Just about everything our soul needs can fit into these categories: safety, connection, novelty, significance, growth, and contribution. When our top two emotional needs are met, we tend to be pretty happy. When all of our needs are met, we are living our passion. Sounds great, right? But do you ever wonder how to meet your emotional needs?
Most of us look outside of ourselves for this. We either try to find a person who fills us up or find it in our work. When those things are good, we’re good. This works for a lot of people a lot of the time. The problem is that it puts control of our happiness in the hands of someone else. There is actually a way to meet your emotional needs that puts you in the driver’s seat. Ready for it?
Safety is about needing to feel that the basic necessities of life are there: food, shelter, water, warmth, and emotional stability. It’s the need for predictability. When you are emotionally safe, you feel physically safe and that you have the resources to meet whatever comes. When this is threatened, it becomes the most important need for everyone. There is a strong desire to survive. However, for some people, it remains high on their priorities even when there is no perceived threat.
The way to always feel safe is to accept that there is no safety. There are many paths through life and they all end in death. Everything is uncertain. The only way through is to accept it and keep going. Make your plans and follow through knowing that some will work out the way you want and some won’t. When they don’t, roll with it. The more flexibility you have, the less need you’ll have for control. When you don’t need to control other people in your life or the elements of your life, you will always have emotional safety.
Connection is the need to belong. It’s about feeling intimacy and love. We tend to use friends, family, lovers and work to meet our need for belonging and intimacy. This can make us possessive, jealous, clingy, judgmental and hyper vigilant about how other people treat us or show up in our lives. This actually drives people away and reduces connection.
There are many ways to make this about you instead of others.
- detach from the outcome. If you feel like giving or loving, do it without any expectation of what you get in return. Let it only be about experiencing the love in your heart.
- connect with animals, nature, and the universe. The more aware of the world you become, you more you will feel as if you belong to the whole universe. There is more to life than people. When you feel you belong somewhere, you always feel connected.
- connect to yourself. Be fully present with yourself. Notice how your body feels when you do something enjoyable. Notice how it feels when you are doing something unpleasant. Enjoy the pleasant. Tolerate the unpleasant without pushing it away. The better company you are for you, the less you will depend on others to distract, entertain, or love you.
The brain seeks stimulus. If it doesn’t have it, it usually creates it. Often in the form of drama. Some of us need a little. Some of us need a lot. (Usually the greater your need for safety, the lower your need for novelty). Again, we often get this need met through others or our work.
There is a really easy way to meet this need without involving other people or going to work. Mindfulness. Mindfulness is the act of being fully present with what’s happening without adding or subtracting anything. When you’re mindful, there are endless things to discover. It’s the key to getting out of the box. You release your preconceived notions, forget about the laws of physics, and forget all past experiences. You just let yourself be here now. It’s amazing how much there is to experience from the same old bowl of cereal, same view, and same drive. Why? Because each moment is new.
Significance is about feeling important. It is about mattering. People with a high need for significance tend to put the spotlight on themselves in some way or do things that look good. Examples are things like driving a flashy car, wearing fashionable clothes, collecting titles, or breaking huge barriers. These people can be hugely successful, but they are always chasing the next big, fun, flashy thing that others can admire.
There are two really easy ways to get out of this cycle. The first is to learn to see the significance in all people. The second is to learn to see the worthiness in yourself. When being worthy becomes something that your soul knows, you will no longer need outside validation. Fortunately, getting good at the first creates the second. The more you see value in the intangible things, like kindness, dependability, a warm smile, or a kind word, the easier it will be to see the gifts that you bring to the world. When you know their value, the bling and recognition will become something nice to have rather than something you need to have.
Growth and Contribution
Meeting the needs for growth and contribution only comes from inside. You can’t get either one from someone else. Someone may help you to grow. You may be congratulated for contributing, but the work of both has to start with you. The hurdle to meeting these needs tends to come from giving yourself permission to indulge.
Schooling, reading books, taking classes, and saying yes to new experiences is important. You’re either growing or your dying. Who wants to die while you’re still alive? Be a continuous learner.
And give. It feeds your sense of connection to the world. Giving helps you to feel significant. It can give you novelty. What you give doesn’t have to be material. It can be a smile, a helping hand, or gratitude. There are plenty of ways to give that take so little time yet mean so much.
We all have emotional needs. When we meet our own needs, we are better partners, people, and citizens. Living in ways that nurture our soul creates a more fulfilling life.