Have you ever found yourself where you feel you could use a hug from someone? Perhaps you have found yourself in a situation where you would feel better if someone could tell you everything would be “OK?” Maybe you are angry about what a co-worker said and it would help you to know if someone else agreed with your feeling of anger? You are not alone and many others like yourself find themselves exploring how to meet their emotional needs.

What are emotional needs?

Why is it that giving ourselves a hug just doesn’t work? Why do we need to hear from someone else that it will be “OK” or that feeling angry is justified? Emotional needs can be defined as a mental necessity or psychological requirement centered on feelings which involve the emotional connections of one person for another. Emotional needs are expressed in the form of fundamental emotions; love, fear, anger, sorrow, anxiety, frustration, depression and respect.

Variations in emotional needs

Emotional need can vary from person to person and are influenced by; age, education, socioeconomic conditions, employment, cultural and philosophical influences, traumatic and general life experiences. While most people experience the basic emotions underlying the needs, how the needs are met can also vary greatly.

For example, a young child playing on a youth football league gets hurt during the game and continues to cry even after he is evaluated and is physically stable. His father comes to the locker room and gives him a hug and tells him he will be ok and feel better tomorrow, the child stops crying. A young man playing high school football takes a hard hit and is carried off the field to the locker room.

The injury isn’t serious, but he is crying. His father pats him on the shoulder and tells his son he is proud of him, the young man stops crying. A professional football player also gets injured and is seen crying as he is carried off the football field. In the locker room, he is crying, until the doctor tells him he will be ok and be able to play in the next game. In each of these moments, the football player is crying; he is fearful, anxious and frustrated. While all experienced the same emotions they all became relieved when the emotional need was met, but each one in its own way. This example focuses on the differences in emotional needs largely experienced by age; the adult didn’t necessarily need a hug just a good prognosis about his the injury.

Variations in emotional needs

What are your emotional needs? How can someone help?

Since everyone is very different it is always important to ask when you are struggling through an emotional moment. It is important to not assume that others will know what you want or need. We all have experienced that awkward pat or hug, that while well intended just made us feel more emotional and uncomfortable. The most helpful method when dealing with emotional needs is simply asking for what we need and accepting what they can give even though it may not be enough.

Often all we need is the affirmation of what we are feeling. Someone to say it is okay to be sad, anxious, or angry. Sometimes we need encouragement that the emotion we are experiencing is temporary or can be mitigated; things will be ok or our injury will heal soon. If you are unsure what would help you at that moment, just say that “I don’t know what I need.” When deep emotions occur that we have not encountered before such as the death of a loved one, it is not unusual to not know what to do.

When no one else can help

Slow down. Breathe. When we are extremely emotional making major decisions is not advised. First, take care of yourself. A hot cup of tea, a warm sweater, soak in the tub, go for a walk, hug the dog, call a friend, take a nap, eat a small snack, allow yourself to feel the wave of emotion. Let it wash over you, then let it roll back out to sea. Yes, it will come back but by allowing it to come in and roll back out we do not hold onto the intense emotion.

We simply experience it and let it go. Soon the waves will subside, and the intensity will diminish. The length of time depends on the situation, the intensity of the emotions, how intensely it triggers old memories, how much we ruminate over it and hang on to it, instead of letting it go when it rolls in. Emotions like the waves come and go. Those big waves can be scary but we can and will get through them if we let go and allow ourselves to feel the emotion without fighting to get rid of it or hang on to it.

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