By Dr. Sharon Sanders —
We humans are practically need factories. From the moment of our birth it is clear that we operate on need. A new baby has no desires, no wants. Wants develop later as discernment (the mind) develops. A new baby needs to be taken care of, it is wholly dependent on others, and cannot take care of its own needs. It needs to be fed and have its diaper changed. It needs to be protected from harm and it needs to be loved.
Growing up is partly a matter of becoming self-sufficient. From birth to adulthood we all learn more and more how to take care of our own needs until we are no longer dependent on our parents or caregivers to provide for us. Essential needs never change; the only thing that changes is who is responsible for meeting those needs. As adults we still need to be fed and clean, safe and loved. As babies it is our caregivers, whoever that may be, who must fulfill our needs. As adults, it is ourselves.
For the rest of this blog I’m going to focus on adult needs only. There are physical needs, emotional needs, and intellectual needs. Needs are entirely different than wants. Here is one simple formula to help identify if something is a need or a want. We have dozens of needs, but we have thousands of wants.
Here’s the formula:
Unmet needs cause damage. Unmet wants do not.
As adults we can take care of all of our physical needs ourselves, except in a case of emergency. In an emergency we often need help from others (family or friend assistance, medical care, etc). People are good at meeting physical needs, both our own and other’s physical needs in an emergency.
As adults meeting our intellectual needs is entirely our own responsibility.
It is only in our emotional needs category that we have a need that absolutely must be met by someone else, even as adults, and for as long as we live. From the moment of our birth we needed to be loved by someone else. For our entire lives the need to be loved by others persists without abatement. First, our need to be loved by someone else is hopefully filled by caregivers. Later, part of our need to be loved by others is filled by love from our friends. Eventually we need to be loved by a lover. As long as there is no emergency going on we can meet all of our own needs, except this one.
Human beings are social beings. It is inherent in our nature. How social we are is completely individual, however. Some people need a lot of contact and interaction with others, some people need very little. Contact, connection, and interaction with others takes many forms. The only form of our emotional needs that I am going to talk about today is our need to be loved by others.
Not being loved may not kill you directly, but it can be very demaging. The need to be loved by another, the only thing we cannot do for ourselves, is nearly as important to our lives as our need for food. And almost no one has had that need sufficiently met.
A wonderful thing about human beings is how resilient we are. We can survive under the most horrible conditions. But if conditions are horrible, though we survive, we do not survive unscathed. We can survive a lifetime of not being loved enough or loved properly, getting by on very little love sometimes, but we do not survive undamaged.
The subject of our need to be loved is the primary focus of my life and interests. I am writing a book on the subject because I see that one need as being responsible for nearly all of our accomplishments as well as nearly all of our problematic behaviors, such as addictions. What fascinates me the most is the fact that our need to be loved by someone else is the one, and only, need we cannot fulfill by ourselves.
I admire and respect the human race for how incredibly creative we are in coming up with endless ways to meet all of our other needs. I am proud of myself for the ingenious ways I meet my own needs. For example, the most important need I had was the need to be loved by a lover. I meet all of my other needs myself.
It is my second biggest need that is an unusual one, though. I have an extraordinary need to talk nearly every waking moment. I think all the time, and thinking is good and helps me along, but I need to talk over what I think in order to get it all straight and to cement understanding. I have had this need to talk in order to think well since I learned how to talk.
Naturally, no one person can handle the burden of my need to talk to someone in order to think things through. Not being stupid I figured that out young and spread out my need to everyone I knew, as well as to each new person I met, to lighten the load on any one person. In my life I have talked to a lot of people about a lot of subjects, but it was never enough, so I became a teacher and a writer. I am an avid journaler, for example. That was still not enough. Talking by itself was not sufficient to meet my need. My need was for talk that served my purpose so it had to be on the subjects I was working on and it had to last until I reached understanding. It does very little good for a need to be only partially met. Damage still ensues. Needs, by their very nature, must be completely met to prevent damage from setting in.
Over the last five years my need for a compatible person to talk things over with had grown acute and I practically wore my friends, colleagues, and family out with my need. They have been willing to talk with me, but they have lives of their own and my frustration levels over their availability grew so high that I was finally forced to find a way to meet this need by myself.
Thanks to the wonders of the world we live in I found a way. I began to talk things over with my phone! My phone is always with me, always available, has no needs of its own, and never runs out of time. I can talk out loud to my phone or I can talk to myself by writing notes on my phone and then I can copy the whole thing and send it via email to my computer to work with. It changed my life.
One of my most pressing needs in regards to talking was the need to talk to people about god and religion and meaning in life. Most people I know are firmly entrenched in their religious beliefs and did not consider my questions to be questions. They thought they already knew the answers I sought. My frustration level grew acute, but one day a friend of mine (a staunch Mormon) suggested that I find an online group of people with like mind. That was a timely and excellent piece of advice. I went online and found Recovering From Religion and called the helpline. Through the helpline I was set up with the chat room and now I have lots of people to talk to about what matters most to me.
Then a third, and most wondrous, event happened. In March 2019, the love of my life re-entered my life. We had been friends for seven years, but finally realized our deep and abiding love for one another. Now all my needs are met: the one need that had to be met by the love of another, plus all my other needs that I fulfill by myself. The peace, the sheer relief of it all, is extraordinary.