What we need to be happy goes beyond what we need to stay alive. Food and water satisfy our physical needs, but our happiness doesn’t come from our physical nature. It comes from our spirit. Therefore, what we need to be happy are unquantifiable practices that satisfy our spirit. These are known as emotional needs.
Our natural emotions are necessary for us to stay alive, but our emotional needs are necessary for us to thrive and live in happiness. They are thoughts, feelings, and behaviors we are born knowing but must learn how to acquire and to give. When our emotional needs are adequately met, the result is love, peace, joy, freedom, satisfaction and contentment, healthier self-esteem, and better relationships. We are happier.
Emotional Needs are Harder To Get Than Physical Needs
It’s easy to get our physical needs met because they are easy to communicate, easy to understand, and quantifiable. Everyone knows what it feels like to be hungry and thirsty. Therefore, all we have to do is say the words, “hungry” or “thirsty” and people understand it enough to accommodate our needs.
Physical needs are quantifiable. This makes it easier to distribute or share them. Say, you and I are hungry and I have four pretzels, I can give you two and keep two so we are both satisfied. However, communicating and getting our emotional needs met is more challenging.
Emotional needs are intangible and variable so it’s difficult to discern their authenticity. If I look healthy and am not crying, but tell you I feel depressed, how would you fulfill my emotional need(s)?
It’s difficult to fulfill the emotional needs of others because:
- The person in need might not know what he/she needs. Therefore he can’t communicate it to you.
- Emotional needs are emotionally based. Therefore, your emotional need might not make sense to someone else. This can lead to the other person feeling frustrated instead of compassionate.
- Your emotional need might be the same as the person with you. It’s difficult to give what you need to someone else.
We must learn to identify our emotional needs and how to get them met. We must also learn how to be patient when we don’t get them met right away. As important as getting our own needs met, we must learn how to meet the needs of others.
Parents are Responsible for Providing and Teaching Needs
Our parents are responsible for satisfying our physical and emotional needs until we are old enough to acquire them ourselves. They are also responsible for teaching us how to get our needs met, which helps us learn how to meet the needs of others. But, if parents lack their own emotional needs, they can’t meet their children’s needs nor can they teach their children how to get their needs met. The children grow up feeling needless. They don’t know how to identify their needs, don’t know how to get their needs met, and cannot meet the needs of others. This lack of emotional needs makes them needy.
We often think of needy people as being weak and clingy. However, some needy people convince themselves they don’t need anything. These folks come across as being hardcore, independent, and tough. Either way, needy people lack what they need to be happy so they tend to stay where it’s most natural – in their nature. Here, their emotional needs are replaced with their survival emotions (fear, anger, contempt, shame, and guilt). Since we are born with these emotions, it’s no effort to acquire them. And, they are dependable.
Needy people develop a dependency on their survival emotions. These emotions keep them alive, but they come to depend on them so they can feel alive. Their dependency on these self-defeating emotions causes them to behave like addicts. They behave in ways that perpetuate their survival and survival emotions.
Most needy people don’t have bad intentions. They didn’t grow enough in truth and are blind to the reality of emotional needs since emotional needs weren’t part of their reality. So, in trying to help someone, a needy person may get too involved in that person’s business and overstep his/her boundaries. This will cause more discord than peace.
Needy people struggle in relationships because they need to be needed. So, they seek out victims or make people into poor souls who need to be saved. Fear, guilt, and shame push them to save all the helpless poor souls they encounter. Since they imagine people are victims, needy people also imagine how the victims feel and what they need. Then, they provide them with imagine based goods and services. While these goods and services work in their minds, the recipients don’t usually share the same view. The result is dissatisfaction for all involved.
We Need Other People
We depend on our parents to first provide us with what we need. As we get older, friends are our emotional needs suppliers. If we get married, spouses are responsible for meeting each other’s needs. We can’t expect anyone to know exactly what we need unless that person is committed and really knows us. Even then, we may have to communicate our needs.
The one being we can always depend on, who is committed to us and knows each of us better than anyone, is God. Therefore, if other people fall short of meeting our needs, God will give us exactly what we need. We just have to communicate with Him.
Our Needs Vary But Serve The Same Purpose
Our emotional needs vary just like our physical needs. They vary depending on our age and what’s going on in our lives. Even though they vary, they are interrelated. As food can be a liquid that also quenches our thirst and a liquid can be food that also satisfies our hunger, our emotional needs are linked and overlap. Regardless of their specific function, all emotional needs have the same purpose. They feed our souls and make us happy.
The Emotional Needs That Make Us Happy
I have identified 20 emotional needs that we all have. They are safety/security, touch, attention, acceptance, support, nurtured, to be listened to, discipline, guidance, to accomplish, humor, to play and have fun, ability to grieve, truth, loyalty, freedom, privacy, gratitude, spirituality, and unconditional love.
We are born knowing and desiring these needs. For example, a baby will naturally grip his mother’s finger. And, how many times have you or your teenager cried, “You’re not listening to me!”? The level to which we get our emotional needs met correlates with the elements of happiness we experience. And, how well our emotional needs were met is proportional to how acceptable, valuable, and loveable we believe we are.
Effects and Importance of Our Emotional Needs
This next section details the effects and importance each need has on our happiness.
Safety and security go hand in hand because when we are safe and secure, we develop confidence and courage to explore and pursue opportunities. We are free of worry and fear. This leads to a more satisfying life. If we feel unsafe or insecure, we are always on alert for danger. Our survival emotions are overused and we develop anxiety and depression.
Touch is the first sensory system we develop. Babies are comforted and thrive better when they are touched. Numerous studies show how touch promotes healing and good health and is linked to lowering blood pressure and heart rate. It reduces stress, strengthens team dynamics, and binds relationships.
- There are numerous stories in the Bible about Jesus healing people through touch.
If we didn’t get attention, we wouldn’t get noticed. If we didn’t get noticed, we wouldn’t get anything we need. When we get good attention, we are valued. However, when we get bad attention, we are devalued. When we get the attention we need, we are satisfied. This satisfaction allows us to pay better attention to others and our environment. When we pay attention, we benefit more.
- A great Biblical example is the story of Peter healing the lame beggar. The beggar only wanted money, but by paying attention to Peter and John, he got more than money. He was healed. This teaches us that we get more than we ask for when we pay attention. Acts 3:1-8
One of the three things we must believe about ourselves to be happy is that we are acceptable (good enough). We develop this belief early on from how accepted we felt by our parents. Feeling acceptable gives us a sense of value. When we feel acceptable we are more accepting of others.
- Jesus repeatedly accepted people who behaved in unacceptable ways. The message is what we do does not define who we are. If God accepts us even when we sin, we should accept ourselves and others within the context of His love.
Support means to hold up, encourage, help stay upright. It takes effort, compassion, integrity, and patience to support someone. We rely on others for support during those rough times in life. And, we need to support others even when their difficulties seem minor to us. Support is built on integrity and faith. When we support one another, we strengthen our relationship.
- “They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the Lord was my support.” Psalms 18:18 NIV
To be Nurtured
When we nurture something, we care about it enough to encourage and train it to grow strong and healthy. Sometimes we nurture by comforting and encouraging. Other times we must do things that seem painful. For example, to help plants grow better, we cut off unproductive branches. When we nurture our children, we may cause them pain (disappointment) by prohibiting them from getting what they want at the moment. We yield more fruit when we are nurtured.
- God’s word nurtures us by giving us comfort and encouragement. It provides us with lessons that can be painful but make us more physically and spiritually fruitful. 2 Timothy 3:16 (NIV) tells us, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” God tells parents about the importance of nurturing their children.
To Be Listened To
Have you ever needed to talk to someone about something really important to you, only to see that the “listener” wasn’t paying attention? It makes the speaker feel deflated and devalued. Regrettably, it’s happened to me and more regrettably, I’ve done it to others.
In truth, we need to be listened to and be good listeners. Both give us value. When we are listened to, we are esteemed. We are validated. When we listen to others, we esteem them. We show them they are worthy of our precious time. When we are not listened to, we are rejected. This leads to negative outcomes. When we are not good listeners, we reject others. We deny them validation and deny ourselves the opportunity to serve others.
- God told Peter, James, and John to listen to Jesus. God’s message was to pay attention, understand, and be disciplined in following His ways. Jesus was straight forward to say what happens to relationships when people don’t listen. “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet.” Matthew 10:14 (NIV)
The word “discipline” originates from the Latin word disciplina which means “instruction.” It’s derived from the root word, discere which means “to learn.” “Disciple” or “Pupil” comes from the Latin word discipulus which is also derived from disciplina.
Discipline is also synonymous with punishment. But, punishment is used as a way to get people to learn how to behave better.
We associate discipline with rules and associate rules with restriction and deprivation. This makes us feel like we aren’t free. Some of us will proclaim that we have no willpower (discipline). Perhaps this is just a proclamation to ensure one’s sense of freedom.
It’s not true that no one has willpower. God gave us the ability to think. If you can think, you can practice discipline and be a disciple (a pupil of knowledge). Discipline doesn’t take away our freedom. It regulates our feelings and adjusts our attitudes and behaviors to prevent us from things that cause us harm. Discipline makes us wise, keeps us healthy, and gives us freedom. It positions us closer to God.
- The Bible has several references about the importance of discipline, especially children’s need for discipline. These include Job 5:17 and Proverbs 5:23, 12:1, 13:24, 19:18, and 29:17. “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:11
None of us has an internal GPS for our life’s journey. We must learn how to live well and how to be happy through wise counsel, aka guidance. This knowledge comes from people with experience and knowledge, including those who wrote the word of God. Even if you aren’t a believer but want to live a good life, the Bible is a great guide to help you achieve this.
- “let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance” Proverbs 1:5 (NIV)
Have you ever known someone who grew up not having to do chores or things for him/herself? These unaccomplished children grow up dissatisfied. They feel like something is missing because they were cheated out of developing their skills and talents. They also missed out on the rewards and satisfaction that comes with completing something on their own.
We all have abilities, talents, and skills that allow us to accomplish. When we work to accomplish, we gather knowledge, learn our limits, learn how to fail, learn how to succeed, and learn how to ask for help. We learn how to serve others.
- Exodus 35: 31-33 (NIV) shows how God gives us gifts to accomplish: “and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood and to engage in all kinds of artistic crafts.”
One of the first things we do with babies is to try to make them laugh. Humor gives us the ability to use the creative part of our brains. It lightens our mood and brings about laughter. We all have a funny bone. Read post #21 about the benefits of laughter.
- “He will once again fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy.” Job 8:21 (NLT)
Play and Have Fun
One of the things we associate with children is playing. It’s their primary activity. Children are expected to play until they get older, then we yell at them for “playing around.” Our need to play and have fun ever stops. It’s what and how we play that changes.
Childhood play is necessary for physical and mental development. It also teaches cooperation and develops good social interaction. During adulthood, we play and have fun to ease our minds away from the seriousness of life and for social interaction. As senior citizens, we play to keep our minds sharp and for social interaction.
Playing and having fun brings about peace and prosperity and is the result of peace and prosperity.
- Zechariah describes the peace and prosperity coming to Zion. “Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘Old men and old women will again sit in the streets (public places) of Jerusalem, each man with his staff in his hand because of his advanced age. And the streets of the city will be filled with boys and girls playing in its streets.'” Zechariah 8:4-5 (AMP)
Ability to Grieve
Grief is the reaction to a loss. We often refer to grief when we suffer a major loss. However, grief occurs when we lose – period. Since no one goes through life without losing, no one escapes grief. The sooner you experience it, the better you will be at managing it later on. Children need to know how to lose without getting compensated. Their first lesson comes when they want something and their parents tell them, “No.” They lose out.
Grief is so miserable, we try to avoid it. Parents do this by giving into children or replacing what the children lost with something else. But, in real grief, there is no replacement. We need to be allowed to work through the pain of grief with the help of love, comfort, support, and hope.
- Grief is temporary when we rely on God’s help. “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalms 34:18 (NIV)
We cannot live without truth. God is truth and a successful society is based on truth. Since God is in us, we also have truth in us. Truth is the basis for love and freedom.
- “Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.” 1 Corinthians 13:6 ” “…If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32
Loyalty is akin to integrity. It is synonymous with commitment, devotion, dependability, trustworthy, steadfast, firm, constant support. Knowing this, how can any relationship work without loyalty?
“Commit to the Lord, he will establish your plans.” Proverbs 16:3
Freedom is not the same as taking license. It is given to those who work for it, whether that means following rules to maintain order or fighting against tyrants. Taking license is an “abusive disregard for rules of personal conduct.” Taking license takes away freedom because it can cause permanent damage to others.
- Jesus died so we can be eternally free from the bondage of condemnation. “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1 (NIV)
Children start to avoid the family around the age of 13. They need their own time. Mothers retreat to the bathtub and fathers go work out in the garage or retreat to their man caves. We need this time alone to just be.
Privacy teaches us boundaries, allows us to relax, and allows us to do good without being seen. This prevents us from bragging and boasting. Privacy gives us time to have good conversations with God. Our private time can enlighten us and renew our minds.
- “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Matthew 6:6 (NIV)
“Thank you!” How does this response affect you when you’ve done something for someone? Gratitude shows how much we appreciate someone and reminds us of the good things we have. We need to be grateful and we need to be appreciated. Being grateful makes us be happy.
- “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:17
Happiness comes from our spirit. God is spirit. Therefore, we need to live beyond are nature and embrace our spirituality. It gives us hope and hope gives us motivation and strength to move ahead. We are the happiest when we live in our spirit.
- “Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him.” Psalms 62:5
The ultimate love is unconditional. While many of us want to believe that we love unconditionally, our human weakness sets us back and we put expectations on people, keep score with people, and live by the “if you… then I will…” principle of love. We all want to receive unconditional love but struggle with giving unconditional love. It can’t be one way. We have unconditional love from God and we learn how to love unconditionally by following Jesus.
- “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16
We need each other and depend on each other to fulfill our needs. There will be times when it seems like no one is there to satisfy your needs. During those times as always, God is there to supply us with all that we need. “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19
What We Need to be Happy: