Why Are Emotional Needs Important?

Why Are Emotional Needs Important?

The day I was let go from my corporate job was a turning point. I was angry, sure, but beneath that anger was a profound sense of relief. It was as if life had handed me a blank slate, a chance to reassess what truly mattered. This job, with its endless demands, had taken more than it gave, leaving me feeling empty and unfulfilled. It made me confront a truth I had ignored for too long: my emotional needs were not being met.

What Are Emotional Needs?

Emotional needs are the basic feelings or conditions we need to feel happy, loved and satisfied [1]. They encompass everything from the need for meaning and security to the desire for privacy, volition, attention, intimacy, community connection, a sense of self, and a sense of achievement. When these needs are met, we feel balanced, content, and capable of pursuing our goals. When they're not, we can feel lost, unhappy, and unfulfilled.

The Impact of Unmet Emotional Needs

Unmet emotional needs can manifest in various ways, and have a profound and long-lasting negative impact on your mental health and well-being. Some of the main consequences include [2]:
  • Difficulty forming secure attachments and healthy relationships. Without a sense of safety, trust, and acceptance in relationships, people may become aloof, clingy, or struggle with intimacy.
  • Low self-esteem and feelings of inadequacy. A lack of affirmation, attention, and mirroring from caregivers can leave people feeling inherently unworthy or unlovable.
  • Anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. Unmet needs for security, comfort, and control can contribute to the development of disorders like anxiety, depression, attachment issues, and personality disorders.
  • Unhealthy coping mechanisms. In the absence of healthy outlets, people may turn to maladaptive behaviors like substance abuse, disordered eating, or self-harm to soothe their emotional pain.
  • Difficulty finding purpose and direction. Lacking guidance, encouragement, and role models can leave people feeling lost, unmotivated, and disconnected from a sense of meaning.

Recognizing Your Emotional Needs

Understanding your emotional needs begins with introspection. It's about asking yourself what makes you feel valued, secure, and connected. For me, leaving the corporate world was a wake-up call. I realized that my job had failed to provide meaning, security, volition, community, a sense of self, and a sense of achievement—six out of the nine basic emotional needs. In essence, it had left me emotionally bankrupt.

Our Founder’s Journey with Emotional Needs

I never truly questioned “What are my emotional needs?” until therapy prompted me to do so. For years, I mistook my needs for solely physical—food, sleep, shelter—while my mental health silently deteriorated. As I confronted this, I realized my unmet emotional needs were the reasons I couldn't sleep at night, was irritable and reactive.

I began to prioritize my emotional well-being, recognizing that satisfying these needs was as essential as fulfilling physical ones. Nowadays, I allow myself the time and space to understand and address my needs independently before expecting others to meet them. This shift has fostered not only personal growth but also healthier relationships. We all seek to belong, be understood, and feel accepted, and it starts by truly understanding ourselves.

The 9 Basic Emotional Needs

  1. Meaning: Engaging in activities that have significance to you.
  2. Security: Feeling safe and stable in your environment.
  3. Privacy: Having time and space to be alone with your thoughts.
  4. Volition: Exercising control over your life and decisions.
  5. Attention: Receiving and giving attention to others.
  6. Intimacy: Sharing close, emotional connections with loved ones.
  7. Community Connection: Feeling part of a supportive community.
  8. Sense of Self: Understanding and accepting who you are.
  9. Sense of Achievement: Accomplishing goals and recognizing your successes.

Meeting Your Emotional Needs

I Need It Spongebob GIF [Digital Image]. (2020) from Tenor.com

Meeting your emotional needs is a personal journey, one that requires honesty, effort, and sometimes, change. For me, it meant reevaluating my career path, investing in relationships that offered genuine connection, and finding activities that brought joy and a sense of accomplishment.

Getting fired was the clarity I needed. It forced me to confront the emptiness of a life spent in pursuit of goals that didn't align with my emotional needs. It was a painful lesson, but a valuable one. Emotional pain, in its acute clarity, can be a gift. It offers us the chance to create a life where your emotional needs are not just recognized but prioritized.


[1] Seth, A. (2023, November 17). Psychology behind emotional needs. Psychologs Magazine | Mental Health Magazine | Psychology Magazine | Self-Help Magazine. https://www.psychologs.com/psychology-behind-emotional-needs/
[2] Brad Brenner, Ph. D. (2022, May 1). 5 unmet needs that may cause psychological issues in adulthood. Therapy Group of NYC. https://nyctherapy.com/therapists-nyc-blog/5-unmet-needs-that-may-cause-psychological-issues-in-adulthood/