Meeting Actual Needs

Human beings are funny little souls, really. I mean we don’t want to be. We’d much prefer to be very cool and have our shit together but it’s not real.

I love to describe us as all a bunch of unmet needs walking around seeking another soul who can meet our needs. When l speak about in presentations l’m acting it out, bouncing around the room full animation and everyone is giggling and nodding, knowing that it is how they feel too.

There’s nothing wrong with being human. It just helps if we can recognise our humanness and work with it, even with great humour, to smooth our way in the world. My ten days in Ladakh has given me time to reflect on this very passion-filled component of being human.

The core of my work is about needs – l have written about it in Making Sense of the Insensible and created a tool and healing process (Empowered Tapping) in The Box of Inner Secrets. In fact the title Inner Secrets Accessed stemmed from a simple question l asked myself when making the Insight Cards – what will people gain by understanding the cycle of having a need not met and fearing what it says about us? My brain responded: they will have the inner secret to managing their lives more effectively.

What are needs?
As social beings we are wired to connect. During interactions our brains are constantly filtering our experiences through core emotional needs to assess whether they are being met or not. The top ten l have observed are to be: loved, belong, accepted, approved of, worthy, respected, important, validated, supported and wanted.

The great challenge is that each person engaged in an interaction have their own priority needs colouring what they hear, how they hear it and how it is interpreted. What does that mean? What they hear – the words spoken and what those words mean to the person. How they hear it – the tone in the voice, the look in eyes and facial expressions. How it is interpreted – all past experiences are accessed like a resource library to assess the meaning of current interactions based on past experiences.

Our inner wounds become the battleground of miscommunication, assumptions and unmet needs.

In a class setting l demonstrate this misalignment by getting someone up and ask them to bounce on their toes moving up and down. I then rock my body side to side. The whole exercise lasts less than a minute because it’s so uncomfortable. Try it. Get a good friend to give it a go and see how it feels.

If you can imagine the movements represent a need, each person is vibrating a different energy. They both present as only looking to have the need they have met and nothing more. BAM! Disaster in the making. Up and down and side to side don’t go together. In this scenario neither person gets their needs met.

If you keep going with the exercise something really interesting happens – the people start to sync and move in the same direction. In the world of needs this means one person has their needs met and the other doesn’t. In fact, the one who changes their movement has given up their need and taken on the need of the other person as their own. How often has that happened in relationships? Needless to say relationships and interactions become very messy.

I have noticed that we have actual needs but tend to experience three realities. Firstly, people try to meet the needs they think we have. Secondly, they act to meet the needs they want us to have. Thirdly, they are busy trying to get us to meet their needs, ignoring our needs completely.

I love to talk about how we are like onions – we have layers. As we peel away our baggage we re-process our self-concept. Some themes take a few layers to peel away while others take many, many peelings to clear.

If l think about it l can go back into my 20’s when l was studying counselling and recall my fear of failing and of failure. It has presented itself in many forms over the years and on this trip to Ladakh the layer titled ‘fear of failing people’ surfaced. It was so heavy and suffocating that physically l struggled to breathe and my heart felt pressured constantly.

I don’t want to be here to meet my needs or assume what the Tibetan nuns and children at the TCV need. I want to meet their actual needs. (And yes l get that this is a need! If l met their actual needs l will be meeting my need.) What l don’t want to do is decide that because something works in my country it will work here. Or even if l like the taste of pickled vegetables they will too.

Ultimately, l have a need to provide skills that will enhance their lives, they can integrate into their world without losing their culture and do it without me. It’s a noble need that l can retitle as an intention but that’s just semantics. For me, l want to meet people’s actual needs and that is my definition of success.

As l head home l return full of optimism and hope about where this project is heading. Working at the cold face, directly with people, creating the safety necessary for them to provide feedback on their needs means l’m on track. My research for the materials in Leh to ensure people will be able to do everything they learn was very successful and this warms my heart. Well actually, l’ve been doing a massive happy dance!

This is on the ground, practical, realistic, and what they actually need. I have people supporting this venture who are living the reality of life in the minimal resources of Ladakh. This makes me happy. And l think another layer of my fear of failure just got healed.