clients, perhaps like you, defaulted to the conclusion that there must something wrong with them and that they were not worthy of having need. While that narrative was painful, my clients could temporarily rest having convinced themselves that their primary adults remained "there" and could protect them … all the while shifting the blame for the loss of attunement and love to themselves . . . laying the foundation for the deep shame around need that so many experience later on, especially in intimate relationship.

As we grow psychologically and spiritually, often the core belief that one's feelings don't matter to anyone else gets validated by teachings about the ways that having need can be a sign that one isn't progressing on the path, evidence of not enough faith or trust, too much attachment, failure to “stay in the now,” to understand the teachings on “no-self,” or that they are lost in the “ego.” Sadly, the shame and blame from the earliest conditioning continues to control behavior and activities, but with flowery spiritual language translating the messaging of the original projection into terms that sound supportive but continue to undermine the client.

Let me be clear: Absolutely CLEAR! There is nothing wrong with having need. It’s the original, primal human state. Need defines us from our very first breath. Having some yearning in the heart, some non-specific longing is how we know we exist. Being relational mammals, we tend to look to others to relieve us of the ache of needing . . . AND . . . it is unlikely anyone's need will ever be fully met, especially by another.

Experiment: With your heart open, unguarded, reveal your need to lovers, friends, and family. Reveal to them, not the object of your need, but the need itself. "I need to have sex," is a different communication than, "My heart aches; I feel desperately alone." "I need you to stop chewing with your mouth open," is different than, "I can't connect with myself or with you right now, and I don't know why I'm so agitated."

Notice how others respond when you are responsive to your needing state, rather than objectifying the need and projecting it onto an external object of relief.

When you're connected to the experience of needing, rather than orienting to and asking for an external object that can temporarily address the aching or longing need, others will often be better able to meet you, to see you as you are, and provide a quality of presence that you'll recognize and be able to receive.

If you are able and willing to feel need without a identifying a solution or fix, and if the other is not able to respond or attend, you have still created a quality of connection with yourself, and an opportunity to attend to yourself, regardless.

Consider the ways you make requests of your lovers and friends. Discover how to connect with your need and comunicate with them from the empowered, alive realm of self-knowing, no longer abandoning that sense of need that lives in every breath. Dare to be your own best friend, to attend to the need in your body and your heart and your soul in sensitive, soft, tender and wise ways, even when the other is nowhere to be found.

Many of your objective needs will inevitably go unmet. But notice that the need state which defines your existence is being met every moment of every day of your life. If you slow down, breathe into your lower belly, open your senses, and step into the sacred world which is here now, you'll notice that you have everything you need; breath heartbeat, myriad biological functions and cellular communications. You are living in a relational universe that has always and already been there to support you; Honor the power and holiness of the relational field, which gives rise to your experience of life itself. The source from which you have emerged is not oriented to your need as a state of lack, in which something is wrong or missing. Rather, your sense of perpetual need is the contrast that reveals how whole you already are.

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