Every Heart Has The Same 7 Needs
by: Jim Urban, LPC.
Emptiness. Loneliness. Social Isolation. Fear. Isn’t this an apt description of life for many people in our 21st-century, smartphone-addicted world? Maybe you’re feeling this way today, or have felt this way before. These common negative states of being describe the absence of needs being met in a person’s life. Each one of them is a direct result of a void that has been created.
But what are the causes of these problems? Is technology to blame? Maybe smartphones and their antisocial effect on some people are the problem? Or perhaps it’s the fault of the media for focusing too much on what divides us instead of unites us? Perhaps we are partially at fault for allowing ourselves to get sucked into the negativity so rampant in our world?
I’m here today to tell you, reader, that so many people are empty and hurting because they aren’t actually aware of what their true needs are. Far too many people think a little more money, popularity, fame, recognition, an exciting dating life, or partying will lead to deep, lasting satisfaction. But they keep coming up empty, and with each successive day they grow more and more hopeless.
Dr. Mark Laaser wrote a powerful book that has made a lasting difference in the lives of the many people who have read it, including mine. The book is called The Seven Desires of Every Heart. His proposition is simple but powerful: as humans we must know what our core needs are, and how to get them met, if we are ever to find joy and peace. I give all the credit for what follows to the incredible work of Dr. Laaser.
The first desire of every human being is to be heard and understood. We all need trustworthy people in our lives that we can count on to listen intentionally, deeply, and empathically to us. The kind of listening I’m talking about is the kind where our feelings, perceptions, and meanings are reflected back to us in a way that makes us say “Yes! That’s exactly what I’m saying!” We also can find greater fulfillment in being that kind of friend, spouse, or parent to the ones we love and care about.
The second desire of every human being is to be affirmed. Simply put, being affirmed means that we find approval and recognition from others. Many therapists, myself included, spend time trying to help people move away from an excessive, codependent need to be approved by people, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t need someone to approve of us in our lives! Think back to a time when someone said they were proud of you, that you did a good job, or that they appreciate all the hard work you do. How did that feel? Wasn’t it amazing?!
The third desire of every heart is to be blessed. Knowing that we are blessed is a deep need of every human being. Our first assumption about what it means to be blessed it often the mistaken idea that God has decided to give us lots of success and nice stuff. That’s absolutely NOT what it means to be blessed. Being blessed is a deep sense of humility and gratitude at the realization that our lives contain so much good that we don’t deserve. Being blessed is really the opposite of being entitled. Entitlement says “I deserve this” whereas a sense of being blessed says “wow, God has been so good to me!”
The fourth desire of every heart is to be safe. Being safe has two levels: physical and emotional. Being safe physically is the prerequisite to moving toward emotional and spiritual safety. If our basic needs aren’t being met, or we’re living in fear of physical harm, we cannot advance to emotional and spiritual safety. Emotional safety comes when we surround ourselves with people who allow us to be human, to make mistakes, to learn from those mistakes, and to be our authentic selves. That emotional safety is a very important component of realizing our full potential as people socially, emotionally, intellectually, vocationally, and spiritually.
The fifth desire of every human being is to be touched. Ever heard of the awful infancy condition known as “failure to thrive”? An infant can literally die from a lack of touch, soothing, nurture, and care. The release of oxytocin that results from skin to skin contact is a vital part of healthy development. As we get older that core need to be touched doesn’t ever go away. Hugs, hand-holding, kisses, sex, sitting close together, “bro-hugs,” and high-fives are all ways that we as adults can find the deep need to be touched in safe, loving ways met in healthy relationships.
The sixth desire of every heart is to be chosen. Most of us can think back to the pain of being the last one chosen to be on the team during recess. Many people struggle with a sense of sadness that the one they loved never chose them back. This could be a parent, a romantic partner, or a friend. The point is that rejection hurts deeply, but the answer is not to protect ourselves from further rejection, it is to remain open to new possibilities for being chosen. This isn’t easy when many have been burned by others so frequently, but the old saying “it’s better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all” exists for a reason.
Finally, the seventh desire of every heart is to be included. This desire is similar to #6, but different in an important way. Being included means that we have our “people,” our “gang,” or our “tribe.” Being a part of something bigger than ourselves can bring more purpose and joy than going it alone. Many people belong to a church, some to a biker gang, and others to CrossFit. Back in high school you may have belonged to the “jocks,” “band-nerds,” or “goths.” The point is, we all want to feel that we are a valued and important part of something that connects us with a larger purpose, and we all desire to be around people who support our way of life.
If you are inspired to find out more about these 7 needs, and how to get them met, you can pick up a copy of The Seven Desires of Every Heart by Dr. Mark Laaser. You can also talk with a counselor if you are struggling with wounds and pain from those needs not being met. Either way, please let us know in the comments below what you think about this article.
Really good one, Jim! A touching and resonate message! Thank you.