Hidden Emotional Needs

In this, her latest post, Counsellor and Therapist Penni shares with us some thoughts about where denied emotional needs may reside and how we can reconnect – and respond effectively – to them.


Unconscious Self-Sabotage

Many are familiar with the term “self-sabotage” – meaning to get in our own way and prevent ourselves from achieving our goals and fulfilling our hopes and dreams.  Not always a conscious choice, self-sabotage is often driven instead by the unconscious – the part of our psyche that operates outside of conscious awareness – that can leave us confused as to why we have said or done something that is completely opposed to our conscious choices, wishes and perhaps, our best interests.

There are many reasons why we may self-sabotage, such as a tendency towards perfectionism, low self-esteem, or being driven by people-pleasing behaviours.  Another area worth exploring, however, is our emotional needs.  Are we fulfilling them (at least, as much as possible) or denying them and, in doing so, repressing them and preventing ourselves from living in a meaningful and well-balanced way?


Fundamental Emotional Needs

All humans have fundamental physical and emotional needs – hard-wired into our biology – that, when met well, allow us to live in a happy, healthy and balanced way.  Just as we have the physical needs of food, shelter, water and light that must be met for us to survive and thrive, we must also provide for our emotional needs. However, it may be, that at some point in our lives, one of more of our emotional needs was flagged up as a ‘problem’ and so we pushed it out of conscious awareness, deeming it an unacceptable part of our ‘selves’.  We deny this need – and the emotion associated with it – in order to avoid the conflict it causes.

But these repressed emotional needs want to be noticed.  They require acceptance, understanding and incorporation into our daily lives.  However, having been pushed out of our conscious mind, how do we know they are there?


Meeting emotional needs allows for healthy, happy and balanced living


Under The Radar

Most, if not all of us will have experienced times when we’ve wondered why we said or did something involuntarily, that was a bit ‘out of character’ and perhaps sabotaged something we really wanted.  Or found ourselves in a job/relationship/residence that wasn’t really where we wanted to be.  This could be an unmet need – or needs – that we’ve hidden in our unconscious, operating under the radar and showing up in our words and actions, seemingly out of our control.


For example, we all have an emotional need for privacy; time alone to reflect and think.  If we were, at some point, at the receiving end of criticism for this need, we may have perceived it as an ‘unacceptable’ part of our personality and denied it; sending it into the unconscious ‘store cupboard’, and so place it safely out of the way.  We may then consider ourselves to be only outgoing and sociable, always happy when surrounded by others and being connected (an important emotional need too) and use this as the foundation for our future choices and goals, but then – strangely – find ourselves repeatedly turning down offers of company, avoiding intimate relationships and choosing lone pursuits, without knowing why.  This could be the unmet need for time alone trying to make itself known. Using this example, we could respond to this by intentionally incorporating healthy ‘me time’ into our routine – and so allow the need to be met in balance with our other, just as important, emotional needs.


Every Little Helps

Of course, when it comes to looking after our emotional needs, conscious or otherwise, life sometimes dictates that it’s not possible to meet them in full.  At these times, anything we can do, no matter how small, is better than denying the need completely, even if – just for now – we acknowledge the needs’ existence and set an intention to address it once the wheel has turned again.


Reach out…

We all lead busy lives and finding the time to reflect on things like our emotional needs can be a challenge for us all.  Sometimes, we need to reach out to someone outside of our support circle and gain the unbiased and non-judgmental perspective of a professional, who can provide a confidential space and dedicated time that’s just for you.

We can offer counselling and therapy either face-to-face or, if you are further afield from our offices in the Kentford, Newmarket CB8 area, our services are also available online.   Call or email now; availability is often less than a week away in most cases.

About the author
Counsellor Penni Osborn
Penni Osborn
Penni Osborn is a counsellor working at Anglia Counselling Ltd where she meets with adults, offering kind and compassionate help with anxiety, depression, CEN and difficult or overwhelming emotions, both online and in person. Penni also offers non-judgemental support and guidance for those seeking to explore their experiences in order to achieve enhanced personal growth, positive change and greater happiness.