Please sir – I need a wee!
He sat in the classroom feeling very uncomfortable. Although he desperately needed the toilet he decided that it wasn’t a good time to go right now. He carried on with the maths question but was really not concentrating. Every time he got part way through the calculation he would be distracted again and had to do a little shuffle in his seat. Then he lost his train of thought and had to start all over again.
This lesson was not going well for him as he looked around to see if anyone else in the class had noticed his discomfort. Never mind only another 5 minutes to go. Why couldn’t he just ask to go to the toilet? Was it really such a big deal that everyone in the class would know that he needed the loo? In fact didn’t everyone in the class need to go to the toilet several times a day?
Part of growing up is learning how to take no notice of the things that your body tells you are important. The bell finally went and the teacher told the class to pack away their books and put them neatly on the back shelf. The teacher then said ‘see you next lesson’ and dashed out the door as fast as he could trying to make it look like he didn’t need the toilet!
We’ve all done it at sometime or other. We have decided that it is not really convenient to go to the toilet right now. It’s a classic story we can all relate to – even adults!
A Feeling with a Reason
We feel this way – because we need something. All our feelings, emotions and body sensations have a purpose. Our body identifies things that are becoming out of balance. It knows when we are cold, hungry, thirsty etc. It also knows when we are alone, isolated, not being supported. It knows when things keep irritating us – a sign that some basic need to be understood or listened to is still not happening. Unfortunately we have taught ourselves how to ignore and over-ride what we need. We have taught our children how to ignore their feelings and sometimes even convinced them that they are being selfish or unreasonable.
Why do people start to shout when they feel they are not being heard? Could it be anything to do with this basic need to be accepted, heard and acknowledged? Next time you hear an argument going on just listen carefully – you can usually pick up that neither person is listening and acknowledging the other. ‘You don’t need to shout’ – well show me that you are listening and acknowledge that my needs are important as well!
Listening to your own needs
Everyday we ignore and over-ride the feelings that our body gives us to tell us that we are out of balance and need to change something. We understand about feeling hungry and needing food, feeling thirsty and needing a drink. These we are familiar with. It is most of the other needs that we don’t even think about that we have trouble with.
We have taught ourselves to ignore our own needs. We will sit in a cold room and not put our coat on or ask to have the heating turned up. We put up with all sorts of things simply because we have been taught that our needs are not important. So we will work long hours, take work home and stay up late because someone else said that it needs to be done. I asked my manager a few years ago how to decide which task I should do first. His reply was simply that ‘it all needs to be done’.
Each of us carries around a set of needs that are almost permanently never met. They give us a feeling of uneasiness throughout the day. We are still aware of these feelings because they make us feel uncomfortable and slightly on edge. It would be good to learn how to tune in better to determine what needs we have that are not being met. This could simply be a need for acceptance, friendship or connection with other people. We have told ourselves that our needs don’t count, and that we should always ‘think of others before ourselves’. This like many other phrases is often misquoted and taken out of context.
Now that you no longer acknowledge your own needs you even become unaware that they even existed. It is also easier to ignore the needs of others – their needs don’t matter either.
The Need Experts
How come other people get to decide what you need? These are the need experts. They have made themselves experts on knowing what you need in your life, how those needs should be met, and exactly what you should be doing about it!
It begins with our parents and teachers who tell us that we need to put our coat on and eat our greens. When we were young this was fine, as it was just them looking after us and keeping us safe.
You can easily spot a ‘need-expert’ as they are always telling you what you need to do and what you need to be like. So we hear lots of phrases throughout the day along the lines of:
- You need to listen and pay attention.
- You need to get at least a grade A (is that a ‘9’ now?)
- You need to grow up.
- You need to start taking more responsibility.
- You need to be more mature.
- You need to eat five a day.
- You need to take more exercise.
- You need to get this work done before you go home.
We are told that we need to maintain a work-life balance and also that we need to get all the work done. We are told that we need to work harder, to achieve more, to meet our targets, to take work home, to work weekends and to spend time relaxing and looking after ourselves. We are also told that we need to be thankful that we have a job!
Who needs what?
When you get to the point where you ‘need to be disciplined and punished’ you have got to smile. Really? These aren’t my needs – they belong to someone else. Who really has the need and what exactly is it that they need?
I remember once being told that I was clearly feeling stressed and that I need to learn how to handle the pressure more effectively. I need to perhaps go to anger management classes. When I’m feeling stressed and angry I actually need you to listen to me without interrupting and telling me what I need to be thinking! I really need some support and acceptance because right now I’m feeling isolated and unappreciated and I need to know that you understand and accept me.
Please don’t tell me that you know what I need without listening to me first.
Inside Out film – Dad prepares to put the foot down!
When we are out of tune with our own needs we become uncomfortable and irritable. We feel annoyed and frustrated by lots of little things. This is a sure sign that our needs are not being met. Often we don’t know why we are feeling crabby – other than this long list of things and people that are hacking us off. Try and sit back and sense what your body is telling you and you can find ways to get your needs met more effectively.
When we are angry and shout and stomp about we have needs that we and others are ignoring or are simply unaware of. Become aware every time you hear the word need. Who has the need? Is it that someone else has a need and they are using the phrase ‘you need to…’ because they are unable to admit that actually they are the one that needs a bit of help and support? Be sensitive to yourself and your needs, and mindful that others have needs to.
Put yourself on the job list
The other week I wrote myself a TO DO list. These can often make you feel pretty low. I ‘need to do all these jobs’ is the way we usually see them. However I thought a bit deeper. I needed to iron the shirts. Well actually this isn’t a real human need. I do have a need to feel accepted and wearing a clean, tidy shirt helps me to do that. I ironed the shirts with much more enthusiasm when I saw the personal benefits of looking smart instead of it being just another ‘job’.
I also put ‘me time’ on my list. I was feeling pretty tired and needed to slow down a bit. So I wrote this on my jobs list as well. My mind and body were feeling fairly run down so maybe I really needed to sit and have a rest, listen to some music, have a cup of tea etc.
I need what?!!
We repeat the same words of the ‘need expert’ to ourselves. I need to do this, I need to grow up, I need to sort myself out. I need to work harder (says the adult who has learned the script). I need to get all these things done before tomorrow. I need to work late tonight.
I need to go shopping. Whoa! stop! no you don’t! You do need to eat though; and going shopping can help you meet that need. You could also meet that need in other ways, go out for a meal, go and get some fish and chips, order a pizza, do your shopping online, make up something from out of the cupboard. Once you see the job, the task or the solution as being what you need then you close your mind to other options.
Are you numb or something?
By constantly ignoring our needs and the feelings associated with them we can become numb to what is going on inside us. We have learned to dismiss our feelings because our needs are not important and apparently neither are we! We can get back in touch with ourselves and relearn to listen to what our feelings are telling us. There is an increasing acceptance of the importance of resting and relaxing. Mindfulness gives us a way to become more aware and re-connect with what our bodies have been trying to tell us all day! We might have to first convince ourselves that it is okay to have ‘needs’ and allow ourselves to have a bit of ‘down time’!
I need to calm down – arrgh!
If you are seriously hacked off then someone telling you that you need to relax is enough to create a re-enactment of Anger from Inside Out! At this point your needs are more likely to be along the lines of acknowledgement and connection rather than a need for being calm and relaxed. Unfortunately other people often just need you to calm down because they are feeling threatened!
You think I need to go and talk to someone? Actually it isn’t that I need to talk it’s often more a case of I need you to listen.