The Needs Behind Fears (Book Snippet 21)

In ‘Book Snippet 5: The Needy Iceberg’, we explored the psychological/emotional needs at the bottom of our iceberg.

Growing up, we not only learn which ways of meeting our needs are approved of and rewarded, we also learn which are discouraged or punished by our parents, our peer group, and by society at large.

The energies of four of the five needs are polar opposites in nature, and fulfilling them simultaneously can seem impossible. On the one hand, it is essential we learn to trust life, the world, and other people, and to let others be close to us and allow for intimacy (love/belonging).

On the other hand, we need to become mature and autonomous individuals, accept and embrace our independence, and differentiate ourselves from others (autonomous self-expression).

To meet our need for stability and security, we learn to be consistent, make plans, and follow them reliably. Yet, if we want to grow and enjoy life, we need to remain spontaneous and creative, be willing to embrace the unknown, and let go of the familiar in order to be open to change (growth/stimulation).

Each of us assigns a different value to these needs, depending on the interaction of our biology, our upbringing, and our individual psyche.

Quite often, we learn to focus on a need that appears crucial under our current life conditions, while neglecting the rest. The longer we serve this one need, the more readily we dismiss the other needs — and sometimes we even begin to react against people who place more importance on a different need. In order to feel balanced, we have to find some way to express and fulfil all of our needs, not just one or two.

Now, there was a time in each of our lives where the fulfilment of our needs was indeed dependent on one or more people: as infants, toddlers, or even as young children, we need our caretakers to fulfil our needs, physical and emotional alike. There is a connection between our needs, the fears we experience when we think this need is not being met, and patterns of behaviour.

If one (or more) of the core needs were not sufficiently provided for by our earliest role models, we probably developed fearful thinking and behaviours aimed at securing what we lacked.

We will begin exploring the need/fear connection of the four needs of love/belonging, autonomous self-expression, predictability/security and variation/stimulation first, before looking at meaning/significance.

If your life is dominated by the need to belong and love, you will most likely fear rejection or separation. If your strongest need is for autonomous self-expression, others encroaching on your autonomy, smothering or engulfing you may give you the hives. If you need a high degree of order and certainty to feel safe, loss of control and chaos are your worst nightmare. If your main objective is a life of growth and stimulation the possibility of stagnation or being stuck makes you gasp for air.

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