I’ve been discussing ‘need’ with a few people lately and it’s making me think about the way people need and or need to be needed. Is it something that people have to demonstrate? Do we have to feel like we need? Does it make us isolated, anti-social or spectrum-y to not need or be needed? What about relationships/love and need? Some argue that our need to feel needed may be a “ very important, fundamental instinct” leading me to conclude that if we do not have that then we are somehow abnormal or lacking.

Many people subscribe to the theory that the need to be needed is universal, natural, and healthy, and that it is “a unique form, a unique state of awareness, for each and every individual which correlates to their personal experience of the need to be needed”. This seems to be about the people involved and about our relationship with others. Is it likely to be related to what we define as love — that all-consuming, heart palpating, craving, lustful, caring and powerful of physiological states. After all, isn’t love a mental state that determines the very mode of function of the brain waves — the physiology of the brain?

Maslow’s famous hierarchy of needs has been a popular answer to the question on need. Beyond the basic physiological requirements of nutrition and sleep, Maslow held that a sense of safety and security is our most basic need. We know that this is not necessarily true — we have seen time and time again that people may survive and even flourish in the most dangerous and downright depressing environments. Alternatively you can have the Menendez brothers who lived in the safest and most privileged of environments but ended up killers. The most basic human need seems to be the need to be needed.

We seem to want to be needed in order to prove that we are worthy, we are loved, we are cared for and we matter. Maybe it makes us feel significant in the grand scheme of things — the idea that they belong to something greater than themselves and a sense of worth. If you are needed then you are worthy and you are worth something. Well what about love and being needed? I have been critical of myself and been criticised by my ex husband that because I have not needed others, I am therefore incapable of love. Joe Caruso said, “Know that love has nothing to do with being wanted or needed…that’s insecurity.

I think if need is at the foundation of a relationship then that is unhealthy — that is dependency. But love itself has nothing to do with being wanted or needed — it’s a feeling (as I was reminded last night). The basis of love lies in accepting others and encouraging others which is something that my sporadically emotionally retarded self is still learning. The basis of need is dependency. The concept of encouraging one’s growth unselfishly is the opposite of being needed or encouraging one to need you. “Too often we confuse our human desire to feel important, or to live a life that matters to others, with the desire to be needed.” This is something I was discussing with my mother yesterday, and it resonates strongly with me today.

Final thoughts on need — The concept of being needed takes the personal control over our own happiness and success right out of our life. It also suggests that others can take it away from you, creating the perfect breeding ground for relationship-killers such as insecurity, jealousy, manipulation and fear. So a relationship based on need is fraught with issues, whereas it’s good to feel like we are needed if it gives us some self-worth.

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