Many clients who come into therapy arrive with a kind of self-sufficiency and denial of having any needs requiring others to meet. These people have made a life of providing for themselves or often being responsible for the needs of others. Sometimes they recall consciously making the decision “I won’t rely on anyone for anything.” More often than not, such a decision has been made unconsciously.
Through our work, we explore the origins of orientation. And often we find f experiences in childhood where their emotional needs (beyond basic needs of survival) were not adequately addressed by caretakers. Perhaps the implicit message of childhood was that you are on your own or that your needs are an inconvenience to others. People may recall painful memories of being sent to their rooms when emotional or the preverbal “I’ll give you something to cry about.”
Invariably, in these situations people felt profound disappointment. Given those experiences, people figure out ways to cope, to minimize the exposure to painful situations. One such way was by denying the existence of such needs.
But of course all of us have emotional needs. And while there is much to say about self-sufficiency and certainly the strength of being able to be alone, we are all social, inter-dependent beings. Our needs, from when we are very young through the course of development, require others to satisfy.
The work of psychotherapy then is two-fold. In order to move forward, in order to be able to form new, healthy relationships that do provide for emotional sustenance, we must look back and grieve loss, what wasn’t. Of course the past cannot be redone; there is no instant replay. But through this process of grief, by feeling disappointments in the presence of someone else, a person can gain resilience to open up again emotionally, to risk possible disappointment by being vulnerable and expressing needs.
In this way, people are helped through psychotherapy to heal old wounds and develop new, enriching bonds with others now. To once again have needs for others.