Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Necessity of Being Needed.

We need to be needed, but neediness of others fuels our own neediness from others, but not being needed leaves us empty with no place to live out our purpose.....

Whew! hat was a mouthful. Pretty tough to type too....

Well hopefully I can clarify.

Being needed is a double edged sword.

We need to be needed. As a parents it is sort of a prerequisite to the job of parenting, meeting the needs expressed and unexpressed of our children. We feed them when they are hungry, clothe them to protect them from the elements, provide them shelter, love them unconditionally, cry with them and comfort them when they need support, cheer them when they need encouragement, discipline them when they are heading down the wrong path, and do all we can to ensure that they make it to the milestone of becoming an independent adult. In essence, our job of "parent" is based on the need of needing someone to meet another person's needs.

As a spouse we need to be needed too. We enter into a relationship and partnership with someone largely because of needs. We have a need for connection, a need for a place where we can mutually share life's burdens and support each other, and a need to have the stability and comfort of a "safe place" with them. There would no reason for a partnership of the people in the relationship did not need each other. In a healthy relationship each should express and feel need.

First side: Being needed acknowledges our purpose.

Being needed, in essence acknowledges us and gives us a sense of purpose - a place to live out who and what we are meant to be. Need and purpose are opposing tensions.... they need each other to exist. We all want to feel that someone needs us, that we do have a reason and a purpose in other peoples lives, and in our own lives. In the spirit of Michale J Hyde (a communication scholar) being needed feeds our purpose or "love of life." This is probably why the "empty nest" phase of life is so hard. We are not as needed on a day to day basis as our kids grow. It's probably a reason why relationships go south - when one or both people are not, or feel that they are not needed, a main purpose for the relationship is gone.

Second side: Being needed can drain us.

Conversely, being too needed can be draining and just as difficult as not being needed. When we are continually needed, we spend all of our efforts meeting the needs of others. Taking care of the need others, (although to some extent an obligation, responsibility and a purpose) saps our energy. We get weighed down and tired as our purpose gets lost in the task and duty of managing them. We need to have our needs met, but can't get them met because they are lost in the neediness (there's that tough thought again!) Again from Hyde, we experience a "suffocating embrace" of our existence. We feel called, lead and want to meet others needs, but the purpose begins to close in on us.

So what's the sheath?

For each of us, the sheath is going to be different.

It might be that we should evaluate why we need to be needed. It it masking another need? Is it our only purpose? We may simply strive to redefine what it truly means to us to be needed. Or in some cases we should re-evaluate relationships and whether the level of need is healthy and appropriate. In dealing with the neediness of others, what may be necessary is to see if our desire to fulfill their neediness is actually healthy and what they do "need," and is it healthy for us to fill it every time.

Whatever the sheath is for each of us, it is about balance. There is a necessity to be needed. Purpose and need exist together. However, if we move too far from either side center, we are going to feel the cut of the blade.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Shining Bright in Life Changing Events

Our existence is full of life changing events.

We experience many events in life that change us. Sometimes the events are something we are expecting to come along and we can prepare somewhat for them. Sometimes the events are a complete, out of left field, out right shock.

The events can be good and move us in positive directions - an unexpected job promotion, meeting the special someone, winning the lottery (hey I can dream....). We like the good events. We even welcome them. Those types of events help us keep a positive outlook . They confirm that our existence is running smoothly, moving forward, and moving upward. They give us in some ways, affirmation of our worth, our ability, and our importance in the world. Our view of the world around us is less cynical and critical when we feel good about how bright our own personal light is shining.

But the events can be difficult, hurtful, and turn our lives upside down - the loss of a loved one or relationship, betrayal, injury or illness. We don't like those events. Who would? They shake us to our core, make us question who we are and who others are. They can damage the way we look at our selves and the world around us. Often these types of events take away the things that give us our value, our sense of self or worth, or even the thing that our world revolves around. We can become angry, cynical and stuck in a "victimized" state of mind. Our flame falters and our light is dimmed.

We have have natural tendencies of how we handle them.

Positive reactions to good events and negative reactions to the tough events is probably our natural tendency and not really all that unexpected. The reactions to the good events... well we can probably get through life just fine by letting those events build us up. It's the tough events that we need to watch out for. To live a healthy and fulfilled life we often will need to go against our natural instinct and tendency in how we let those events change us.

But, we do have a choice in many of the ways in which the events change us!

Of course we need to not deny the event and fully process and deal with it. We need to grieve appropriately. But once that process is done, instead of being focused on what was lost, we need to choose to shift to what we still have, what we have gained, or what was always there that we did not see. It is not always easy, but it is necessary. If we have lost a relationship, we may have gained a piece of ourselves back that was lacking because of it, or it may lead to a more fulfilling one. If we have been betrayed, we have gained insight and can have better discernment the next time. If we have lost an ability, we can find, claim and hone others. We can use the events to realize how amazing we still are.

We have a choice in how the events of life change us. The good ones are an amazing gift that fan our flames and make us bright. But when the bad ones come along, we have a choice to let it snuff out or light, or find new kindling and fuel for the fire.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Grudges and Boundaries

Do carry a grudge? Or Do you set Boundaries?

Over the past few weeks, I have had several deep discussions with my daughters in various topics- social issues, relationship issues, finances, personal accountability, personality and identity. You name it, we have talked about it. (Many of the topics may spur their own posts!)

One was particularly poignant. Understanding the difference between grudges and boundaries.

It doesn't really matter what spawned the conversation, but the content brought me to a parenting moment and an obligation - a passing on of a lesson that took me a long time to learn in my own life: understanding what it means to hold a grudge and what it is to set a boundary.


A grudge is much like the heavy door that you see in the photo above. It is a barrier that only has two options, access or being locked out. It is a barrier that locks in our own anger, pain and hurt, while at the same time locking out relationship with the other person and the opportunity for us to reclaim our freedom from whatever it was that hurt us. Conversely, ignoring the issue that causes us pain is like the door being swung wide open, leaving the treasures of our selves vulnerable to raid.


Boundaries are different. Boundaries are like a picket fence. It is a clear defining line of an area that needs permission to be entered into by another yet it still allows for a clear view of the parties on either side of the fence. A boundary allows the freedom and breathing room to recover from and feel safe from those things that may have hurt us. It gives us room to move and find our footing while at the same time, making it clear what can or cannot happen within our space.

Understanding the Difference

When we are young, we don't always have the maturity and life experience to understand the difference between them. We think that we either have to close and lock the vault door or keep it wide open. As a result, we may either shut out another or continue to get hurt. As we age, we start to know ourselves more, become more confident, and see more interactions and examples of how people interact. We understand that there can be a healthy alternative to holding a grudge.

We replace the heavy door with a picket fence.

The picket fence tells others that they are welcomed, but there are things that are allowed within the fence-line and things that are not. The fence creates a healthy boundary for interaction that benefits both parties. It lets the person setting the boundary feel safe in interaction and self disclosure. It sets the clear ground rules for interaction for the other person, eliminating uncertainty and anxiety in interaction, allowing the relationship to move forward.

Easy to Hold and Weighs Us Down VS. Courage and Work to Set, but Frees Us
Holding a grudge is easy. It in essence allows us to not truly deal with an issue. But in the long run, we carry the anger, anxiety and fear of recurrence with us. It weighs us down. We stay fixated on the barrier that the grudge puts between us and the other. Even though we think it is a way to keep from being hurt, the energy we expend holding onto it eventually takes its toll.

Setting a boundary is not as easy in the short term. It takes courage and work to set. It is not always comfortable. As we move through life, some of our boundary setting is subtle, and some of it must be bold. That's ok. That is healthy. There will be times when a look is enough to say "You crossed the line with me." There are times when we actually have to verbally express what our boundaries are. That may require mustering up the courage to confront the issue and the person, but it frees from the fear of recurrence as it empowers us to hold our ground and feel safe.

I hope she took away some understanding of the difference. I also hope she understands that it is OK and a very healthy thing to set boundaries, even with those that you love. It took me many years of adulthood before I understood the difference between the two. Once I did, I found myself feeling a lot less hurt by others, a lot more empowered to control my own happiness, and much more confident in who I am.

What do you do? Do you hold grudges or do you set boundaries?