Naming Our Needs
“Everything We Do, We Do To Meet A Need”
Thom Bond’s Compassionate Communications course and Robin Grille’s Inner Child Process greatly influence my therapy practice. People come to me to seek refuge from suffering and to change their patterns. I help individuals create new behaviors and thought patterns in their bodies and minds using somatic experiencing, craniosacral therapy, and these two psychodynamic therapies. Parents come to me to seek support when they have children who challenge their psyche and disposition. Very few people who seek out my help realize that their struggles have origins from their childhood and even from generations before them. One of the key facets to understanding how to change the present is to understand how the past lays down the foundation for our behaviors, beliefs, and values. Parenting is steeped in “old ways” of thinking, traditional parenting paradigms rely on shaming, manipulation, intimidation, judgment, gaslighting, isolation, domination, and conditional love. Building awareness around (1) how we communicate with ourselves and others and (2) what need(s) are driving our behaviors is the first step to healing and creating change.
Thom Bond’s revolutionary research and teachings on how to communicate with compassion can be used to understand the premise of somatic-based therapies and the psychobiological principles of attachment. Thom Bond is the Founder and Director of the New York Center for Nonviolent Communication and the Creator and Leader of The Compassion Course.
“Needs are not ideas or cars or stuff to do, and they aren’t signs of weakness or selfishness, but rather they are the energy of life that flows through us.”
-Thom Bond, VOGUE
The other puzzle piece to my therapy techniques is Robin Grille’s Inner Child Process. Robin Grille is a counselor and psychotherapist who designed a universal table of developmental needs that outlines an identical trajectory in every human being. His process entails bringing awareness to what fundamental needs we have or have not had when we were growing up and how we can meet those needs in the present time, and go on to understand and meet the needs of our children.
I encourage clients and students taking the Journey Backwards course to practice NAMING needs for themselves by keeping a journal. I invite them to make 1 to 3 entries per day that describe an act or words spoken by someone in their family or workplace and imagine the need they are trying to meet. Thom Bond posted a needs list on his website that I encourage clients to use. It’s important to limit the words used in naming to the ones on this list.
Click here for a printable version of this list.
Why is understanding needs so important in shifting our psyche and well-being, particular for those raising children now or in the future? Again it goes back to awareness, or the trend word today, consciousness. Bringing awareness, or naming the pattern is the first step to implementing change.
In an interview I recently did with one of my teaching partners, Emily McCrea from Rebel Shift, I ask her to define Conscious Parenting,
“It’s really about awareness. Most of us didn’t have our needs met as children. Parents, teachers, doctors, caregivers, schools, communities, etc have not understood the brain science of the developing brain in the early years of life and the impact of environment, emotional and physical, plays on the developing brain. We know more now-our environments work in tandem with our genes. We also know that the brain is rapidly developing yet inefficient until age 7. During those early years, 95% of the brain develops, laying neuro pathways and creating the foundation for later learning. The way we view the world and our understanding of the world being safe or not developed early. And our brains continue to develop until age 25, that means we are kids until around 25 years old. We know that trauma affects our ability to learn and grow. Trauma keeps us stuck in childhood. We may look like adults but really many of us are just wounded kids walking around in big bodies.
So what do kids need to develop in healthy ways? We are mammals, we are biologically designed to be connected. And beyond food, clothing, and shelter, children need connectedness and attention, safety and security, support and autonomy, freedom of expression, boundaries, love, mastery, competence, to be seen and heard-
No one taught us to look inside ourselves for support so we search outside to ease our internal conflicts. Negative behavior is an external attempt to meet internal needs- Identifying our internal and unique needs and feelings is the path forward.
We respond automatically, when we are triggered and we struggle to access our thinking mind, like a trigger we are instantly pulled back into our “lizard” brains to assess the situation for safety or danger, scanning and seeking evidence to confirm if we are safe or in danger. As a survival mechanism we disconnect from ourselves. Because so many of us have unprocessed trauma in our bodies, our brains over react and automatically respond to the sensations in our body with maladaptive strategies, that’s a fancy term for impulsive, irrational behavior, like rage. These strategies grew in us over time in environments that were not nurturing, possibly even hostile, or harmful. Our bodies are overwhelmed and desperate for relief, and our brains flood with cortisol and adrenaline; therefore we are without access to our thinking mind so we overreact.
That’s the space I want to spend some time, the space where our wounded parts live. When we can connect to our wounded parts and objectively observe ourselves from a distance we can gather the information we need to grow the skills we need to function in moments of distress.
We can learn to pause when we are angry or overwhelmed, just because we are mad doesn’t mean we have to react to it. Beyond that logic is missing tools- how to regulate, how to process, how to organize our experiences and name our needs and feelings. This is a learning process and can be difficult and it takes loads of practice, and it’s available when we are ready.”
So, go for it. You don’t have to be a client of mine or anyone else’s. You can start understanding your needs today. Try journaling or developing a mindfulness practice in which you start tracking the meaning behind people’s behaviors and pinpointing that behavior to a word(s) on this Needs List. This practice will enhance your relationships with your friends, family, loved ones, co-workers, and partners, to name a few.