What is a need? To put it as starkly as possible, needs are deficits that require biological, emotional and spiritual gratification for fulfillment. Deficit fulfillment keeps us fully alive. Needs have to be gratified to be alive. The specific needs we have are the tools we have been given that open us to healing, recovery, replenishment, and the capacity to give. Beyond food, water, shelter, and clothing, our needs are predominantly emotionally and spiritually oriented and fulfilled. In fact, the emotional and spiritual primary needs of belonging and mattering are practically equal to the need for food and water. A child will leave the table of food to go in search of the parent, both literally and metaphorically.
We all have the same essential needs, just as we all have the same essential feelings. Their fulfillments are not luxuries. They are essentials for living fully, which means being able to do what I am created to do—give myself. Need fulfillment allows us to have resources to continue giving. We cannot give what we do not have.
The following is a list of our needs beyond food, water, shelter and clothing. They are met through relationship, and their fulfillment feeds us emotionally and spiritually. (For more in depth information, please read, The Needs of the Heart):
We are created as emotional and spiritual creatures who find fulfillment through relationship with ourselves, others, and God. This condition puts us in a position of being in need of others and God, i.e., a lifelong condition of neediness. When we are little, we have no difficulty living well in this condition of being in need. When we get big, we often have great difficulty being in need.
The difference-maker is not age; it is unhealed wounding experiences. In normal development, the healthy shame of knowing ourselves as dependent on others and God becomes humility in the grownup. Humility is essentially accepting that we all need each other. Through our unhealed wounding experiences, however, the healthy shame of dependence becomes the contempt of toxic shame about our neediness and pride in self-sufficiency. Contempt towards our needs and pride in self-sufficiency create a person who is developmentally delayed.
Thriving persons, however, accept needs as a matter of being human. Through our neediness we are replenished; our pouring out is refilled. Our responsiveness to our neediness can increase our ability to pour out our gifts to a world in need of what we can offer. Acceptance of and sensitivity to our needs actually allow us (a) to know our true selves, (b) to increase trustworthiness and intimacy, (c) to discern more clearly, (d) to expand empathy, and (e) to become stronger.
Chip Dodd, PhD, is a teacher, trainer, author, and counselor, who has been working in the field of recovery and redemption for over 30 years. With his clinical experience, love of storytelling, and passion for living fully, Chip developed a way of seeing and expressing one’s internal experience called the Spiritual Root System™. To read more from Chip, visit his blog, or check out his books.