Are you ever surprised by your reactions or feelings?
Does it ever feel like you get hit by a bus of your own emotions, where you’re left wondering what the hell was that about?
If you have experienced this, you are not alone.
Emotional reactions can seem kind of mysterious, and understanding our own emotional needs can be challenging.
And becoming aware of your emotional needs allows you to communicate them and get them met. This leads to more fulfilling relationships, which is why today’s episode is all about the steps you can take to uncover your emotional needs.
I walk you through a process of understanding and discovering your emotional needs and suggest what you can do when you discover the unmet needs you have in your life right now.
Prefer the audio? Listen here.
3 Reasons We Struggle With Identifying Our Emotional Needs
#1: Lack of emotional education. Many of us grew up without being taught about emotions or emotional needs. As a result, we often lack the language to share and identify our emotional needs.
Feeling a certain way and not being able to identify why is frustrating. Not understanding what is happening in your body and why is a drag.
#2: Social, cultural, and familial conditioning. Some cultures and countries see showing emotions or expressing emotional needs as a sign of weakness. These beliefs can cause us to suppress our feelings and needs.
It is not just cultural – it is familial, too.
When you grow up in any kind of dysfunctional family system you may have learned not to have many needs because you were aware that the adults in your life could not meet them. To stay safe or loved, you may have buried your needs.
It is crucial to uncover your emotional needs because if you don’t, they will continue to go unmet, which often leads to feelings of resentment.
The guide for this episode contains deep-dive questions to help you gain access to your unmet needs.
#3: We’re in denial. Having emotional needs makes many people feel vulnerable. Instead of sitting with our discomfort around needing things from others and having emotions, we shove our needs down. This can result in shadow addictions and numbing behaviors.
My father was a perfect example of someone who did not know his emotional needs.
Growing up, I knew he was not a person to become emotional with. He lacked the capacity to fulfill any emotional needs. He was incredibly uncomfortable with emotions and numbed with alcohol.
What Are the Consequences of Unmet Emotional Needs?
Unmet emotional needs cause distress and, over time, can also cause mental health issues like depression or anxiety disorders.
Unmet needs can also lead to feelings of sadness, anxiety, frustration, and anger. They make you feel misunderstood, unsupported, and unfulfilled.
Being in a relationship where the other person does not meet your emotional needs is unsatisfying, even if it is because you can’t identify what it is you need and ask for it. It can lead to conflict, resentment, repetitive fights, and feeling unimportant.
These are all things I have heard from my clients (predominantly, people who identify as women) in my 25 years as a psychotherapist.
Let’s move into what you can do to identify your emotional needs.
3 Ways to Uncover Your Emotional Needs
#1: Understand Your Love Language
The concept of love languages has been around for decades and has withstood the test of time in my therapy practice. Your love language is based on your emotional needs, which can give you a starting point for uncovering them.
The five love languages are:
- Words of affirmation
- Quality time
- Acts of service
- Physical touch
If your love language is words of affirmation, for example, you might appreciate hearing, “You look great,” “I missed you,” “I love you,” or “I appreciate you.”
If your love language is acts of service, you might feel loved when your partner cooks, shops for groceries, takes out the trash or cleans the house.
And if your love language is gifts, you might light up when your partner brings you flowers, jewelry, books, your favorite dessert, or books you a spa day.
It can be helpful for you and your partner to take the quiz to discover what your love languages are because we are all different. We often love others how we want to be loved, which does not necessarily meet the other person’s needs.
Once you become aware of your love languages, you can discuss your needs with each other and commit to these acts of love. See what shifts over time. When you change the lens through which you view the other person, it can be kind of miraculous.
#2: Look at Your Disappointments and Resentments
Frequent disappointment or having a persistent feeling of disappointment can be a sign of unmet emotional needs.
For example, you might feel let down because people do not recognize your accomplishments. You may need more recognition and validation.
Some people might say, “Everyone needs recognition and validation!” but no – everybody doesn’t, not in the exact way that you might. What matters is you figuring out what you need. Then you can begin to communicate those needs and even fulfill some of those needs yourself.
Resentment and grudges suggest some kind of a need is unfulfilled, too. Let’s say you fought with someone, they had the last word, and you feel like you didn’t have a chance to say what you wanted. Holding onto this can intensify a grudge.
I had a friend who was a grudge-holder. When someone mentioned a person who had ‘failed’ her, she said, “Oh yeah, remember how they weren’t there when I needed them?” This repetition of being failed by others made me wary because she did not communicate her needs. Eventually, as expected, I ended up on her list of people who had failed her.
When unmet needs build into longstanding resentments, I invite you to step back and follow the breadcrumbs to the original injury and underlying emotional need. This process makes figuring out your next right action easier.
Inside the guide, you will find questions to ask yourself to get at the heart of these resentments. Sometimes just acknowledging or decoding how we feel is enough to release unwanted negative feelings of resentment or grudge-holding.
#3: Take an Emotional Needs Inventory
You want to identify what needs are going unmet for you, both big and small.
Why? Because the majority of our life is the day-to-day mundane crap, not all the peak amazing experiences (even though those are great to have).
Daily frustrations accumulate. When you have 10 of them, you might feel low-key aggravated all day. But this is preventable as getting your needs met is possible.
Your needs are not “petty,” by the way. For example, I need order. After I shower, I dry off, put the bath mat back on the tub, and I pull the curtain closed.
If someone else showers and does not place the bath mat back or close the curtain, I feel resentful. It would be nice if they left the tub how they found it.
I have had conversations with Vic and others who stay at my house where I say, “Please remember when you get out of the shower to put the mat back and close the curtain because when you don’t, I have to.” They say, “No you don’t!” But I do. My need for order says I have to.
If they do not put things back, I still do it myself, but I feel resentful for having to do it.
Uncovering your small (and big) annoyances can reduce resentment. Download the guide and take the inventory to connect the dots between your frustrations, resentments, and unmet emotional needs.
If this episode resonated with you, let me know. I did this episode because someone said they feel resentful and are confused about what their actual emotional needs are. I hope the process I shared in this episode helps.
To share your thoughts, comment below or connect with me on Instagram (@terricole). I am always interested to hear what you think.
Have an amazing week and as always, take care of you.