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What Do You Need?

We all have needs and desires. It's another part of being human.

So now I know I feel frustrated and resentful…or fragile and wistful…or uneasy, discouraged, and regretful… What do I do about it?

We’ve been practicing noticing and identifying our emotions. But the question still remains—how do we respond? It can be pretty uncomfortable to stop avoiding emotions and actually start feeling them. But knowing what we feel makes it easier to get clear on what we really want, need, and value…and how we can take steps toward meeting those needs.

Now, I’m not saying that if we take the time to figure out what we are feeling those feelings will go away and we’ll feel nothing but happy. Some emotions are fleeting and start to shift into something new if they are acknowledged instead of bottled up. Others, such as grief, may stay with us for a long time.

The point isn’t to rid ourselves of anything that makes us uncomfortable as quickly as possible, but instead to be aware so we can take care of ourselves and prevent unacknowledged emotions from impacting our relationships and decisions.

We all have needs and desires. It’s another part of being human. I think some of us fear being a burden or more trouble than we’re worth if we need help getting our needs met. We sometimes get focused on meeting others’ needs without being willing to acknowledge our own.

Having needs doesn’t mean we’re selfish. Having needs isn’t the problem. It’s when we wait for someone to rescue us out of our needs, demand that another person meet our needs, or deny that we have needs at all that things start to get sticky. If we acknowledge our needs, we can take steps to meet them in a healthy way.

Before we can meet our needs, we must identify what they are. Take note of any feelings that are coming up for you and see if you can pinpoint the corresponding needs on the Center for Nonviolent Communication’s needs inventory.

You may notice several needs that are not currently satisfied. Choose one to focus on for now and spend a little time brainstorming ways to satisfy that need.

Maybe your work doesn’t seem like it makes a meaningful difference and you realize that your feelings of frustration and longing are showing you where your need for contribution isn’t being satisfied. What happens if you commit to finding at least one small way to help another person each day to start meeting that need?

Winter can be a struggle for those of us who like to spend time in nature to satisfy our need for beauty. Perhaps looking at photos we took during the summer or experimenting with paints can be alternate ways to add a little more beauty into our lives.

Or maybe it’s something as simple as irritable feelings pointing to a need for food. Can you make yourself a snack?

The possibilities are endless. Think about the need you identified and start brainstorming ways you can contribute to satisfying that need. What has contributed to meeting this need in the past? What are you already doing to meet this need? Is this need being met in other areas of your life? How? What practices and habits do others use to meet this need in their own lives?

After you have a list of possibilities, try choosing one small thing from your list and commit to doing it every day over the next week. You might have many ideas, but it can be overwhelming to try start a lot of new things at once. Let’s make this as easy as possible! After a week, check in with yourself to see how your satisfaction level has changed for that particular need.

Of course, while there is often a lot we can do towards satisfying our own needs, sometimes we could use some help. As you go through the next week, watch for a way that another person could help satisfy your need. Would you be willing to ask? (We can talk more about the difference between a request and a demand later—for now, remember that a request doesn’t blame or punish someone for not agreeing to do what we asked.)

Maybe for you this means asking another person to meet you for coffee to satisfy a need for companionship. Or asking someone if they would be willing to explain a concept to you to meet your need for learning. Maybe it means asking a roommate if she would be willing to carry her dirty dishes to the sink to help satisfy your need for order.

How does it change your experience of those uncomfortable feelings to identify an unsatisfied need behind them and start taking steps to meet that need? What are some of the ideas you thought of? Which are you going to try this week?