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Feelings and needs: How we can help ourselves feel better by meeting our unmet needs

Emotions are at the core of human experience, influencing our thoughts, behaviours, and interactions with the world around us. But at times, our emotions can feel overwhelming, leaving us feeling out of control and disconnected from ourselves and others. One crucial aspect of understanding and regulating our emotions lies in recognizing what feelings are – they are signals of unmet needs.


The Complexity of Emotions

Emotions are multifaceted, often arising from a complex interplay of internal and external factors. They can stem from a variety of sources, including our thoughts, experiences, relationships, and physical wellbeing. While some emotions may be fleeting, others linger, manifesting as chronic stress, anxiety, depression and even physical pain if left unaddressed.

Unmet Needs: The Root of Emotional Turmoil

We all understand the correlation between physical feelings and needs – if I feel cold, I need warmth, if I feel hungry, I need food. But what a lot of people don’t realise is that emotional feelings also represent an unmet need.

Consider the individual who feels undervalued at work, this feeling is due to their need for recognition and appreciation going unmet. Or the person struggling in a strained relationship, longing for connection and understanding. These unmet needs make us feel uncomfortable, and that distress can feel overwhelming, particularly if we think that there is no end to our distress in sight.


Identifying Unmet Needs: A Path to Emotional Wellbeing

Acknowledging and identifying our unmet needs is the first step towards emotional regulation. This process requires introspection and self-awareness, delving beneath the surface to uncover the root causes of our emotional experiences. Journaling, mindfulness, meditation, and therapy can all be valuable tools in this journey, helping us tune into our thoughts, feelings, and underlying needs.

By examining patterns in our emotions and behaviours, we can begin to decipher the messages they convey. Are we feeling anxious because our need for security is threatened? Are we experiencing resentment due to unmet expectations or boundaries being crossed? Bringing awareness to these underlying needs empowers us to take proactive steps towards addressing them.

Meeting Unmet Needs: Nurturing Emotional Well-being

Once we've identified our unmet needs, the next crucial step is taking action to fulfil those needs. Our instincts might lead us to believe that these needs should be met where they are caused (for example the lack of recognition at work needing to be met by receiving recognition from our boss), but this isn’t actually necessary. Instead we can meet our needs vicariously by finding what is missing anywhere in our life.

For instance if we feel undervalued at work, but appreciated and valued by our friends and family, then work immediately matters less to us, because we know our worth – we have all of the internal and external validation we need to be happy. If our partner doesn’t have time for us then we can prioritise spending quality time with friends or joining meetup groups. And if stress and overwhelm are taking a toll on our well-being, incorporating self-care such as exercise, meditation, or creative hobbies can provide much-needed relief. By actively meeting our needs, we cultivate a sense of agency and empowerment over our emotional lives.

Soaring free

Cultivating Emotional Resilience

Emotional regulation is not about suppressing or ignoring our feelings but rather developing the skills to navigate them effectively. By addressing our unmet needs, we cultivate emotional resilience—the ability to bounce back from adversity and maintain equilibrium amidst life's challenges.

Moreover, as we become more attuned to our emotional landscape, we enhance our capacity for empathy and understanding towards others. Recognizing that everyone experiences unmet needs and emotional struggles fosters compassion and strengthens interpersonal connections.


Emotions are an integral part of the human experience, guiding us through life's highs and lows. By understanding the power we have in recognising and meeting our own unmet needs, we regain the autonomy that often feels lost in our chaotic and externally focussed lives.

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