ABC by Paley – NEEDS

When an emotion shows up in you, this is how it informs you that something important is happening. When you feel joy, gratitude, peace, or other pleasant emotions, it means your needs are being met. However, when unpleasant emotions such as anger, sadness or jealousy predominate, it is a sign that your vital needs need to be noticed and met.

When we learn to recognize our emotions and the needs behind them, we can then reflect on how we can effectively care for them.

For many people, the first association related to needs is the Maslow pyramid. Abraham Maslow structured human needs ranging from physiological needs, through the need for security, belonging, respect, to the need for self-fulfillment at the top of the pyramid. This innovative and important concept has become a bit outdated since it turned out that the needs considered by Maslow as those which are of a higher order can be met by people also when the needs from the lower levels of the pyramid have not been met.

Marshall Rosenberg, creator of Nonviolent Communication, used to say that all our behavior serves to satisfy a need, that human needs are universal, and we differ in the strategies we choose to meet them. So, both children and adults need the same elements to live a satisfying and peaceful life. And this is what brings us – people – together. What can divide us, however, are the ways we want to achieve something. For example, when a parent needs rest, their preferred strategy may be to sit alone on the couch, preferably with earplugs. At the same time, the child may also need to rest, but the child would like to rest while cuddling with a parent and reading or telling a story together. So, the needs of both members are the same – rest. The difficulty, however, is how to combine conflicting ways to meet a given need.

When we consider what the need for a particular behavior is, it will be easier for us to understand ourselves and the child. You want to go home now, because you know that you don’t have dinner at home, and a hungry child quickly gets angry and screams. However, it still wants to play in the sandbox, because, at the moment, it is fun that is the most important to him. Plus, he’s still too small to understand that if you don’t leave now, you’ll be hungry and irritable. In this situation, there are many possible solutions, and the one you choose depends on many factors: your mood, attitude, what is the most important to you at the moment, and even whether you are asleep or not. You can pick up a crying child from the playground and console them along the way, ensuring you come back after lunch or tomorrow. You can also offer the child to take the play home, while paying attention to the fact that we can see how great he is playing on the playground and in a similar situation it would probably be difficult to return home. Or you can stay in the playground and serve sandwiches on your return, instead of a warm lunch. This, of course, is only some part of the possibilities. There are many ways, and none of them better or worse than the others.

Of course, listening to the needs and responding to them is not a solution that will make your home calm forever by the touch of a magic wand. However, by paying close attention to what is happening in ourselves and in our child, we increase the chance for mutual understanding, hearing and a more peaceful approach to a solution. Each page feels taken into account and important.

So the next time you feel angry, sad, disappointed or discouraged, consider what the unmet need is calling out to you, “notice me, take care of me!” If in contact with another person there is relief, joy, peace or gratitude, then also ask yourself how your important need has helped you to satisfy the given situation.

However, it is worth adding that recognizing our needs does not automatically mean that they will be met – sometimes it is so and sometimes it is not. Sometimes our needs require us to act and make some kind of change that we have to make ourselves. At other times, we need the support and help of other people. We can learn to express our needs and meet them more often. But in the end, we still have to be prepared for the fact that sometimes we will have to put our needs aside and deal with them later. This happens most often when we take care of a small child or one that requires more effort and commitment from us. However, it is worth remembering that these unmet needs still live in us and ask for attention, and when they are constantly pushed back and overlooked, it will contribute to the deterioration of our well-being and quality of life. This is where the strategies needed to meet the necessities come to the fore again. It may turn out that we will have to choose a different way, a different day or other circumstances, but to some extent, with the use of other methods and with the help of other people, we will be able to bring ourselves closer, even in a small degree, to the neglected, yet essential needs of satisfaction.

If someone would like to take a look at their needs, see below an example list. Of course, it does not take into account all needs, but it gives a picture of what they are.



Physical needs
  • Air
  • Food
  • Water
  • Shelters
  • Movement
  • Rest
  • Sleep
  • Expressions of your sexuality
  • Touch
  • Physical security
Needs of contact with oneself
  • Authenticity
  • Challenges
  • Learning
  • Awareness
  • Competence
  • Creativity
  • Integrity
  • Self-development
  • Self-esteem
  • Self-acceptance
  • Respect for yourself
  • Achievements
  • Privacy
  • Sense
  • Feeling of influencing your life
  • Development
  • Trust
  • Celebrating satisfied needs, fulfilled dreams, plans and mourning unsatisfied
  • Purpose
Joy of Life Needs
  • Fun
  • Humor
  • Joy
  • Ease
  • Adventures
  • Inspiration
  • Simplicity
  • Physical / emotional well-being
  • Comfort
  • Hope
Needs of autonomy
  • Choosing your own plans, goals, dreams and values
  • Choosing your own path leading to their implementation
  • Freedom
  • Space
  • Spontaneity
  • Independence
Relationship needs with other people
  • Contribution  to enriching life
  • Affiliations
  • Support
  • Community
  • Contact with others
  • Societies
  • Closeness
  • Share: sorrows and joys; talents and abilities
  • Bonds
  • Remarks, being taken into account
  • Emotional security
  • Honesty
  • Empathy
  • Interdependencies
  • Respect
  • Equal opportunities
  • Being seen
  • Understanding and being understood
  • Trust
  • Warm
  • Cheers
  • Love
  • Intimacy
  • Group strength
  • Collaboration
  • Reciprocity
Needs of relationship with the world
  • Beauty
  • Contact with nature
  • Harmony
  • Order
  • Peace