Needy people: When Their Emotions Get in Your Way
A Needy Person Always Needs...
There was a time in my life when I asked a lot of deeply disturbing and intense questions. People ran from me because it wasn’t a topic they particularly wanted to speak about. So they avoided me, changed the topic, gave me a quick platitude, and then they vanished.The topic was always the same (what I should do about my mother’s abuse towards me), and many thought of me as needy and said as much.
I don’t think, however, that I was needy. I was just caught between the biblical commandment to honor thy parents and my need to survive. In the end, at the age of forty two, someone gave me the best advice I have ever received in m life. He said, “Tessa, you are always speaking about your mother. Why don’t you just cut her out of your life?” And so I did.
It changed my life.
I wish I had done it earlier. So I wasn’t needy. I just needed help in solving a problem.
Needy people, on the other hand, don’t want to solve the problem. There are several reasons for that refusal. The problem may be too painful to face, or they may be a narcissist and they're perfectly okay with who they are. The fact remains, however, that they’re not willing to resolve the issues. What they want is a constant bucketful of emotional support and attention, and no matter how many times you give it, the need for constant affirmation never ceases.
Needy People Drain Other People
Needy people are draining to those who are genuinely giving. Ironically, those who most sate these endless black-holes of emotional need, eventually become drained themselves because they get nothing in return. So at at some point, most people will just avoid emotionally needy people. It’s just too much energy.
Why are Needy People Always Needy?
At the heart of someone’s need to be constantly emotionally supported are several needs – the need for self-acceptance, the need for acceptance by others, and the need for approval by others. This generally stems from a combination of factors, one of which was the constant exposure to criticism, abuse, and a lack of approval in developmental years. Other aspects might include the lack of acceptance of one’s own situation and/or a desire to be something that one is not.
So, for instance, one might have been born less-than-attractive and had a mother who constantly harped on the fact that one didn’t have the family looks. This could result in a person who feels inadequate at all times, desperately wanting to be attractive, and the pain is so great that s/he needs to be reassured all the time of his or her worthiness.
Needy people don’t deal with these issues because it’s too painful for them to go back and look at it all. This is particularly so if they sincerely believe that they are at fault. Yet, until they come to terms with the original hurt, they will remain needy for the rest of their lives.
How to Handle Needy People
There are three options when you meet a needy person.
If you avoid (run) needy people, you have your part resolved but not theirs. If you are rude, it's probably better to run, because you are inflicting even more hurt. Needy people face a lot of abuse because they tend never to stand up for themselves. They don't need anymore abuse. If you want to help, you need to know how to help, otherwise you will be drained.
Needy people need some help in getting rid of their neediness. Generally a cognitive psychologist is the best choice. However, persuading a friend to see a doctor about this means you may first have to help her see her issue.
If you decide to help, sometimes you has to be cruel to be kind. By cruel, in this instance, I mean that you might have to hurt their feelings in order to get through to them. However, it is not acceptable to be cruel just to get the needy person out of your space. And if you do have to be direct about the problem, even saying something harsh can be said gently.
Exposure: Establish the Cause.
Find out the real need. You find out the real need by not answering the request for reassurance.
So, for instance, the needy person has just bought a new dress and says to you, “What does this look like on me?” Your response is not to answer this question. It might be to ask if she liked it when she bought it. Regardless of her answer, you might then mention that she has bought several items of clothing in the past few weeks, and that she constantly seems to need affirmation as to whether they’re okay or not. You might then ask her why that is as most people don't have a constant need for others to affirm their clothing choices.
How to Deal with Needy Friends...
Denial: Keep Questioning and Pointing Out Discrepancies
Needy people will avoid facing up to the core issue. They are in denial and will tell you that it isn’t so. This can be very frustrating because they will often contradict themselves despite the real issue being plain as daylight. Anticipating denial and preparing for it is a good thing.
You will need to think about this before you approach the person. So be aware that when you are gently probing (and sometimes not so gently), the person will be in denial. Keep on. Never give approval. Don’t reject the person. Just never give approval. Just keep asking her questions as to why she needs approval. When she says that everybody does, point out that everybody does not need the degree of approval she does, and everybody else is not desperate for approval, and that they can live without it.
Do you have a needy friend?
Acceptance: The AHA Moment Arrives
It may take a month (or even more), but at some point, the needy person will begin to hear and process the question you are asking. The question “Why are you so needy?” will begin to sink in. We are all human, and despite our many foibles and insecurities, when someone says something repeatedly, we eventually hear.
Most needy people (without a personality disorder) can face their neediness with the right sort of help from their friends, and when they reach that AHA moment that they realize their need for constant approval was the result of a lack of self-acceptance, they can begin the journey to being whole.
The aha moment is when they can acknowledge that they do need constant reassurance and that, without it, they cannot function. This is the goal you are working towards.
Cognitive Psychology: Ask Her to See a Professional
After your friend has acknowledged her hurt, she will need professional help. You will need to suggest that she consults a cognitive psychologist to help her change her way of thinking. You will also need to suggest to her that she needs to share her condition with friends, so that she can ask them to point out when she is being needy. You will need to explain to her that by doing this she will mend more quickly as her friends will show her all the different areas in her life which the condition intrudes.
Generally most people won’t go for professional assistance until they are aware that there is a problem that cannot be resolved without it. By allowing your friend to see for herself that her neediness is driving away other people and preventing any kind of self-acceptance (which is the real root of happiness and contentment), you have started the process towards healing.
If You Are Needy...
Finding the strength to face your neediness is not easy.
The neediness stems from something that you find too difficult to face. You will need help from someone to face that, and you will need a great deal of courage.
Cognitive psychologists teach you to think in a different way, so that your different perspective of your situation heals your neediness. However, unless you want to live a less-than-happy life, you will need to go deep down and face the terrible pain. This is one of those areas where the way out is the way through.
Sometimes the source of the pain cannot be changed, and we need to learn live with it. It is not fair to expect others to constantly provide comfort to us. It's draining on them. Most of us have things in our lives that we wish were different. One of the greatest attributes of contentment and happiness is acceptance.
© 2015 Tessa Schlesinger