Our most basic needs (according to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs) are for food, drink, air, shelter, and sleep. We usually don’t have a problem meeting those needs as adults. As children, we rely on others to help us meet those needs. The next need on the Hierarchy is to feel safe. To have order, security and stability in our lives makes us feel safe both as children and as adults. After safety, our next need is for belonging and love. Friendship, romantic relationships, intimacy, affection and love from others in our life fulfill this need. The paradigms we create throughout early childhood help us to define our need for safety and love. Based on our upbringing, we create beliefs/paradigms about how to feel safe and how to show love and receive love.
These 2 things show up in our world in many different ways. Your ways may not be the same as your best friend’s, your significant other’s, or even a close family member’s. Children can grow up in the same family and create beliefs that are totally different on how safety and love show up. Combine two people from two totally different backgrounds and imagine the differences there could be!
In order to have successful relationships with others (friendship, family, or romantic) we need to be aware of 2 things:
- The ways in which love and safety show up in our life. The things that others say and do to make us feel loved and safe, and the things they don’t do or the ways in which others make us feel unsafe or unloved.
- The ways in which the other person in the relationship feels safe and loved. The things we do or say to make them feel this way, and the things we do or say (or don’t do) that make the other person feel unsafe or unloved.
If you find that your relationship with anyone is strained (you disagree a lot, you fight, someone is always angry…) you need to ask yourself the following questions:
- How did you receive love from each of your parents as a small child?
- What ways did you feel safe in relationship to each of your parents?
- What did you tell yourself as a child when you didn’t feel loved? When you didn’t feel safe?
- In what ways do you expect your friend or significant other to meet your needs for safety? For Love?
- What do you do when you start to feel unloved? Unsafe? What do you tell yourself or say to yourself?
- Is there a common theme in what you do/say now versus when you were a small child?
- Was what you told yourself as a child true?
- What would you say (as you are today) to your inner child if you could go back in time and look objectively at the times you felt unloved or unsafe? Question the validity of your thoughts from back then with what you know now as an adult.
- Are you still living by any illusions about what safety or love look like?
Get your significant other (or whomever you are having problems with) to go through this list and write down their answers. Then use both lists as a starting block for communicating your needs for love and safety! Most anger or arguments really have to do with one of our needs not being met. When we are aware of our beliefs and the other person’s, we can start to modify our behavior and decrease the amount of fighting, arguing, and hurt feelings that occur.