By Dr. Margaret Paul
Have you wondered about the difference between legitimate needs and neediness?
I recently received the following request:
"Hi Dr. Paul -- I would be interested in an article that talks about having needs vs. being needy.
I was brought up to be ashamed of my needs. I was supposed to be self-sufficient. As a result, I am ashamed of neediness and often don't recognize my own needs. I also don't know how to tell if others are "being needy" or simply expressing a need.
What I am learning is that humans are INTER-dependent and everyone has needs that can only be filled by another person. One example is the Romanian orphans who were brain damaged because they were never held or touched. In order to be healthy I need others, because I can't hug myself.
So I can take care of myself, but I think my "self-sufficiency toolbox" isn't complete if I can't recognize valid needs, express them to others, and ask for help from them.
Please if you can, I would love an article that differentiates between being needy and having needs."
The woman asking this question is referring to emotional needs - needs beyond the basic physical needs such as food, water, air, shelter, and so on.
We do not thrive without love, so I consider love a basic need. Even though we might muddle through without love, I believe that many people get ill and die from a lack of love - dying of loneliness.
Most of us know that infants and small children need love to survive. Many babies have died or, as stated above, suffered brain damage, due to not being held with love. "Failure to thrive" is the term used when an infant dies due to not being held with love.
There are times when we need another to hold us and empathically help us through core pain such as heartache and grief. There are times when we are ill and need another to soothe us. This kind of loving care is a basic need.
The sharing of love is also a basic need. However, there is a huge difference between trying to get someone else to love us, and our need to share love.
We all need to learn to bring love to ourselves through our spiritual connection. It is only when we can fill ourselves up with the Source of Love that we have love to share. When are not taking responsibility for developing our spiritual connection and learning to fill ourselves up with love, then we become needy.
When someone is not taking responsibility for their own feelings and pulling on others for attention and approval, they are being needy. You know they are being needy because it feels like they are draining you rather than sharing with you. You know you are being needy when you feel empty inside and upset with others when you don't get what you want from them.
Part of taking loving care of ourselves is to recognize our need to share love and reach out to others who also want to share love. But asking for help from an empty place, hoping that another person will fill you up and make you feel worthy and safe, is needy. We are needy when we emotionally abandon ourselves and expect others to give us what we are not giving to ourselves. We are legitimately asking to have a need met when we reach out to others to share love, or to receive the help we might need to heal. Our need to share love can only be met by another person.
The difference between need and needy is mostly about energy. We are needy when we are empty because we have abandoned ourselves by not taking responsibility for our own feelings. We are expressing a need when we are taking loving care of ourselves and sharing our love with others, or reaching out for legitimate help. While the actions of need and neediness may look the same, then energy behind the actions are completely different.