Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Healing the Kid Within: "Neediness"

Healing the Kid Within: “Neediness”
Amy Grabowski, MA, LCPC

Editor’s Note:  Amy is in the process of writing a book about recovering from eating disorders.  This is the middle of a chapter about Healing the Kids: Neediness.  You can read previous excerpts on our

Willow:  “I had a pretty quiet weekend.  I stayed home; it was kind of lonely.”
Me:  “What stops you from getting together with a friend?”  
Willow:  “Well, I don’t want to be a burden to anyone, like I was too needy.”

Did you catch the word that triggered Willow’s fear of being a burden?  It is a word so foul that every client, and myself in the past as well, will avoid it like the Bubonic Plague: “Needy”.  Most of the time, a critical Part will get activated when our Kid/Exile feels needy.  Since it is normal for humans to need, what is so wrong with feeling needy?  It feels like we are too much, too big, too empty, too deficient, just “too”.  Or maybe you identify with Willow’s dilemma, “I feel I always knew I was at once both too much and not enough.”  Usually there were people in our past who gave us the message that whatever we needed or wanted, it was too much.  I ask, “Too much for who?”  When your needs are bigger than the other person’s resources available to fill the need we feel needy.  Are you ready for yet another analogy? 

Imagine it is a very hot and sunny summer day.  You are outside, working hard, digging in a garden.  You build up quite a thirst from the heat and hard work.  You ask someone for a drink.  They walk up to you carrying a pitcher with only a teaspoon of lemonade in it.  They pour all of the lemonade in a glass and you drink it.  You are still thirsty, but there is no more lemonade.  What do you think of this?  Are you “needy”?  No, you are thirsty.  What would you do?  Many people say, “If there was no more lemonade I would drink from the hose.”  If the person couldn’t do it, you would find another way to fill your need.  But because we were talking about thirst, a physical need, usually there is no shame – we would just find resources elsewhere. 

But when we talk about emotional needs, such as comfort, patience, reassurance or love, the feelings are different.  If we ask someone who does not have the resources available to fill our need, our Kid/Exile is often overcome with shame, “I should be stronger.  I shouldn’t want comfort.  I’m too needy.”  

There are many reasons why someone would not have the resources available to fill our need – take for example a woman who is young when she has several children spaced closely together.  If she did not learn healthy ways of coping with stress, her emotional resources may be stretched very thin.  If one of the children is a sensitive soul she may need more than the young harried mother has to give.  It is easier to say, “Buck up!  Quit crying!” than it would be to muster the resources to fill the child’s needs.  

If the child’s needs are repeatedly not met, she may internalize the Core Belief that “I am too much.  I am too needy.”  When this Core Belief is reawakened in the present with a Rubber-band Reaction, the old shame of being too needy will elicit the distorted thinking of emotional reasoning.  As illustrated in Willow’s example, we need to use Self-energy and our Logical Parts to discern between the past and the present, between those people we can trust and lean on and those we cannot.

Often, the Kid/Exile is so used to being hurt that she “flinches” in advance just thinking of potential situations that may be risky.  When a child is repeatedly hurt, she becomes hyper-vigilant, always on the lookout for potential dangers.  Especially in homes where the abuse or anger was random, inconsistent, and unpredictable, the child learned to always be on guard.  Predicting the future is the child’s attempt to avoid all dangers and keep herself safe. 

Because the Kid/Exile is a child, she feels defenseless to do anything about these situations.  Like Willow, our Kid/Exile often feels so anxious she thinks, “I won’t be able to stand it if something goes wrong.  I’ll feel horrible forever.”  She gets anxious thinking she wouldn’t be able to tolerate the discomfort of the feeling.  She fears she will fall apart or go crazy, and may avoid anything that could possibly make her anxious.  While the Self is able to learn from situations and grow, the Kid forgets that you’ve already lived through these situations in the past, have been able to stand them before, and will be able to stand them again.  The fear of falling apart causes her to avoid new potential risky situations.  She dwells on old situations, thinking about them over and over, as if to remind herself of the dangers – each time confirming the fear deeper and deeper….. 

1 comment:

  1. I can empathize with the above text. To want comfort does not mean one is WEAK!