The 9 Emotional Needs Everyone Has + How To Meet Them

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Have you ever seen Maslow’s famous hierarchy of needs diagram? It shows the progression of human needs, from basic needs like food and water at the bottom of the pyramid to self-actualization at its apex. Maslow’s research psychologists have identified nine specific emotional needs common to all people, whether they live in a modern Western society or in an indigenous tribe. But how do we get these needs met?

Well, it turns out, we're all born with the innate resources to meet these needs—if we can just learn to tap into them. These inborn needs and resources have been collectively called the Human Givens because they are common to all of us.

What does this mean for our mental and emotional wellness?

If we accept the premise that each of us is equipped to meet our inherent needs, we can begin to apply a problem-solving mentality to the struggles we all face.

Think about it: According to Maslow, if you're dealing with a condition such as depression, anxiety, or addiction, it's because one of your fundamental needs is not being met. So, solving these problems starts with identifying which of your needs are not being met. We'll dig into each of these needs in a bit, but these are the nine emotional needs we're talking about: security, volition, attention, emotional connection, connection to the community, privacy, a sense of status, a sense of achievement, and meaning.

For instance, if someone is depressed after losing their job, it may be because they have lost status, autonomy, and possibly connection to others. These are vital emotional needs, which no amount of "talking it out" will restore. Meeting these needs is the most effective route back to good mental health. The Human Givens Institute says that mental health struggles are inevitable if these needs are not met, and mental wellness is inevitable if they are.

This is an exciting development in the field of personal development because it empowers us to make ourselves happy. We can look at the imbalances in our jobs, relationships, and environments from a unique perspective. Instead of thinking there is something "wrong" with us, we can be solution-focused and ask, "What emotional needs are not being met?"

In order to determine whether your emotional needs are being met, you need to understand what each of these needs really comprises. Here's a brief summary of each:

The 9 Emotional Needs:

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1. Security:

We need a safe place—an environment that enables us to lead our lives without experiencing undue fear and that allows us to develop our potential.

2. Volition:

In order to feel fulfilled, we need to feel like we have the power to exist autonomously and direct our own lives.

3. Attention:

We need to receive attention from others we care about and also give them attention in return.

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4. Emotional connection:

To be emotionally fulfilled, we need to feel connected to other people. We need to experience friendship, love, and intimacy.

5. Connection to the wider community:

We are social creatures, and our brain is a social organ. We need to feel connected to something greater than ourselves.

6. Privacy:

Mental and emotional well-being require that we have time and space enough to reflect on and learn from our experiences.

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7. A sense of status:

It's not enough to have a group. We need to have a sense of our value within the group dynamics we're part of.

8. A sense of achievement:

In order to maintain our self-esteem, we need to have a sense that we are accomplishing things of value.

9. Meaning:

In the same vein of feeling that we're accomplishing things of value, we all need to have the sense that we're part of something greater than ourselves, having a coherent set of beliefs about life and what’s it all for.

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Which of your emotional needs could use some TLC?

It’s time to do an emotional needs audit on your life.

Look at the needs above. On a scale of 1 to 7, how well do you feel you are meeting each one? If you score 3 or under, that need isn't being sufficiently met. This might result in feelings ranging from a bad mood to stress, anxiety, or a feeling that something's just "off."

This is normal: It's your brain telling you something is wrong. It's just a sign that one or two of your emotional needs are due for a little nourishing. Remember, we all have the innate resources to meet our needs. For example, we have the ability to build a rapport with others, to empathize, to connect with people; we have the imagination required to plan and we have a rational mind. We just need to take some intelligent action.

Here's how to start meeting each of these needs more effectively:

1. Security:

If you find your need for security isn't being fully met, make a list of things in your environment that make you feel insecure, then identify action steps you can take to change that. Perhaps you would feel more secure if you equipped your home with burglar alarms and new locks or set up a neighborhood watch group.

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2. Volition:

Have a frank conversation with your boss or partner or family about where you need to have more control or clearer boundaries. It’s time to be lovingly assertive about this.

3. Attention:

Prioritize quality time with your partner and friends. Set aside time for it in your calendar. Just because we have friends or partners doesn’t mean we are meeting their needs for attention or that they are meeting ours. It takes effort.

4. Emotional connection:

Make it a priority to make friends. Where do the kinds of people you want to bond with hang out? Hunt them down in clubs, forums, introduction agencies. Make time for it. This is essential emotional nourishment.

5. Connection to the wider community:

Arrange a regular coffee get-together in your home. Can you mentor someone in your field or do volunteer work for people less fortunate than yourself? Can you check in on an elderly neighbor?

6. Privacy:

Block out half an hour a day, just for you. Have a long bath or take a walk to digest the events of the day and mentally rehearse for what’s coming up. More sensitive people often require more time to fully digest the stimulation (or overstimulation) of the modern world.

7. A sense of status:

Can you gain a special position in the organization you belong to? Can you be the go-to guy for specific information or specialize in an area of your profession? Perhaps you can be the captain of a quiz or sports team.

8. A sense of our own competence and achievements:

Make a list of all your achievements—awards, qualifications, languages, promotions, giving up smoking, losing weight, or even all the rough periods you’ve survived. You must have skills and strengths that got you through those periods. Remind yourself regularly of these. What more can you achieve? What new goals can you set?

9. Meaning:

You can find meaning in starting a family, supporting a cause, finding a philosophy/belief system or a political ideology that resonates with you. Somebody once said that the greatest thing about life is that it is meaningless—which gives you the huge opportunity to give it any meaning you want. If you find yourself feeling apathetic, existentially confused, like nothing has any point, focus on the little things—to see the world in a grain of sand. These moments are as meaningful as you want them to be. The pleasure of sipping tea; breathing fresh air; walking and living on a beautiful planet—drink in those moments and let them nourish your soul.

As humans, we seek emotional nourishment as much as food and water. It is your birthright to be emotionally nourished. Instead of pointing the finger at our upbringing or spending hours analyzing our every quirk, we can now ask a more valid question: Which of my emotional needs am I not meeting?

Once you meet these needs in balance, you realize there is nothing wrong with you and that the journey to meeting these needs and helping others to meet theirs in your relationships, occupations, and communities can itself be very fulfilling.

Want more insights on how to level up your life? Check out your June horoscope, then try these three steps to getting out of your own way and finally getting what you want.

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