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Unmet Emotional Needs

What are Unmet Emotional Needs?

Social Problems and Unmet Emotional Needs

Identifying Our Emotional Needs

Unmet Emotional Needs and Parenting

Some Ways We Try to Compensate for Our Unmet Emotional Needs

A Story About the Power of Meeting Someone's Emotional Needs

Unmet Emotional Needs as a Cause of Trauma

Stories about Unmet Emotional Needs

- Customer Service in a Denmark Hostel

What Are Unmet Emotional Needs?

Humans have emotional needs, just as we have physical needs. Some of our emotional needs are to feel accepted, appreciated, important, valued, cared about, understood. When we don't feel enough of one of these, we have an "unment emotional need." Here is a list of human emotional needs.

Social Problems and Unmet Emotional Needs

Social problems generally come either directly or indirectly from unmet needs.

Some of these social problems come when basic physical needs are not met. If people are not getting enough to eat, they are likely to rebel. If someone is attacked and their need for physical safety is violated, they can be predicted to attack back.

But most social probems, at least in what we call developed countries, seem to be due to unmet emotional needs. The United States is one example. America is the richest country in history, yet there are enormous social problems. These problems cannot be attributed to a lack of anything material or physical. Some people might say the social problems are caused by a deficit in religious belief, but the growth in church attendance has done little to stop the shootings, drug use and youth sucides.

If it is true then, as we believe, that most social, and interpersonal problems, come from unmet emotional needs, then perhaps one way to make a major social improvement is to address these unmet emotional needs. To begin, we could carefully study our emotional needs. We could attempt to identify them very specifically and determine which are not being met in the current social systems. Then we could begin work on a plan to fill more of these unmet emotional needs.

John Powell, author of Why Am I Afraid to Tell You Who I Am?, believes that unmet emotional needs are one of the two major causes of anxiety. He says the other is supercharged repressed emotions.

American Psychologist Jack Westman asks this question: Why has our unprecedented material wealth not given us emotional or physical security? The answer, may well be that we are failing to meet each other's emotional needs. It is likely that once we learn to fill these emotional needs, we will see a decline in violence, crime, suicide, depression and all forms of unhealthy and anti-social behavior.


Note - Many people believe social problems come from a lack of "discipline" or more specifically, a lack of punishment. Our belief however is that just the opposited is true. The more people are punished, the deeper their unmet emotional needs, thus leading to more social probems in the long run, not less.

See also section on "discipline."

Identifying Our Emotional Needs

See this list to help learn what our human emotional needs are. When we don't feel enough of one of these, we have an "unment emotional need."

Unmet Emotional Needs and Parenting

Parents can not give what they do not have. If their emotional needs have not been met by the time they have their children, it will be difficult for them to meet their children's emotional needs. This is just like if they are financially bankrupt, they won't be able to give their children much financial support.

Some Ways We Try to Compensate for Our Unmet Emotional Needs

By managing/controlling/manipulating others

By feeling superior to them.

By seeking status, money, fame.

By competing and trying to be the fastest, the smartest, the best, etc.

All of these are attempts at making it appear that we are okay, that we are worthy. These fill some of our needs, but neglect many others. When we are behaving in ways that don't address all or enough of our emotional needs, this behavior is ultimately unhealthy for us. Often instead of realizing that we have other unmet needs, we try to compensate for what is missing by seeking more of what we already have enough of. Some needs then become a substitute for the others. But we can never get enough of the substitutes, so we never truly feel emotionally fulfilled.

Here are two exercises to help you identify your own unmet emotional needs.

The Power of Meeting Emotional Needs

This a story told by Dr. Dan Edmunds. It especially caught my interest when I read these words, "Gradually as his emotional needs were met..."

Alan was seen by most as an obstinate young man who had completed departed from any sense of reality. His hallucinations had earned him the diagnosis of a psychotic disorder not to mention he frequently displayed aggressive behavior. Reading the charts from before, it painted a monstrosity, but gave little detail to what Alan's experience might have been.

When I first encountered Alan, I did not demand that he speak to me or that he not speak to me. I made no demands. I solely informed him that I was a supportive person who wanted to know him for who he is. This opened the door to intense dialogues.

Together we explored questions about life that we both may have never thought much on before. The topics would drift to purpose, impermanence, suffering, the human condition. He related to me the pain of years of abuse, how he felt dehumanized and humiliated by the various people he thought would help him. He told me of his feelings of being alone, of being nothing.

This feeling of nothing for him was an end at the time, but really it was the beginning. It was the door for him to question life, to question what he had been taught, to become. He related to me about his hallucinations, and his imaginary friends became mine as well. I asked about their habits, and their words. I noticed that these beings he saw were him at various points in time. As I met each of these beings, I learned something a bit more about the experience of Alan.

Gradually as his emotional needs were met and he began to see himself once again as a singular person in the present moment of time and space, these beings began to depart. I saw in Alan the resilient human spirit and I will not forget him.

Source Dan L. Edmunds http://danledmunds.blogspot.com

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Unmet Emotional Needs as a Cause of Trauma

SH - This article talks mostly about separation from the mother, so if just separation and neglect of emotional needs can cause trauma, we can only begin to imagine what emotional abuse by the mother or parents can do to a child or teen. The article was found on weinholds.org/parenting/2010/01/unm.html


Article by Janae B. Weinhold


Trauma is defined as “an overwhelming psychological experience that causes changes in the biological stress response.” When children’s psychological and emotional needs are either not met in an appropriate and/or timely manner, these experiences are traumatic. They become hard-wired into the child’s brain and leave biological and physical symptoms of trauma.

These earliest symptoms, which are very subtle and often invisible to the untrained eye, involve avoidant and anxious/ambivalent behaviors typical of insecurely bonded children. Both varieties of behavior symptoms also include typical physical markers of trauma such as fight/flight/freeze responses, rapid heartbeat, hypervigilance, hyperactivity and increased cortisol levels in the blood.

The correlation between bonding breaks and trauma is very new. Some of the groundbreaking research in this area has been done by Sheila Wang in the Department of Psychiatry at Yale University School of Medicine.

Ms. Wang, a researcher in the field of post-traumatic stress, found parallels between the cortisol levels in the bloodstream of children who experience chronic separation from their mothers and adults who experience chronic stress from natural disasters such as hurricanes, floods and human-made disasters such as wars, murders and bombings. This biologically based data provides the critical tie linking trauma and bonding breaks, a phenomenon that I call Developmental Trauma.