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Do you know what your core emotional needs are and are they being met?

A young girl pulls an exaggerated surprised expression, her hand pressed over her mouthDo you know what your core emotional needs are, or if they are being met? This is a very important question. If your core emotional needs are being met, then it is likely that you are more content. If there are some psychological problems that you are dealing with, then there is a chance that, in some way, they are not all being sufficiently met. 

What are your own core emotional needs? Is it to be cared for by others? Is it to have the freedom to express yourself? Is it to feel safe? Perhaps you identify with one of these needs more than another. Are there any others that spring to mind?

Although you may think of emotional needs as something to be met in your personal relationships, they are in fact equally valid in your working life. Whilst emotional needs aren’t always valued in the workplace, many people would say that they prefer a work environment that is both friendly and supportive, rather than one that is bullying and excluding. 

As you can see then, emotional needs have a lot to do with relationships. People are social beings, and to feel secure is to feel connected to others. So that you can be clear in your mind what all of your core emotional needs look like, we are going to look at the full range of categories. There are five broad categories and they are as follows:

  • To feel safe, stable, nurtured and accepted.
  • To have some autonomy, to feel competent and to have a sense of identity.
  • To have the freedom to express your own needs and emotions.
  • To be able to act spontaneously and to play.
  • To live in a world with realistic limits, which help you to apply self-control.

It is possible to go into a lot of detail about each of these categories.  So, to make your reading palatable, there are going to be a series of articles over the next several months that address each of these categories one-by-one. Today, we are going to look at the importance of feeling safe, stable, nurtured and accepted. 

Safety, stability, nurturance and acceptance

These words describe the most fundamental of a human being’s core emotional needs. Without feeling safe at home, at work or when travelling around, a person’s functioning is significantly reduced. Stability is about having safety and a basic level of predictability or routine in your life. If your life is chaotic and occurs in extremes, then the lack of stability is likely to cause much fear.  This is different to having some variety. Even within the most varied and exciting life there is some stability, which allows a person to take on new adventures and challenges.

Nurturance is about feeling protected, cared for and guided by others. This is important in childhood and adulthood. Without sufficient nurturing from others, you have to rely too heavily on yourself and this doesn’t often lead to long-term stability. For example, a person who is overly self-reliant may develop bouts of low mood and depression.

And finally, to be accepted by others is to feel as though you are likeable, lovable and worthwhile as a person. Feedback from people is important in feeling accepted, because when you are ignored then you are likely to develop a sense of not being liked or feeling unimportant.

What can you do about it?

Safety

If your needs in these areas are not being met, then it is going to be important for you to begin to rectify it. If it is safety that you are lacking, then first identify which part of your life it is missing. Is it at home? Is this because of a volatile relationship with a partner or other person? If so, then it is going to be very important that you begin to take action to make yourself safer. This may mean leaving your home and going to a friend’s or another family member. It may mean getting help from someone else, from the Police to have this person evicted. You may want to get some help with this by calling the 24-hour National Domestic Violence Freephone Helpline on 0808 2000 247.

If you aren’t feeling safe at work, then what is the reason? Is it because of how others are treating you? Is it because there aren’t sufficient safety measures in place when you are doing your job? If this is the case, then you are going to need to tell someone either in the organisation or external. You’ll need to make a judgement call depending on your situation. Whilst this may be hard and you might be worried about losing your job, you have the right as an employee to work in an environment where you feel safe enough to do your job. 

If you don’t feel safe when travelling, this may due to an anxiety problem like panic disorder, agoraphobia or traumatic stress. If so, then it's likely you'll need some interventions from a qualified therapist to teach you how to overcome it.

Stability

If your life is lacking stability, then again try to identify in what way.  Is it in personal relationships? Do relationships with people come and go with people? Or, are you lacking something meaningful to do in the day? People get stability from having roles in life, and a working role or a parental role provides much-needed stability. 

Nurturance and acceptance

If it is a lack of nurturance, then you may need to identify more clearly in your mind two groups; those people that support you and those that don’t. Try to reduce the time that you spend with the latter, and increase the time you spend with the former. Similarly, if you feel disliked or unloved, then you are probably not connected enough with other people who are able to express what they appreciate about you. Alternatively, you may need to begin asking for more support from people so that they know what it is that you need.  

The aim of the above guidance, is to point you in the right direction of changing some of these difficulties. It can be useful to access some support through personal relationships, or by seeking out a professional. It can also be hard to do these things, and it may take persistence. Whilst it is likely that it isn’t your fault that these needs aren’t being met, ultimately, it is down to you to change it.  

Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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Written by Jim Lucas

Counselling, CBT & Psychotherapy in Birmingham city centre and Online
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