Updated: Jan 16, 2021
Humans are constantly evolving and adapting. For centuries we have been exploring our limits and advancing industries such as engineering, farming, technology, entertainment, food, and even fashion. Our developments are impressive evidenced in the physical world around us. We admire and enjoy the homes, gadgets, vehicles, and materials that make life comfortable and beautiful.
Where there is action there is always an equal and opposite reaction, right? I can't help but observe that the more we produce and decorate our external environment, the more we disengage internally. The herd mentality is natural, but it seems that people have lost touch with what really matters to them individually. The pendulum has swung far into the material realm; although impressive, it's time to swing in the other direction. People are ready to explore their internal world: feelings, beliefs, and consciousness. We don't need another handbag or pair of shoes. We need connection- to self and others.
We are born with a need to connect. If we do not attach securely to our caregiver, our survival is in jeopardy. We need food, shelter, attention, and love. We cry or make noise to get those needs met. We have to rely on another.
As an adult you eat when you're hungry and dress warm when you're cold, but what do you do when you have a need for attention, empathy, honesty, acceptance or spontaneity? These too are human needs. As we get older, others cannot always meet our needs, and the responsibility falls on our own shoulders. Do you know what your needs are? Do you know how to meet your own needs? Below is a list of the human needs that we ALL have.
It is time to give yourself permission to meet needs beyond those listed in the "Physical Well Being" category (assuming you get those met). When you honor your needs, you develop a deeper connection to yourself, your individual spirit, and what moves you. Who doesn't want that?
I've conducted thousands of patient visits. Consistently, I leave visits wanting to be my patients' personal hype-man. I sense a candle inside them just waiting to be lit. Too often people prioritize others' needs over their own, leaving them frustrated, powerless, and detached from their-own unique truth. Establishing a strong connection to self allows people to stand strong in authentic personal power.
How do you connect to yourself?
We begin by learning to recognize our feelings, listening to them, and responding (not reacting) to them. Our feelings and instincts serve as our personal barometer and send a twinge to the gut or a sensation or feeling throughout the body when something does or doesn't feel quite right. Think of a situation where something felt off but you didn't act on it. When we rationalize our intuition we risk pleasing and placating the world around us at our own expense. On the flipside, when we acknowledge and listen to our emotions, twinges or subtle sensations, we deepen self trust. Our feelings are our guide to self connection and the first step towards getting our needs met.
How do we know what we are feeling?
Most people have a limited emotional vocabulary. "I feel sad, mad, happy." There is a reason therapists work on connecting people to their feelings. Feelings can be layered, and it's common to hold more than one feeling at a time. Connecting to feelings and instincts begins with the language of emotions and body sensations.
I've attached two lists: human feelings and body sensations. Take a moment to scan the two lists. See if you can label what you are feeling in this particular moment. Are you feeling content, annoyed, optimistic? Sometimes people are unable to label their feelings, but they have no problem labeling their body sensations. Body sensations are felt in many different locations and are linked to feelings. See if you can notice any body sensation(s). Maybe you have a tightness in your chest or perhaps a knotted sensation in your belly. Sensations and feelings are linked to each other. A consistent knot in your belly may indicate anxious feelings around a particular event in your life. It is useful to listen to these signals.
Challenge yourself throughout the day to name your feelings or body sensations. The more you acknowledge your feelings, the more self-trust you build. Tuning into your feelings will reveal messages to you about areas of your life that are keeping you stuck or areas of your life that are working for you. Perhaps you feel anger around your boss at work. This consistent signal may indicate that you need to air a grievance. It is NOT a signal to blame your boss, but it is a signal to own your feelings and express yourself. Acknowledging and speaking your truth (with tact and compassion) is one of the best ways to move stuck energy and keep you moving forward.
Responding to Feelings
After you establish a habit of labeling your feelings, begin to respond to them. Responding to your feelings moves the energy and catalyzes momentum. Write in your journal. Have that difficult conversation. Take that weekend getaway. Meditate. Organize your to-do list. Start that business. Burn past memories. Responding to your feelings looks different to different people depending on individual circumstances. **NOTE: Responding is VERY different than reacting to feelings.** My earlier mindfulness post may be helpful in understanding the difference.
If you are in the habit of pleasing others, then acting on your feelings can feel stressful. You may fear that your truth will make waves in other peoples' world, or you may fear someone's rejection. This can be very difficult for empaths and can paralyze the most sensitive souls from moving forward. If someone disapproves of your truth it can feel disappointing, but that is okay! Take a moment and show compassion and really listen to the other person. Acknowledge the discomfort you feel in the situation, but do your best not to let others' feelings dictate your decisions. There is room for more than one truth at the table. Some people will feel uncomfortable; others will cheer for you. Find those who fan your flame.
We impact the world more authentically and meaningfully when we understand and connect to ourselves. Living authentically can feel scary at first, but it is the only way to have a REAL relationship with ourselves and the world. The next time you reach for the next material pleasure, ask yourself what feeling you are seeking. There is nothing wrong with expanding your wardrobe, but maybe there is a deeper unmet need underneath the STUFF. Listen to your feelings. There may be a more satisfying way to meet that need. Write that letter. Enroll in classes. Air that grievance. The only path worth living is one that is true to you. You're worth it!