Updated: Jun 25
We all have them.
The need to be understood, accepted, valued, feel safe or to be connected.
After I was done sharing a story from my childhood with my therapist the other night, he asked a simple question. "What did you need?" I like to think of myself as fairly self aware, but in that moment I think he could see the glazed look in my eyes through the computer screen. I took a minute and muttered the words "I don't know. No one's ever asked me that."
So we got into a conversation around basic emotional needs, and I was astounded how unaware I really was. I had been missing this link my whole life. I had gone most of my life anxiety ridden and angry. It was a survival skill I had adopted in order to keep myself safe. I thought back to every time I had been mad and asked myself what need wasn't being met? Was I not being understood? Was I needing to feel safe? Did I not feel accepted? Suddenly the pieces started to fall into place.
I thought of my parents who I had punished for years because of this, but then tried to think of what needs of their own had not been met as children. My dad was Irish. He's grandfather immigrated here long before I was born. My mom is Ukrainian. Her father had also immigrated here after the war. Both grandparents were anything but the cuddling type.
I heard a story where it was explained to me that many of the civilians caught in war zones, learned to keep their routine as a way to survive. If they sat down to dinner and the house 2 doors down was being ambushed, they continued to eat dinner. It was the only control they had. The stiff upper lip mentality got many families through, however, after years of that, they never learned to shut that off when life resumed. And so the generational trauma is handed down. My grandparents, my parents, now myself.
What needs were not met of my grand parents? Valued? Safe? Connected?
What about my parents? Appreciated? Understood? Loved? My parents did what was modelled. They did what they knew, and they did the best they could with what they had.
And this is where I enter...the cycle breaker. My children may be grown, but I can at least own my mistakes, and do better from here. I can look at my blind spots and find the missing pieces. My first grand child was born this month. My hope is that I can model some healthier behavior that can be passed on to him. When we know better, we do better!
What emotional needs were not met in your childhood? Or your parents? Do you continue to carry that legacy? Do you want to change it?