It’s hard to miss the consequences of denying or ignoring our unmet needs as they are being played out on the collective public stage. Hate groups, an unbridled thirst for power, and the inability or unwillingness to afford empathy, dignity, and respect to those who need it the most are just a few of the symptoms of unresolved unmet needs. The following is an excerpt from my book, Soul of the Seasons.
Emotions reveal our expectations and hidden agendas, which, in turn, reveal our unmet needs. Blindspots are hidden personal agendas that are animated by our unmet needs. They remain outside our conscious awareness and are always anchored in unacknowledged, unresolved wounds of the past.
Everyone has or has had a blindspot. When we are unaware of our blindspots, we are likely to seek unhealthy ways for getting our needs met. Instead of developing well-thought-out plans rooted in integrity, we may resort to trickery, manipulation, and deception.
Some blindspots are hard to identify because they are based in our moral idealism. The parent who declares, “I’ll never control my children the way my parents controlled me!” while imposing unrealistic expectations on their children that they must always “be the best” might be one such
An unmet need is exactly what it implies: a basic human need that has gone unanswered. It might be a basic survival need such as food, shelter, or clean water. Or it may be a more subtle but profound emotional need, such as companionship, respect, being loved, receiving compassionate touch,
or a sense of belonging.
Hidden agendas are the unconscious means by which an unacknowledged need is met. They are called “hidden” because they are often masked by noble-sounding intentions. When someone confronts us with our manipulations, we might respond, “But I just want you to be happy!” In truth, we may be terrified by our loved one’s grief, sadness, or rage because we have not dealt with our own. Others’ strong emotions may trigger our feelings of powerlessness or rage or shame. If we are unwilling to confront these uncomfortable emotions, we may resort to diversion, deflection, or denial.
Our unmet needs are an aching longing for balance and harmony. If we are unaware of, ashamed of, or afraid of these needs, we may deal with our discomfort through self-medication and/or denial. But when we pay attention to our emotional responses, we may discover that we are suppressing our emotions through activities intended to soothe.
For example, when confronted with spending the evening alone, we might break out the dark chocolate and red wine. If our adult children are struggling with addiction or self-reliance, we might lecture or cajole or shame them into shaping up so we don’t have to feel powerless in the face of their unhappiness, pain, or apathy. When our parents fail to live up to our ideals, we might criticize or vent our rage at or ostracize them instead of examining our grief over past neglect or lack of nurturing.
Unmet needs often cause us to cover our wounds with false bravado. Instead of confronting our feelings of rejection and abandonment, we might adopt the silly mantra of “Never let ’em see you sweat!” and pretend our hearts are not crushed.
By refusing to acknowledge our unmet needs, we become slaves to them.
We deny them in order to escape the discomfiting feelings of shame, guilt, or self-protection. We may adopt a stance of emotional, mental, or even physical steely resolve in order to brace ourselves against further pain and suffering. But denial can actually create more vulnerability to manipulation and betrayal, causing us to betray and manipulate those we love most.
Take, for example, an unmet and unacknowledged need to be valued. By remaining unaware of this need, we may overreact, demanding that others respect us, becoming bitter and resentful toward them when they do not. These types of behaviors place the source for getting our needs met in the hands of others, outside our control. By divesting the responsibility of our health, happiness, and well-being to people, places, or things, we deny our own value and abilities.
If we believe our worthiness is tied up in having a spouse and a house, we are likely to feel unlovable and worthless if we are temporarily uncoupled or our living conditions are in transition.
Remaining Blind to Our Blindspots
By its very definition, an unmet need implies neediness. In our culture, neediness conjures thoughts of weakness, powerlessness, and vulnerability. So we refuse to admit our neediness.
But denying it simply makes us more easily manipulated by it. No amount of cars, money, partners, jobs, power, affirmation, or material possessions will fill an unmet need—ever. But this have never stopped anyone from spending a lifetime trying.
Freedom through Awareness
As you read earlier, our unmet needs are always anchored in the wounds of our past. Our unmet need to be valued may have originated from having an overly critical father who found it impossible to acknowledge work well done. A deep need to be understood may have come from a mother who neglected to properly nurture us. Our need for setting strictly enforced boundaries may have been the result of our own boundary violations.
But there is no freedom in protecting our past wounds, however painful they might have been. This does not mean that we need to lay bare our vulnerabilities to those who do not deserve our trust or who treat us with disrespect.
Here is the power that the wisdom of the seasons holds: it provides important clues to a greater self-awareness of our worthiness—
and our blindspots.
When we move through the seasons of life, present and conscious to our whole self, and not the sanitized, idealized, spiritualized version we often fantasize that others believe about us, we can then recognize when our past wounds are at play. We can give ourselves time to remember where our true worth lies. We can make sure we are taking care of our own needs and not lay that responsibility at the feet of those who are not worthy of the position.