In my years in Healing School, I had a fabulous and sometimes intimidating teacher who would ask people a very direct and startling question. His very neutrally spoken question was “How old are you right now?”
While there was no charge to his question, it felt so powerful to me because more often than not, the person he was in relation with, was indeed speaking from a much younger place than the actual figures shown on their passport. It intrigued me how significant this question was.
What was up with that? Why is it important to know what age we are speaking from?
If you think about it, we might not be leading our best life if the part of us that is asking, talking, being a parent or partner, in fact making all kinds of decisions from the driver seat of our lives is actually 4, 5 or 6 years old…
Huh? Right? Right. So… why would this be happening? Well, for now, let’s just say that there are parts of us that are more grown up than other parts and that in order for all of us to grow up in a healthy way we need our needs to be met.
When a need is not meet in a child… well it does not really go anywhere… it’s still there even if by now our hair is growing white with wisdom and our kids are up to your shoulders or taller than us. Not gone anywhere. Still there. Yes it is.
However it might look nothing like a child’s need at this point. In fact you might not even recognize it.
In my previous post or the one before that I wrote about how we sometimes neglect or overide our needs which then come out as insomnia, anxiety or depression and are sometimes expressed sideways or with a distinct flavour or energy like frustration, anger, blame or resentment which might be quite bewildering or scary to the person on the receiving end. Why would we do such a thing?
Why would we ignore our needs? Well, most of time we have not learned to know and tend to our needs because we were not shown, taught nor modelled how to as children.
So just to recap’: needs = normal.
Every healthy organism has needs. Needs are a felt inner urge shared by all of humanity and are defined as an internal condition which seeks a meeting or a holding. A deficiency in meeting a need will cause a negative outcome, a dysfunction or death.
Sheesh. This gives you an idea of how important needs are and how brutal it is when they are not met, right? Very, very brutal.
However, there is a distinction to be made between a true need – which can be met in the moment and a demand or past need which cannot.
So what are “past needs”?
Past needs or demands are pointing us in the direction of needs that were true and real in the past (when we were children) and were unmet in the past so they are coming up in the present moment with a forcing current and a sense of urgency. Sometimes they come out as demands.
Past needs or demands are childhood needs that were left unfulfilled and are unconsciously trying to get met in our adult lives. The thing is, in the present moment past needs cannot truly be met.
You see, what is a real need for a child is not at all a real need for an adult in that moment (that’s why sometimes people call them false needs). As a child, we were all very dependant on our parents to meet our needs, however as adults it is now our responsibility to do so. Bummer? Nope! actually this is good news!
So, if we find ourselves looking to another to meet our needs, we can be pretty sure that:
1) it is time to ask ourselves how old we are in this moment?
2) slow down and notice, are we looking to the other to take care of our needs for us (as if he/she were our parent and we were a child)
3) go inwards and notice what need needs us – be with this pain as compassionately as possible, after all it’s only a child’s need that was not met a long long time ago.
As children we might have had super busy, distracted, bruised or unaware, unavailable parents who were doing their best (or not) and who just did not meet our true needs as infants. (Remember needs are normal and natural and an integral part of being a healthy living organism). NOW in the present, we can do better for ourselves. We can slow things down, notice the urgency, the strident voice, the imperative tone and listen in… what unmet need is there? calling us for healing, calling us to be recognized from the past?
There’s an expression my clients hear me say: You’ve got to feel it to heal it!
I know this is not so fun but it’s the way to reclaiming your adult self and caring for that young ones’ needs so the adult you can take the driving seat back.
A past need might sound angry or scary, big and overwhelming, (both for us and for the whoever is on the receiving end) because by the time it’s let out, it seems much more forceful than it actually is.
The past unmet need is an unfair expectation to put on someone else.
So what can we do to own our past needs and let go of the childhood pain?
By recognizing our young needs with compassion we can take the demand off the other and be with what truly is.
Believe me they will be grateful and so will you. I know, in the moment it’s not easy or comfortable, and it might seem totally counter intuitive because it can be super painful to feel the soft pain of an unfulfilled hurt and past deprivation but in doing so things will shift dramatically! Being kindly with a child’s need that was not met a long time ago (to be seen, heard, valued, loved, appreciated…) is all it takes to nurture it into a grown person. And it beats anger, insomnia and depression any day.
If you feel called, please comment or let me know what needs of yours you uncovered and met or about those you have a hard time being with. Give it a go and let me know how it goes for you. As always, it’s easier to do it with some external help and reflection so if I can help, please get in touch!
In my personal practice and with clients, I try to differentiate needs from demands (or so called “past or false needs”) and ultimately I aim to help my clients learn to do so too by feeling into the subtle energetic difference in their bodies and noticing where the expressed need may be coming from and what it feels like so that we can dissolve it. I would love to help you too!
If this resonates with you and you find it helpful, get back to me and let me know how you’re doing and if you need help I would be truly honored!
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Thanks for reading and keep on shining the way only you can!