I need validation. I need a hug. I need to be respected and admired at all times. I need a chewy chocolate chip cookie. I need warm fuzzy slippers. I need everyone to notice me and pay attention to me. I need, I need, I need…
Everybody needs something. If you’re fortunate enough to have food, water and shelter, then your needs go beyond survival into the realm of emotion. This realm includes feelings of happiness, sadness, security, love, excitement, awe, jealousy, anger, joyfulness and so on.
The Habit Of Emotion
Just like habits, you will tend to practice some emotions more than others. Some people practice anger more than appreciation. Frustration more than fun. Doubt more than daring. We fall into these emotional patterns to meet our basic fundamental needs. And as a complex emotional being, you have the ability to feel on top of the world one moment and at the end of your rope the next. Welcome to the roller coaster that is your life!
Emotions Are Big Business
The crazy part is that human beings crave the ups and downs in life. How do I know this? The motion picture industry made over 30 BILLION dollars last year. They tell us stories. Very elaborate and emotionally packed stories. We pay to see those stories so we can get scared to death by killer sharks, experience the complexities of the heart through an epic love story, and go on the hero’s journey with likes of Dorothy Gale, Harry Potter and Luke Skywalker.
Notice how you feel when you read these all-too-familiar lines (it helps if you can imagine the soundtrack playing at the same time):
- We’re gonna need a bigger boat.
- Frankly Scarlet, I don’t give a damn.
- Go ahead, make my day.
- You can’t handle the truth!
- Nobody puts baby in the corner.
- There’s no place like home.
- May the Force be with you.
But What Do You Really Need?
Isn’t it ironic that we live in a society where we’ll pay to be told a story so we can feel something, but are drugging ourselves at the same time to not feel our own lives? What if we are drawn to stories because we’re looking for clues for what really moves us emotionally? Or worse yet, what if we are just using movies and media as a surrogate because we don’t really know what our needs are or are too afraid to experience them first hand?
Do you know what your needs are?
Apparently, Love Is Not All You Need
There are 4 basic needs that are universal for everyone:
1. Certainty: “I need to feel safe and secure”
Assurance to avoid pain and gain pleasure is a dominant need for most people. Remember that little lizard hanging out in your head? It’s calling the shots on certainty. While it’s a way for your brain to protect you from harm, this need can get out of way out of whack and keep you from living life. Strengths for certainty include reliability and organization.
2. Variety/Uncertainty: “I need to mix things up and have some fun!”
While it’s great to feel safe and secure, it’s also pretty boring. That’s when the need for change and something new kicks in. This adds spice to life on a bland diet. Strengths for variety include enthusiasm and independence.
3. Significance: “My life matters”
Significance is the need to live a life of meaning. That you matter and feel important, unique, special and needed. Strengths include leadership, hard work and high achievement.
4. Love and connection: “Everyone loves me and I love them”
This is the need to have meaningful and close connections to others. Strengths include generosity, sensitivity and helpfulness.
While you have the four basic needs above, you also have needs for growth and contribution you can choose to reach for.
5. Growth: “I love to learn and challenge myself”
Growth is the need to constantly develop, learn new things and continually improve so you can be the best possible version of you. This is all about expanding who you are and serving as a role model for self-improvement.
6. Contribution: “I love to give and do my part to make the world a better place”
Contribution is about focusing on something beyond yourself, but not in a way where you lose yourself in the process. If done with the right intention, true giving is giving to yourself.
Find Out What’s Driving You
All human behavior is driven to meet a mix of the six human needs above. Cloe Madanes, a clinical psychologist, has developed a test to help you discover your top needs, how to interpret the results, and provides detail on what your top two needs are.