So once you know what your needs are, how do you go about finding ways to meet them? Many people get very stuck at this point!
This first thing you need to do is to get to know HOW the need lives in you. What exactly is it that you’re longing for? What would have to happen, for you to truly feel that that need has been fulfilled in you?
For example, when I was first learning NVC, I realised that the need for mattering came up in every single interaction I had. When I stopped and thought about what it would take to meet that need, I realised I had ZERO idea. Further reflection led me to realise that I didn’t even really know what it MEANT to matter – what would it actually look like in practice? What would someone have to do or say, for me to genuinely feel like I matter? I simply didn’t know. The only request I could think to make of myself was “Am I willing to put this on the back-burner of my mind, let it percolate for a while, and see what comes up?” So that’s what I did. Over the next few days, I had thoughts like the following:
So, if my husband told me I matter, would that be enough? Hmm. Hell no.
OK, so if all my close friends told me I matter, would that really land for me? Umm. No. Hmm.
OK, so what if the whole country got together and told me I mattered? Oh dear – it’s still a no!
And so the process went on. And then I realised I didn’t even know what I meant by “mattering”. What would be different if I mattered? Oh!!! MY FEELINGS AND NEEDS WOULD MATTER, would be taken into consideration. Aha!! I was aware from earlier work I’d done (especially from the Enneagram) that I was especially bad at being aware of what I was feeling and needing, let alone having the courage to express those to another human being, or (gulp) ask for something I wanted! OK!! So the first step for me, in meeting my need for mattering, was going to have to be: becoming more aware of what I was feeling and needing!!
I’m telling you this story because I want you to know that this stuff takes time. You need to be willing to sit with it, to spend time seeing how it feels, how it lives in you, what it means to you. And then, and ONLY then, can you start to know what it would take to meet the need. Who’d have thought my need for mattering would involve me learning about my feelings and needs? It sure wouldn’t have occurred to me at first.
So, here’s some things you might like to try, if you’re stuck:
- Get more familiar with how the need lives in you, using the beauty of the needs meditation (click on link)
- If you’re feeling angry or resentful about the need not being met, it usually means there’s a deeper, more vulnerable need hiding underneath that. To try to find it, ask yourself “If this need was met, then what would I have?” For example, if my need for mattering was met, what would that give me? Hmm. I’d be able to fully participate in life! I’d know I truly belonged! Oh!! So participation and belonging are part of this! … and so on.
- make a list of all the things you can think of, that you’ve done in the past, that you can now see were attempts to meet this need. For each one, think about whether it worked, and what might need to be different if you were to try it again. Also consider if your attempts to meet that need might have been at the expense of other needs. For example, to try to get more belonging, you might have chosen to try to fit in, which may have worked a little, but it would have been at the expense of your need for authenticity and genuine connection. What would it take to meet both or all needs?
- hang out in fantasy land for a while – if everything was perfect, what would be happening that would deliciously meet that need?
- if you’re feeling sad about the need not being met right now, you need to mourn the unmet need – to do that, find it in your body, and just BE with that sensation. Acknowledge to yourself just how important this need is to you, and how upsetting it us for anyone to not have that need met. Be kind to yourself!
- and if none of that helps, perhaps be willing to put it on the backburner and let it percolate for a while … notice over time when something happens that meets or doesn’t meet the need.