It is human to have needs. To eat, to be kept warm and dry, to grow and develop at a pace that is suited to our own natural rhythm, to be touched by loving hands, to find stimulation from our environment, just to name a few. In fact, these are some of the basic needs of the infant. And they’re normal. When our needs go unfulfilled, they become more important than any other activity until they are met. According to psychologist Arthur Janov in ‘Why You Get Sick and How You Get Well’ , for the growing child “When needs are met, the child can feel. They can experience their body and their environment. When needs are not met, the child experiences only tension, which is a feeling of being disconnected from consciousness.” In the absence of that sense of connection to consciousness, the child does not feel. When the child does not feel, it is a sign the process of shutting down from feeling has begun. Each suppression of need, each denial of need, turns the child off from feeling. Until the day comes when there is a critical shift within them, to where they are primarily turned off to feeling. From that point forward, a two part self is born: The authentic self, which has to do with the genuine needs and feelings of the child, and the inauthentic self, which is a cover for those genuine needs and feelings. The inauthentic self becomes the mask the child shows to the parent to have the parent’s needs fulfilled, at the expense of their own.
For example, take the parents’s need for respect, where the child learns not to say anything negative to the parent or assert their person and talk back to them, in order for their parent’s need for respect to be fulfilled. Or when the parent needs the child to grow up too fast, and become adult like long before they are developmentally ready to do so. This, so the parent can have their need to be cared for fulfilled. In these ways the child begins to act in ways that are not authentic to themself, but rather in ways they sense on some level are expected by the parent. They realize being loved for who they are just isn’t going to happen. That in fact, according to Janov, “it is hopeless”. As a result, the child turns to repeating back their words to the parent and acting in ways that are not authentic to themself, and therefore not aligned with the reality of their own needs and desires. In time, not being aligned with their own needs and desires becomes the child’s normal way of being.
If love existed in the life of the child, they would be able to be themself, as love is about letting someone be who they are. It’s the hopelessness of never being loved for who they are that causes the psychological split in the child, between the authentic and inauthentic selves. The child denies the realization that his own needs will never be filled by being who they are, no matter what they do. Substitute needs develop as a result. These substitute needs turn up as symptoms like nervousness, worries, fears, issues with self-confidence, self-sabotaging thinking patterns, obsessions and compulsions. All outward signs of burried pain. As the pain accumulates within, repression builds in its own quiet way. When the child is thoroughly repressed, they lose touch with who they are. Humans, being the adaptive creatures that we are, find ways to adapt to the pain inside, and go on. But the pain is still there, and it doesn’t go away as we grow up. Do you see where this is heading? The repressed pain that results from not being loved in a way that meets our needs growing up stays with us as an imprint that gets stored in the cells of the body. In time, depending on circumstance, the child, or youth, or adult find their own way(s) of coping with the pain, which can include one or more of the addictive behaviours. In too many cases, making the choice to resolve an immediate condition like pain in the short-term, can lead to the development of a full blown illness in the long-term. Over time, unmet needs and the pain inside that follows, can mark the birth of addiction.
Please note this post is not about blaming our parents for not giving us what we needed growing up. Parenting philosophies and practices of their day were no doubt in the way of doing so, not to mention how well our grand parents raised our parents. This post is more about continuing to cultivate an understanding of our psychological travels through life. This, so we may recover and heal, and also, so love may blossom in our hearts for ourselves, as well as for those we care about today.