Authentic Needs & Our Inner Children
We, as humans, all have needs. Our needs range from our basic survival needs to psychological needs to needs for self-fulfillment. Abraham Maslow arranged these needs into a pyramid form, with our basic needs at the base, and our need for self-actualization at the top. His premise is that we cannot skip levels. We need to cover the needs of one level before we progress on to the next level. So, for example, it’s not possible to be in an achievement space but still not having your need for safety and security met.
Today we’re going to look at the difference between our authentic needs as grown ups and the needs of our inner children that may be causing havoc in our lives. Our inner children are those tender inner parts of us that may still be holding onto the hurts that we experienced as a child. Our inner children also hold the key for our creative potential and our life’s purpose.
However, when we haven’t attended to the needs of our inner children, we can’t really go for what we want to achieve in life because we don’t have the inner children’s support. Instead, the inner children are sabotaging our journey because they naively believe that they are trying to keep us safe from being hurt again. It’s only when we’ve attended to those inner children and reassured them and nurtured them with love that we are able to really get onto the healing and or achievement path.
Sometimes those wounds are still so painful that we absolutely need to have the inner children’s needs met. Let me give an example from a client. This client had grown up in a dysfunctional home with a lot of anger and abuse. As a grown up, she was still suffering from anxiety in her long-term relationship. Her partner’s anger was extremely unsettling to her, and she found it hard to tolerate. Before learning about the wounding of her inner children and how to parent them, instead of asking her partner how she could support him, she would tell her partner that it wasn’t OK for him to get angry around her because it was so upsetting.
What she hadn’t realized was that it was her inner children being ‘greedy’ -- they were actually inhibiting her partner from expressing his emotions - which wasn’t healthy for him. The inner children were getting in the way of her learning what healthy communication is and they were blocking both her and him from having a mature relationship. Once she learned about her inner children’s wounding, and learned how to appropriately parent them, she was able to see that her partner was not actually attacking her, but simply expressing frustration to his beloved. By learning to soothe her inner children, she was able to show him how he could soothe his with her example.
The first step is knowing what your wounds are. Once you are aware of those wounds and how they are still affecting you today you can learn to meet the needs of your inner children. For example, for the client above, she learned how to reassure her inner children that they were safe and that they wouldn’t be hurt by her partner’s anger. She could speak up from her adult self and keep them safe, rather than letting the little ones ‘run the show’ and prevent her partner from expressing himself.
Knowing what your wounds are and asking for those needs to be met by your partner or others around you is a very healthy thing. Maybe you need to say “I need reassurance around this, are you able to give it to me?”, or “I am feeling insecure about this, would you be able to tell me what you see about what is going on with this?”. By being upfront and direct, you’re asking in a healthy way, rather than trying to manipulate someone else to meet your needs. An example for my client would be “I am feeling insecure about my safety when you get angry. Would you be able to tell me that you are not angry with me? It would help me support you better.”
Can you see how she was coming from a need of feeling safe & secure (part of our basic needs)? Once she was able to get those basic needs met, she was able to work on the next level of psychological needs - which included confidence and achievement. By telling her partner what she needs, she is creating a mutually respectful environment. An environment where they can both feel free and able to express their needs. By asking for her needs to be met, she is giving her partner “permission” to do the same.
Keep in mind that no one else is obligated to meet your inner children’s needs. That’s your job. While it can be very validating to get those needs met by others, it will leave you feeling disempowered, because now you are dependent on them always meeting the needs.
It is beyond empowering to learn to meet those needs of your inner children yourself.
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