What do You NEED?
Really, what do you need in your life to shift you into a higher state of consciousness that will ultimately result in improved health and wellness?
What do you need to support yourself to grow and thrive?
I remember being baffled by this question, because circumstance ruled so much of the answer.
Media bombards and distracts us with what we often think we need. Everyday we hear about the new iphone coming out and the new OIS that comes with it. We need faster internet, cars, better workout equipment, clothes ect... The list goes on. I'm sure you can think of many more examples. Even right now when the political world is in an uproar, it's important to check in with yourself to make sure your needs are being met so you can be your best self to provide aid and serve where you can.
Rewind eleven years ago. I began a relationship with someone who had depression and hoarding in his genetics. There was a need to hold onto material items and collect things at alarming rates. Six years go by and I finally begin to realize the codependency was making me sick. I was living in a gratitude deficient house with a partner who encouraged this way of living. I lost myself in what we created, a household filled with ecstatically tempting material items that I deemed necessary to purchase and own. There was a chronic feeling of dissatisfaction and never being enough and never having enough. I was reaching outside of myself to satisfy the void I felt of not knowing my own feelings and needs. Upon becoming a witness to this process that had been playing out over and over, I yearned to find myself. Amidst the circumstance, I rediscovered who I was through art and dance. I began evaluating my core values in an effort of self preservation. I abandoned my relationship and much of my belongings, realizing that they did not serve my needs for higher growth.
In that situation I felt: depressed, alone, hopeless, unhappy, confused, exhausted, numb, and in turmoil.
I needed growth.
I needed authenticity and integrity.
I needed clarity.
I needed autonomy.
My health and wellness depended on it.
My survival depended on it.
The clear distinction of needs vs. wants was birthed in that moment of transition.
Deciding what you need can easily be clouded by what you want. To be crystal clear in your own understanding, it's important to know the difference. What you need can be a direct link to your core values, while your wants may vary and stray.
So how do you go beyond circumstance and socially constructed wants to really dial in what you need for self development and growth?
Tapping into the practice of identifying your feelings, labeling, and connecting with them offers you the channel to also identify your needs. Again, we will have to develop some new vocabulary to begin. Learning the language of your needs brings you one step closer to authenticity; one step closer to home.
Identifying, labeling and connecting with your needs allows you the power to understand yourself and others more deeply. It provides access to taking responsibility for yourself and allows you space to feel empowered as you release victimhood and the scapegoat of blame.
Throughout my years of Western health and fitness studies and self exploration into the Eastern medicine world, there are a few methods of discovering needs that I have really enjoyed using in my journey of development.
1. Nonviolent Communication
Since we left off from the last post learning Nonviolent communication's method of identification of feelings, I will begin by moving into their identification of needs method. For me, this method is most available to those interested in Western or Eastern philosophies of health care. In my personal example above, I used this process to analyze my needs from the feelings I was experiencing. It is a basis for human communication and understanding. When we can begin to filter our feelings into needs, we can shift into a space of peace rather than conflict, whether we are interacting with ourselves or others.
Although our needs may shift and vary in intensity from time to time, we can still use this guide to help us identify what is lacking or being fulfilled in our experience.
An all too real and increasingly common example is when someone takes their own life. Feelings of confusion, anger, and sadness can all surface at once. Identifying these feelings, labeling, and connecting them offers the perfect opportunity to identify what needs aren't being met in this challenging time. With these feelings, I could say I was needing connection (that is linked to the feeling of confusion), to understand (linked to the feeling of anger), and hope (linked to the feeling of sadness). You could identify many other combinations of feelings to needs as you desire. It will solely be your experience to identify what needs are or are not being met in a particular situation.
Play with the words provided as you experience different feelings. This is not an exhaustive list of needs, so feel free to think outside the box.
2. Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs
A psychologist, named Abraham Maslow, suggested a 5-stage theory in his 1943 paper "A Theory of Human Motivation" in Psychological Review that organizes human needs in a hierarchical pyramid.
You can begin to use this model and recognize where your needs are and are not being met from the feelings you have identified. From my first example above, I expressed feelings of: depression, loneliness, hopelessness, unhappiness, confusion, exhaustion, numbness, and being in a state of turmoil. Using this model, and the full understanding of my experience now that I've identified the feelings involved, I can observe the following: the foundation of physiological needs was lacking in sleep and homeostasis, my safety was lacking in the sense of employment and resources, my needs for love and belonging were not being met, my self esteem and confidence was lacking, which ultimately hindered my progress to the top of the pyramid that would allow my creativity to thrive and find solutions to problems more easily.
Of course, this is simply a tool for identifying your needs, not a tool to help navigate access to them. That is truly up to you and your experience. I offer guidance towards various tools, but ultimately it's up to you to decide what works best.
What I can say is that this can be used as a preventative care tool. Identify what makes up the pyramid and strive to obtain balance within each section to build a strong foundation for the next level.
The seven Chakra points on the human body can be used as a road map to identify what basic needs are or are not being met. Traditionally, these are seen as energetic reference points that can be adjusted to create the free flow of energy throughout the body to bring about higher states of consciousness. For the purpose of this post, we will simply begin to look at the identifiers of the Chakra points to use it to help us discover what our needs are in more detail.
To continue using my example from 11 years ago where I was depressed, alone, hopeless, unhappy, confused, exhausted, numb, and in turmoil, I can begin to funnel those feelings through this Chakra lens and discover what was missing in my life and where I needed shift my focus to obtain the growth and development I desired.
My Chakras all would have been "closed" as opposed to "open" where the energy flowed freely. There are more accurate ways to determine whether you are open or closed by using tests available online. The website can also be a resource to discover more deeply what the Chakras entail. Using this method as a guide to determine what needs you have can be used as a starting point to understand yourself better in a way that supports your goals, dreams, and desires.
Take the Chakra test and share your results with me in the comments section!
4. Professional guidance through bodywork
As the days go by, we encounter many situations that cause micro trauma to our body's tissues that are stored within our bodies. This can occur from something as simple as experiencing someone yelling at you or around you, working out, or anything as simple as sitting. Accumulated trauma may eventually lead to illness and/or injury. As we understand the BodyMind connection, the pyschosocial relationship of emotional responses expressed through the body, it becomes easier for professional massage bodyworkers to help you discover the source of your micro trauma buildup that may be affecting your life. A lot of times the micro trauma is being caused by a deeper issue that could be uncovered as the root cause of suffering that is expressed in your body and in your life. Sometimes due to trauma, we might feel numb and untrusting of our bodies, this is an avenue to reconnect with your physical body in a safe place to get in touch with your needs.
This is a tool to discover what your needs are by the process of identifying the current state of your body and allowing someone with expertise to inform you on how your choices are expressing through this medium by providing you physical, internal feedback. Some may offer you verbal feedback.
Physical and emotional pain during bodywork can be present. It’s important to pay attention to how you are feeling throughout this process to then filter out what your needs are. The bodyworker may offer you insight based on their knowledge, but it is up to you to decide with your intuition how you truly feel and what you need. With the right practitioner, you may be led down the path of newfound freedom. Under the care of a loving practitioner, you can regain a sense of trust in your body that will provide you with infinite wisdom to your needs for exponential growth.
5. Body Wisdom
This is the most non-cerebral option here to discover your needs. Our bodies house infinite wisdom that can be tapped into through a variety of ways. This is a practice of deep listening and self inquiry. It’s an opportunity to allow thoughts to arise and notice where you feel them in your body. By recognizing where you feel discomfort or tension in your body, you’re given access to address your immediate needs that are expressing through the body.
Body scans are a great way to begin cultivating this practice of body wisdom awareness because you scan the body for points of discomfort and follow them to the source. For example, your ankle hurts. You feel a sensation traveling up the back of your calf, to the back of the knee all the way to the side of your outer hip. When you arrive to the end point of pain, notice what feelings arise in you. The first thing that comes to mind, allow it in and use this as a guide to what you need to relieve your pain. Maybe it’s something as simple as placing your hand there and giving it a little massage. Maybe you decide you need to stretch, workout, get bodywork done, or rest. This is the practice of cultivating your body wisdom awareness.
We see a growing population of people interested in this practice. Yoga, Pilates, and dance, all thrive on this concept of self awareness steeped in body wisdom. The only way elite dancers can continue to dance is because they listen to their bodies needs as they reach the edges of their limitations. The discovery of needs can extend beyond the physical and can reach further into the emotional and spiritual realms as you cultivate your inner wisdom more deeply.
Listening to my body wisdom allows me to perform at the edges of my ability and reach farther.
Things to cultivate body wisdom:
What other ways have you experienced your own body wisdom coming alive, informing you of your needs?
How will you assess your needs to support your growth and development?
Aimee, 30 years old views life as a gift and an opportunity to live your dreams. Stick around to hear how she does it and supports you in doing it, too.