Why do we deny what we need?

Post contributed by Charles Malanga

Recently, in one of the psychotherapy groups at Evexia, a young man spoke of the feeling of tension in his body and rubbed his chest to indicate where he felt the pressure. He spoke of how it felt as though the tension was telling him that something bad and distressing would happen. He shared his experience of the bad things that had happened and yet, he could also recall occasions when nothing bad had happened at all.

When asked what could be done to make it better, he seemed surprised that he even had this option available to him. After more time, he replied that he’d wanted his dad. When we asked what that meant, he said that his dad made him feel safe and that safety, for him, meant that everything would be okay. It was important for the young man to talk about what he was feeling and then learn, through a conversation with his father, how he could take care of what he needed – so that he could find a way to feel safe whenever he felt the tension in his chest.

We are all born as a bundle of needs. From the moment we leave the womb and enter the world, we ‘need’ – we need nurturing, attention, affection, shelter, protection, security, food and comfort. Meeting those needs is of utmost importance because it is a matter of life and death.

Sadly, the process of denying our needs begins with our mothers and fathers. They become more invested in what we should ‘become’ than how we ‘are’ or what we ‘need’. Their aim is to raise us to be independent – but often this happens before we can fully embrace being dependent. The irony is that the IN is DEPENDENT, so we can’t really spell (nor have) independence without dependence.

It is through dependence on our mothers and fathers that we will grow – ultimately learning to identify, express and meet our own needs in our interactions with them if they are fully available parents. Then, as we mature and understand how to pay attention to our needs, we will be able to know how, where and when to meet them. We will figure out what and who helps us meet them.

This is not always the case and so, like the youngster in our group, we are conditioned from a young age to push away, misunderstand, hide or ignore our neediness.

Ultimately or at least hopefully, we will figure out why the most important lifelong task we will ever have is to pay attention, identify and express what we need.

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