The key to happiness is meeting our needs. Although codependents are very good at meeting needs of other people, many are clueless about their own needs. They have problems identifying, expressing, and fulfilling their needs and wants. They may be very attuned to the needs and desires of other people, fulfilling and even anticipating them. Over the years, they become so used to accommodating others that they lose the connection to their own needs and wants.
This pattern starts in childhood, when our needs were ignored or shamed. As children we had to adapt to the needs of our parents, who may have been physically or mentally ill, addicted, or just emotionally or physically unavailable. Some of us had to adapt to the wants and expectations of a selfish or controlling parent just to survive. After a while, rather than be disappointed or shamed for not getting our needs met, we tune them out.
As adults, we can’t stop ourselves from sacrificing our needs and wants in relationships, at the expense of our own happiness. At first we may be motivated by love, but before long we’re resentful as our discontent and the imbalance in the relationship grow. Without recovery, we may believe the problem only lies with our selfish partner. If we haven’t reclaimed ourselves and leave the relationship, we’re sad to discover that we don’t know what we want or what to do with ourselves — except to get into another relationship — fast! Otherwise, the underlying emptiness and depression that we were unaware of will arise.
Why Meeting Needs Matters
The reason it’s important to satisfy our needs is because we feel emotional pain when they’re not met. You may be in pain and not know why or which needs are not being fulfilled. When our needs are met, we feel happy, grateful, safe, loved, playful, alert, and calm. When they’re not, we’re sad, fearful, angry, tired, and lonely.
Think about how you meet or don’t meet your needs, and what you might do to start meeting your needs. It’s a simple formula, though difficult to carry out:
Meet Your Needs →→→Feel Good
Ignore Your Needs →→→Feel Bad
Once you identify your emotions and needs, you can then take responsibility for meeting them and feeling better. For example, if you’re feeling sad, you might not realize you’re lonely and have a need for social connection. Even if you do, many codependents isolate rather than reach out. Once you know the problem and the solution, you can take action by calling a friend or planning social activities.