Asking for Support: Authentic Need or Neediness?

woman about to climb stair raises hand asking for help support
by Dr. Margaret Paul

There is often confusion between the authentic need for others’ support, and being needy. A member of Inner Bonding Village posted this question:

“Since doing couples therapy, it has come to light that I often don’t consider sharing sadness with my husband or asking for emotional support. The therapist said that it sounds like a scary place for me to ‘need’ him. This is indeed a scary place due to the fact that as a child I felt alone with no one available for emotional support. Now I am conflicted about this idea since I’ve been practicing Inner Bonding and I don’t want to reveal that I need someone’s love and support. At the same time, this feels like a basic attachment need that is pretty primary. I’m confused!”

Just because you are taking loving care of yourself does not mean that you don’t also want and need your husband’s love and support. This is part of what creates intimacy and closeness in a relationship. There is a huge difference between wanting and needing emotional support, and making him responsible for your feelings. We all need emotional support, and that is totally different to being needy, which comes from self-abandonment.

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Another member wrote in response:

“This is how I’ve totally misused Inner Bonding, floundering around with what is okay to want, sitting on expectation/demands, judging myself for wanting/needing and plain just putting my child out there in the snow with several of my relationships, not just with my husband. Now, hopefully, I can repair by calling some of these people and just hanging with the vulnerability. I hate anyone thinking that I’m needy!!”

Another member commented:

“This is a subject I’ve been thinking about a lot lately! Somehow I had also understood that taking care of myself means that I should not ask for emotional support or love, but should try to find them within me. Although I had been wondering that isn’t it a bit lonely, but I’ve been trying a lot not to talk about my problems and not to ask for anything from my boyfriend, thinking it would be needy. I find it really hard to understand the difference between needs and being needy, and between wanting to get love and support in a good way and wanting to get love as the opposite of sharing love. I’m really confused now. I thought all of that comes from the wounded self, the need for love and support, and especially, that if you know you are in your wounded self, you should not ask anyone to help you, but try to find the answers on your own or with a professional. Can you explain a little bit more about the differences, Dr Margaret?”

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It’s All About Intent

There is a big difference between asking someone to do it FOR you or do it WITH you. We all need others’ help, love, and support. This is very different from being needy, which is when we abandon ourselves and then pull on someone to fix us. Even if you know you are in your wounded self— that you have abandoned yourself and are unhappy, if you want help in exploring and learning about it, then you are not being needy. You are being needy ONLY when you want someone to fix you, to do it for you rather than help you learn to take loving care of yourself.

It is really about intent—to get someone to fill you up and fix you, or to receive help and support in learning and growing. If you have abandoned yourself and you want someone to be your loving adult or your higher power and take away your pain, you are being needy, and you are further abandoning yourself by pulling on another to fix you. But if you have abandoned yourself and you want help in understanding what you need to do to love yourself, you are loving to yourself in asking for the care and support you need.

We all need help and support, especially when we are struggling. But the energy is totally different between needing to talk something through with another’s help, or needing someone to change or fix you or fill you up so you will feel better. It’s all about intent!

To learn more about emotional support see: Discovering Self-Love

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