What emotional needs do we all have in common? They include love, affection, trust, feeling valued, fulfilled, safe, respected and many more. In our culture people aren’t taught how to get their emotional needs met or even how to recognize them. Because of this, by default, we’re taking action to unconsciously meet our emotional needs in harmful ways with such things as food, alcohol, cigarettes, caffeine, drugs (legal or illegal), spending excessive time or money shopping, on the computer or TV, and more.
Consciously, or usually unconsciously, we make choices all day every day. If we are choosing unconsciously it’s likely that the way we’re getting our emotional needs met is causing us some type of harm. Most of us don’t know we even have emotional needs or how to address them in a healthy way so our subconscious makes choices to take care of them. Though we may be successful at denying or setting aside our feelings temporarily, we cannot stop our emotional needs from getting met.
This is what addictions and embarrassing choices (that have led to public humiliation) are about. All addictions (to substances, people, things, feelings, etc.) and humiliating choices are about covering up emotional pain. We have a strong need not to be in emotional pain so we find something that distracts us from it, temporarily allowing us not to feel it. But the truth is, though momentarily the pain may be relieved, ultimately we are just compounding it. How do we know if this is what we’re doing? Ask yourself this question “are you receiving an immediate payoff that ultimately results in something you don’t like or want?” In other words, does it make you feel better in the moment but a day, a month or a year later you don’t feel so good about what that choice has created?
Here’s an example of what I mean. We’ll get our emotional needs met by eating food that gives us momentary pleasure (giving us the emotional comfort or a payoff we are seeking) but, in the end, we don’t like what we’re left with (we feel uncomfortable, our health is diminished, or we become increasingly overweight). If we don’t take care of our emotional needs with kind and gentle behaviors toward ourself, we will unconsciously meet our emotional needs with food even if it leads to (our disadvantage) becoming overweight. You may substitute any other choice (for the word “food” in this example) that leaves you feeling crummy or worse.
Emotional needs rule whether we are aware of them or not! That’s why taking care of ourselves and looking at what our choices are creating is the key. When we have healthy relationships, do work we enjoy, trade in our critical thoughts for positive and supportive ones, make time for ourselves, have fun, express our creativity, etc. we don’t usually find it necessary to engage in behaviors that result in something we don’t want. The unconscious compulsion to eat to satisfy our feelings is gone because our emotional need has been satisfied. Trying to ignore or distract ourselves from emotional pain or discomfort becomes unnecessary because there isn’t any (or there’s much less of it) or because we’ve learned how to deal with emotional discomfort in a better way.
So, what’s your choice, not what choice do you make when you think or talk about it, but what choice do you make with your actions? What does your behavior say about your choices? Have you previously been unaware that you’re spending time doing things that are destructive, harming your precious self? Or, do you acknowledge that you have emotional needs, treat yourself gently, in a positive, healthy way that uplifts you and makes you feel good?
You will know what you’re choosing by the way you feel. If you feel good, you’re taking care of yourself and you’re more likely to make choices you’ll enjoy. If you don’t feel good, your self-care is asking for your attention. When you don’t feel good, you’re more likely to make choices that result in outcomes you don’t want. It’s never too late to make a new choice that feels better. I’d like to offer one small idea to get you started. Repeat this phrase anytime you’re not feeling good, “I am worth caring for, and how I feel matters.” You may not believe it now, but with repetition, it may weave its way into your heart 💜and that’s the point.
With love, Jackie