STUDY SIX: UNDERSTANDING HOW YOU FEEL
© Rosemary Bardsley 2009, 2014
There are times and situations in which we feel ‘out of sync’. Uncomfortable. Like something is ‘wrong’. We feel disempowered - like we cannot function properly, like we cannot do what we know we are actually able to do. Other people seem to be coping okay, enjoying themselves, feeling fulfilled, but not us.
This may be because of unrealistic perceptions and expectations, which will be discussed in a later study.
It may also be because some of our basic personal psychological and emotional needs are not being met.
A. BOUNDARIES OF PERSONAL NEEDS
As with any self ‘analysis’ there is a degree of subjectivity and the danger of locking oneself into a box. We should therefore view knowing our personal emotional needs not as something that binds us into a set of predetermined reactions but as one among many ‘tools’ by which we can understand ourselves and others - why we and they act the way we do, why we feel better in some situations than in others, and why we should not expect everyone to enjoy or feel comfortable in the same situations as we ourselves do.
An awareness of personal needs helps us to live with and act towards others with compassion, acceptance and understanding. It also helps us to understand why we feel better with some people than with others … they could possibly be the people who knowingly or unknowingly support us in our dominant areas of personal needs.
At another level we should not use our awareness of our own personal needs as an excuse to disobey God’s clear commands. Rather they should make us aware of our fragile and vulnerable points where we are more likely to fail or to avoid involvement, and to seek the Lord’s help to strengthen us in these areas.
At a deeper level, as we grow in our knowledge of Christ and his salvation, we realize more and more that our deepest ‘needs’ are met in him – he is the ‘bread of life’ and the ‘living water’. To follow him is to be eternally and completely satisfied, even now as we live moment by moment, irrespective of whether or not our ‘personality needs’ are being met.
B. WHAT ARE THESE ‘PERSONAL NEEDS’?
These ‘needs’ are what we need to feel okay, to feel good, and to function to our maximum potential. Just as we have physiological needs - food, air, water, clothing, shelter – which have to be met for us to feel good physically and function well, we also have emotional or psychological needs, which have to be met to make us feel good as a person and to function at our max. These include:
- An awareness of security, freedom from perceived threat or danger
- Acceptance, love, belonging, social interaction
- Achievement, esteem, status.
- Intellectual or aesthetic needs – knowledge, beauty, etc
- Fulfilment needs, self-recognition needs
We do not feel or express all of our needs to the same degree; in other words, we differ from one another in the areas in which our ‘needs’ are highest and lowest. This section will focus on four common areas of where people have ‘strong’ or ‘high’ emotional or psychological needs which must be met for them to function well. If we have high needs in a certain area it will be difficult for us to understand someone who has low needs in that area. Conversely if we have ‘low’ needs in a given area we will find it difficult to understand why some people can’t function well unless those needs are met.
C. THE FOUR MAIN NEEDS
C.1 High recognition needs
Some of us function best when our ‘recognition’ needs are met:
- We need approval
- We tend to need to look good or make a good impression
- We might not work particularly well in groups, but do enjoy having a key role in a group
- We tend to want to dominate and control
- We seem to need regular encouragement to keep us interested
- We generally work better on short term projects as they get immediate recognition
- We do well in ‘up-front’ roles
- We like/need to be the centre of attention
- We tend to choose interests where we can be seen to be succeeding
- We are often the life of the party
- We sometimes come across as ungracious
- We tend to demand attention
- We find it difficult to handle criticism
- We need to be flattered
Obviously some of these ‘needs’ are expressions of our sinful natures and our alienation from God; others are part of our God-given personality and natural talents. Note also, that the ‘high recognition needs’ person will tend to feel ‘flat’ or unmotivated if approval and recognition are absent. On the other hand, a person with low recognition needs will feel grossly uncomfortable in the contexts and situations referred to above.
Complete Section #1 in the Study Six Worksheet now.
C.2 High social needs
Some of us function best when our social needs are met:
- We are outgoing, social and friendly
- We need to have people around us
- We tend to feel stressed if we’re alone
- We tend to accept other people and their ideas
- We enjoy working on group projects
- We don’t particularly like directing others
- We have good interpersonal skills
- We are usually well-liked
- We don’t perform well in isolation
- We enjoy or even need an active social life
- We enjoy entertaining and being entertained
- We like going out
People with high social needs find it difficult to understand how a person with low social needs can be happy just staying at home doing quiet things like reading, gardening or craft, or working alone on a project. They sometimes act as though there is something wrong or immature with such people, and will try to badger them into joining in social activities. Conversely a person with low social needs is likely to opt out of group activities and miss out on both Christian fellowship and involvement in Christian service, especially where group interaction is demanded.
Again, there are characteristics of high social needs people that are expressions of the sinful nature, and there are aspects that are part of their God-given personality and talents.
Complete Section #2 in the Study Six Worksheet now.
C.3 High security needs
Some of us function best when our security needs are met:
- We tend to keep in the background
- We need to feel secure
- We like having other people around
- We tend to be loyal and dependable
- We are often quiet and unassuming
- We don’t like making instant decisions
- We are committed and diligent at work
- We can cope with heaps of work
- We don’t particularly like reporting
- We cope well with long term projects
- We like balance between social and private activities
- We value acceptance by others
- We are trustworthy, and faithful to our friends
- We are usually reliable and there when needed
Complete Section #3 in the Study Six Worksheet now.
C.4 High Achievement Needs
Some of us function best when our achievement needs are met:
- We tend to be individualistic, persevering and achievement oriented
- We are often forward thinking
- We are very competitive
- We have very high and strong standards of ourselves
- We tend to speak well and forcefully
- We seem to naturally take control, in fact we almost need to be in control
- We are creative and enthusiastic
- We like to work alone
- We would rather lead than be led
- We don’t think much of parties
- We tend to get straight into the job
- We feel quite uncomfortable and out-of-sync if a task/project is not working out
- We find it difficult to cope with failure or mistakes
- We are good at planning
- We don’t usually have good people skills
- We prefer to be with a few people like ourselves, not a crowd
- We tend to be totally committed to those we love
Complete Section #4 in the Study Six Worksheet now.
An awareness of these personal needs helps us to understand ourselves and each other and to anticipate and prevent some personal and inter-personal difficulties.
It warns us not to put ourselves down when we do not feel comfortable doing things that others seem to do easily.
It helps us not to expect the same of everyone, and to work towards helping people in the areas that are not naturally easy for them.
We will know not to expect everyone to like the same kinds of youth programs or social activities.
We will know that when we seem to have different attitudes to a proposed event that difference may stem from different personal needs.
We will also learn to adapt our own preferences so that the needs of others are also being met.
We will allow people their private space, and hope that they will also in turn allow us social interaction.
We will allow people to get involved in what we see as frightening activities, and we will hope that they in turn will allow us room to be cautious.
In doing so we will fulfil the biblical commands to look after and bear with other people, and to let their needs have preference over our own. We will also be wary of loading unrealistic perceptions or expectations onto ourselves and others.
‘Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ’ [Galatians 6:2].
‘Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others’ [Philippians 2:4].
‘Bear with each other …’ [Colossians 3:13].