There are four underlying needs that we needed to have demonstrated and fulfilled when we were growing up in order for us to function today as emotionally-mature, psychologically-balanced adults. Those needs are emotional intimacy; nurturing; unconditional love & acceptance; and boundary protection. Since the average emotional age of Americans is 14 years old, I’d be willing to bet that if these needs were 30 – 50% met in childhood, that would be a miracle. The reality is that most of us are walking around unconsciously trying to get these needs met through those that are closest to us. The problem is two-fold. One, it keeps us dependent on others to feel safe and secure. And two, the people we are trying to get these needs met through do not have them fulfilled either. People can’t give you what they don’t have, and you can’t give others something that you don’t have. I refer to this cycle as “Looking for love in all the wrong places.” (Refer to the Johnny Lee song on the Urban Cowboy soundtrack.)
Over the next four weeks, I will be describing each of these needs in detail. The more you can fulfill these needs on your own, the less emotionally dependent you will be on others and the more safe, sane and secure you will feel in your daily life. This quote does a good job of explaining this dynamic:
“As a child, I needed a parent’s love, nurturing, and emotional maturity to fulfill my emotional dependency needs. As an adult, I still seek to get my emotional dependency needs met, but now I must get my needs met from within.”
Here are the definitions of each of the four emotional dependency needs:
1. Emotional Intimacy – the degree to which you know yourself and feel okay with who you are. It’s the level of intimacy you have with yourself and are able to have with others. The more you know and understand yourself, the more comfortable you will feel with others. Intimacy means that you are not afraid to look deep within to examine yourself, even when you’ve displayed less-than-perfect behavior. Intimacy allows you to feel emotionally close with yourself and others without fear of harm or rejection.
2. Nurturing – the ability to care for yourself. Nurturing activities include displaying love and warmth to yourself and others, having a healthy and balanced schedule/routine, investing in your own self-care (plenty of rest, healthy diet, regular exercise, etc.) and participating in meaningful activities (hobbies, social groups, volunteering, taking classes, etc.). Feeling nurtured is the natural state of your being when it’s in harmony.
3. Unconditional Love and Acceptance – the ability to fully understand and validate that whatever is, is and that whatever happened, happened. We all have a deep need to be unconditionally loved and accepted. Unconditional love does not mean condoning, excusing or rationalizing your own or anyone else’s behavior. Instead, it means that you accept and love yourself and others regardless of less-than-perfect behavior. Unconditional love does not mean that you minimize the harmful things that were done to you or that you may have done to others. Rather, it’s an acknowledgement that all of your experiences are ultimately for the evolution of your soul.
4. Boundary Protection – the ability to set and protect your boundaries. Your boundaries promote and protect your integrity. You will need to learn how to set boundaries in order to feel emotionally and physically safe and affirm your personal power. This creates a sense of safety in your world. When you were a child, you did not have the power or wisdom to stop others from crossing your boundaries. Now that you are an adult, you are able to use your personal power to set mature, functional boundaries so that you feel safe, sane and secure in the world.
In summary, in order for us to be highly-functional, emotionally-mature, psychologically-balanced adults, we need to shore up any deficiencies in these four emotional developmental needs. Next week, we will explore Emotional Intimacy in more detail.
This blog post was provided by Cindy M. Nelson, M.B.A., C.S.L.C. from Anakh Leadership Coaching LLC. We specialize in developing business leaders and professionals by increasing their self-awareness, emotional intelligence, and overall effectiveness thereby increasing professional success and personal satisfaction in their lives. For more information, please go to aleadershipcoach.com.
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