As children, we don’t always understand our needs or have the ability to meet them.
So we rely on our parents or caregivers to meet them for us.
If those needs aren’t met, we may grow up with a constant feeling that something is missing — that we’re yearning for something in our lives. Something we can’t quite put our finger on.
So much of the time, we can’t identify or locate the source of this longing or pain. We might struggle to name it or put a voice to it. We simply feel it.
The beautiful and significant practice of reconnecting with the inner child within allows us to gain clarity around unmet needs that often originated during childhood.
The ones that continue to profoundly affect us each and every day of our adult lives.
To name our needs to meet them.
To finally find what’s missing.
Whether we like it or not, we all have needs. Once our basic needs are met — this includes food, water, clothing, sleep, and shelter… what we need to survive — then we can get into our emotional needs.
Everyone’s emotional needs are unique. They usually depend on our upbringing, family history, how we identify, etc. These needs are feelings we need to feel to experience joy, fulfillment, and safety. If these aren’t met, we might feel frustrated, anxious, or hurt.
Some emotional needs include the need for:
This is especially true in our significant relationships. Sue Johnson, the founder of Emotionally Focused Therapy, says that in order for humans to feel satisfied and fulfilled, they need to feel wanted, needed, and special to someone. They need to feel respected and accepted for who they are, and safe in their presence. That they can count on them to be there when they need them.
Without these feelings?
That’s when we start feeling like something is missing.
The word “needy” is defined as: marked by a want of affection, attention, or emotional support.
When our needs aren’t met, we feel anxious. Not knowing what it is we’re looking for. We feel dependent on others for reassurance and fear abandonment — because no amount of reassurance will ever be enough.
We might be on the constant hunt for signs of love and validation, but nothing seems to squash the fear. The desperate need for something we can’t quite define.
We fear that our need for love, acceptance, and connection will never be met.
Our culture glorifies being “low-maintenance”. Always going with the flow, ever flexible, and definitely not needy. It tells us that needs are a burden and therefore not having them makes us more lovable.
Easier to be around.
While it’s a good idea to be able to meet your own emotional needs and not be completely dependent on anyone else to meet them — feeling emotionally rejected, or abandoned by someone you love and trust creates emotional — even physical — pain.
As children, we don’t have the ability to meet our own needs. We depend on our parents to meet them for us. But now that we’re adults, with all of our knowledge and life experiences, we’re better able to satisfy our own needs or know what it takes to meet them.
If we don’t address these unmet needs, we’ll find ourselves having many of the same needs as when we were children.
But if we’ve never had those needs met, how do we know what to ask for?
In any healthy relationship, you should feel safe enough to ask for these needs to be met. Ignoring or repressing our needs only intensifies them. It makes it hard to identify them and almost impossible to meet.
And to identify those needs we have to dig.
We have to begin to observe ourselves and take note of our emotions. We need to observe how those emotions make us behave. By doing this, we can find the root cause of our emotions and reactions. To try and uncover why and how we react this way.
Try and observe the next time you have a strong emotional reaction when someone raises their voice at you or chooses to use a strong tone. Ask yourself, “what am I needing at this moment?” Is it to be heard? To feel respected? Explore what lies beneath these emotions.
Defensive emotions like anger protect us from facing more painful emotions like sadness or fear. These triggers — over-exaggerated emotional impulses and reactions — often feel like something or someone is moving and acting through us instead of being OF us. A product of our past.
These reactions are usually related to needs that were not adequately met as children. A tender part of our inner child’s heart and psyche that went unnoticed, unnurtured, and not truly cared for. This response is your inner child calling out for a need to be met.
And when we take notice of such strong inner reactions within ourselves, it’s possible to become aware of and heal these wounds. To bring in the compassion and understanding that we craved as children.
And the more you pay attention to the physical sensations in your body, the easier it will get. We need to learn to listen to our bodies. To keep a dialogue with ourselves so we can identify our needs, respond to them, and make sure they’re met.
Whether that’s by you or by someone who is willing to meet them with you.
Understanding ourselves and our innermost needs often requires inner child work to confront the feelings or events that brought you to where you are. This work connects who you were then to who you are now and it reveals the source of your pain.
Inner child work gives us a chance to communicate with our younger selves and explore how our childhood has had an effect on our feelings, thoughts, and behaviors as adults.
This work is so amazing to help identify and tend to our innermost needs, and to nurture the child whose needs went unmet.
Once we’ve identified those needs, we can truly begin to nurture ourselves.
This work can shift the way in which we view and interact with the world around us — and change the lens through which we see it all.
What does the little one inside of you need? Is it rest, is it a connection with the adult version of you? Is it expressing her needs to the people in your life, asking for what you need and truly desire?
Get curious, lean in
Becoming familiar with our bodies and discovering these needs is essential for finding healing and joy. And the answers to your greatest expression of joy lie within.
How can YOU begin to love and nurture the little version of yourself today?
Are you ready to discover your innermost needs through inner child work? Sign up for the next Rechilding workshop here.