In our modern world, we are not accustomed to asking ourselves what we need, unless of course, you are the type of person who only thinks about this! The statement “What do I need?” possesses a profound simplicity and depth, particularly in the realm of conflict resolution and decision-making. This question, at its core, encourages introspection and self-awareness, two critical components in navigating personal and interpersonal challenges. By asking ourselves what we need, we shift the focus from external factors and other people’s actions or opinions to our own inner state and requirements. This shift is especially pertinent in the context of codependency and couples therapy, as highlighted by Richard Schwartz in his new book, “You Are the One You’ve Been Waiting For.”
The difficulty in asking ourselves “What do I need?” often stems from a complex web of societal, cultural, and personal factors. Societally, many of us are conditioned to prioritize productivity, selflessness, and the needs of others, sometimes at the expense of our own well-being. This societal expectation can make it feel almost indulgent or selfish to focus on our own needs. Culturally, there may be norms and values that emphasize community and collective well-being over individual desires, which can discourage introspection about personal needs. Additionally, on a personal level, individuals might struggle with low self-esteem or a lack of self-worth, feeling undeserving of having their needs met.
Moreover, the fast-paced nature of modern life often leaves little room for reflection and introspection, making it challenging to pause and consider what we truly need. For those in codependent relationships, as Richard Schwartz points out, the habitual focus on others’ needs can overshadow their own, making it difficult to even recognize, let alone articulate, their personal needs. Furthermore, fear of vulnerability or rejection can also play a role; acknowledging and expressing one’s needs requires a level of openness that can be daunting. These barriers, whether societal, cultural, personal, or stemming from the fear of vulnerability, illustrate why asking “What do I need?” can be a challenging yet crucial step towards healthier and more fulfilling ways of living and relating.
Importantly, embracing the question “What do I need?” in our lives and relationships should not be confused with narcissism. Narcissism is characterized by an excessive focus on oneself, often at the expense of others, coupled with a lack of empathy. It involves prioritizing one’s own needs to the point of disregarding or devaluing the needs and feelings of others. In stark contrast, asking “What do I need?” as advocated by Richard Schwartz in his approach to therapy and personal growth, is rooted in a balanced self-awareness and self-care.
This introspective inquiry is about understanding and acknowledging our own needs in a way that is healthy and self-respecting, not self-centred or self-absorbed. It’s a practice that encourages us to become more whole and self-sufficient individuals, which paradoxically makes us more capable of genuine empathy and connection with others. By knowing and attending to our own needs, we are less likely to project them onto others or expect others to fulfill them for us, leading to more authentic and equitable relationships. Thus, far from being a form of narcissism, the question “What do I need?” is a step towards emotional maturity and interdependent, not codependent, relationships.
In conflict situations, emotions often run high, and it’s easy to get lost in the heat of the moment. The question “What do I need?” serves as an anchor, bringing us back to a more centered and grounded state. It prompts us to look inward and identify our core needs and values that might be driving our reactions. This introspection can lead to a more profound understanding of the conflict and, importantly, our role in it. By understanding our own needs, we can communicate more effectively and empathically with others, fostering a more constructive dialogue.
In the context of codependency, this question gains even more significance. Codependency often involves placing a lower priority on one’s own needs in favor of focusing excessively on the needs and behaviors of others. This can lead to a loss of self and a neglect of one’s own emotional and psychological well-being. By asking “What do I need?”, individuals in codependent relationships are encouraged to refocus on themselves, to recognize and honor their own needs and boundaries. This shift is crucial for breaking the cycle of codependency and moving towards healthier, more balanced relationships.
In couples therapy, the question is a powerful tool for facilitating communication and understanding between partners. It allows each individual to express their needs clearly and openly, without the conversation being dominated by blame or criticism. This kind of dialogue helps in building empathy and understanding between partners. As Schwartz articulates, recognizing and validating each other’s needs is a foundational step in healing and strengthening a relationship. It moves the focus from trying to change the other person to understanding and addressing the needs of each individual in the relationship.
Furthermore, this question is not just about identifying needs but also about taking responsibility for meeting them. In his book, Schwartz emphasizes the importance of self-leadership in relationships. By understanding our needs, we can take proactive steps to meet them, either independently or in partnership with others. This approach fosters a sense of empowerment and self-efficacy, which are crucial for personal growth and healthy relationships.
In decision-making, “What do I need?” serves as a clarifying lens. Decisions often involve weighing various factors and considering potential outcomes. By centering our needs in the decision-making process, we can make choices that are more aligned with our values and long-term goals. This approach reduces the likelihood of making decisions based on external pressures or temporary emotions. It leads to more thoughtful, intentional choices that contribute to our overall well-being and life satisfaction.
The question “What do I need?” is deceptively simple yet profoundly impactful. In conflict situations, it promotes introspection and effective communication. In the context of codependency, it encourages a shift from external to internal focus, vital for breaking the cycle of codependency. In couples therapy, it facilitates understanding and empathy, key components of healthy relationships. And in decision-making, it serves as a guide for making choices aligned with personal values and needs. As Richard Schwartz eloquently argues in his book, recognizing and addressing our needs is not just a path to personal well-being; it’s the foundation for healthier, more fulfilling relationships.
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Dr. Nicholas Jenner, a therapist, coach, and speaker, has over 20 years of experience in the field of therapy and coaching. His specialty lies in treating codependency, a condition that is often characterized by a compulsive dependence on a partner, friend, or family member for emotional or psychological sustenance. Dr. Jenner’s approach to treating codependency involves using Internal Family Systems (IFS) therapy, a treatment method that has gained widespread popularity in recent years. He identifies the underlying causes of codependent behavior by exploring his patients’ internal “parts,” or their different emotional states, to develop strategies to break free from it. Dr. Jenner has authored numerous works on the topic and offers online therapy services to assist individuals in developing healthy relationships and achieving emotional independence.