Core Needs – Introduction to a Basic Skill

Studying One’s Self – Becoming Intimate with My Wants, Needs, Desires

(Everything in italics has been borrowed from Clinton S. Clark© 1993)  I highly recommend a visit to his site at The Art Of Healing.

My Needs (stable for the most part)

  • Access to food, clean water, sanitation, clothing, shelter, and medical services.
  • Income (for the first need) and the transportation to earn that income.
  • Recovery and the income and transportation to maintain that recovery.
  • School (education)
  • Dreams
  • To say I can choose.
  • To say I love you.
  • To say I’m sorry.
  • To say I need you to help me meet my need.
  • To know that the screw-ups I have are healthy.
  • To hold and to be held.
  • To have approval (in direct and non-controlling ways).
  • To express (expulsion) my “self.”
  • To allow my “self” choices and the possibility of choices that are unknown.
  • To set boundaries (and no explanation is necessary).
  • To allow myself honesty.
  • To say, “I don’t know” when I don’t know.
  • To allow my honesty to be earned and not shared indiscriminately.
  • To practice safe sex.
  • To practice eating as needed and not in a way to stuff or over eat.
  • To stop and clear myself when I’m in chaos or subtle diversion.
  • To detach.
  • To be separate in order to be close.
  • To know that the best I can do is too much (controlling, approval seeking).
  • Acknowledging when I’m hurt.
  • Acknowledging when I’m sore.
  • Acknowledging when my stomach hurts.

My Limits (at the time I have them)

  • The limits I have are not the same as the ability (I have) to do something.
  • I’m unable to change the past.
  • I’m unable to change the future by worrying about it.
  • I have fears.
  • I get tired.
  • I’m unable to control what someone else is thinking of me.
  • I’m unable to forcibly control someone else’s actions without using destructive control behaviors. (to kill spirit)
  • I can’t control another person by being nice and accommodating.

Asking for Needs to be Met

Asking for my needs to be met is more productive using the same non-victim role as with setting boundaries.  As an infant, I had my own infant ways of asking for needs to be met.  As an adult, I have adult ways to ask for my needs to be met.  Clarity is important.  Over-explaining the reason for my needs is control for approval’s sake.  I can choose not to control by explaining.

There is fear in asking for my needs to be met.  My needs were shamed or discounted as a child.  That fear of shaming or discounting generates hostility in my conversation style.  The hostility is projected onto the listener.  In return, they become hostile in order to protect themselves or become submissive in order to protect themselves.  Either way, the listener will resent the interaction.

I can choose to approach my needs in a non-victim style (non-victimstance).  I find a more nurturing result more often.  I state my fear of asking up front and not hide it in a hostile conversation.


  • “I’m afraid of asking for _________________”
  • “I’m afraid of not knowing how to ask for ______________”
  • “I’m learning how to ask for my needs to be met.  I need your patience while I learn.”

Some basic needs statements

I need ______________________________________.

  • To eat.
  • A drink of water.
  • To go to the rest room.
  • To get some different clothes, a jacket, etc (to stay warm, dry, etc.).
  • To go to the doctor.
  • To throw-up.
  • A place to stay.
  • A job.
  • A loan.
  • To borrow some money.
  • A ride.
  • To get gas.
  • To have my car repaired.
  • Help.
  • To go to a meeting.
  • To know if….
  • To know if you like me.
  • To know if anyone else feels this way.
  • Your approval.
  • To rest.
  • A hug.
  • A kiss.
  • To be held.
  • To be with people.
  • To say I’m sorry.
  • To say that for myself.
  • To do this.
  • To talk.
  • To know if you have time to listen.
  • To do this myself.
  • To go slow.
  • To keep this confidential.
  • Your patience.
  • You to know that I love you.
  • To know if you’re being honest with me.
  • To know if you are mad at me.
  • To know if you love me.
  • To know if you expect something from me that I don’t know about.
  • To leave.
  • To stay a while.
  • A back-rub.
  • Your friendship.
  • You to back off.
  • You to slow down.
  • To work something out with you.

If I consistently ask for a need to be met, and it’s not being met, I need to go elsewhere.  I accept that my needs are important.  I accept that my needs are my needs and my responsibility.  My needs are not someone else’s responsibility.  My needs are not a guessing game for someone else.  And, my needs are not the perception that someone else has of them.

Whatever the needs statement be, I practice being clear, direct, non-victim, non-whining, and non-controlling.  I can choose to “ask” before I decide that my needs won’t be met.  I accept that asking for my needs to be met and getting them met are different.  I won’t be able to get my needs met in one place.

I am all that I am at the time that I am

Acknowledging without control that:

“I am all that I am at the time that I am”

is another way to nurture and reparent myself.  I am all my likes, my dislikes, my needs, my limits, my choices, my thoughts, my opinions, my double binds, my feelings, etc.  Without fear of injury, I am all that I am at the time that I am.

Gleaned from Al-Anon Literature

HALT When we are hungry, angry, lonely, or tired, we have needs that require our attention, needs that may be preventing us from acting in a positive, affirming way.

When a man reconsiders performance-based esteem, when he reaches into his own heart to unearth and form a relationship with the emotional parts of himself, when he takes on responsibilities for psychological self-care as well as the psychological care of others, he breaks with the terms of traditional masculinity. –Terrence Real

The Narcissist’s Strategy for Dealing with Unmet Needs

Based on their implicit and explicit memories of unmet childhood needs, many narcissists develop the notion that such needs will never be met later on in life.  This fear is at the root of the narcissist’s flimsy and unanimated attachments to others.  He compensates for the fear of not having his needs met through a well-executed excessively autonomous style.  This combination of fear and overcompensation also leads to a lack of intimacy with himself, avoiding self-knowing.  –Wendy T. Behary

We learn not to ask for what we need during the first three years of life.

Emotional Bullshit:

Self-Care is both a tool and an ongoing skill.  Using it as a tool will help you make a quick decision that might avert a problem even in the most difficult moments, or avoid outright disaster.  Developing Self-Care as an ongoing skill will enable you to promote your best interests in the numerous situations that make a colossal difference in the quality of your life and your relationships.

To be narcissistic means you focus solely on your own pleasure, ignoring or discounting the needs of others.  But fulfilling a Core Need means fully understanding and fulfilling your responsibilities to both yourself and others.  It’s actually the opposite of being selfish—it means taking care of your personal business so that you have the emotional energy and awareness to be able to focus on others.  Keeping your word, doing what you say you’re going to do, completing the tasks you have taken on, are clearly in your long-term best interest.  It is a fact of life that many of the responsibilities we have to ourselves enable us to create a healthy environment for other people to live with us in community…If you’re in a relationship taking care of your Core Needs means that you maintain a nurturing and balanced environment for your self as well as for the other person.  So be assured that taking care of your Core Needs is not at all narcissistic.  In fact, it is the height of responsibility and maturity.  It’s a total win-win.

Terrence Real

As a small boy he had stepped into the vacuum left by his depressed father.  Little Joe became, in many ways, his mother’s emotional husband, his father’s business partner, his siblings’ father. The only person’s needs Joe learned to ignore were his own.

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