Pay close attention to someone talking for just 10 minutes and you may notice that the phrase “I need” is thrown around with the generosity of confetti at a birthday party. Those who chaff at this trend often compensate (Ah, the need for homeostasis!) by, in turn, under-diagnosing needs. Minimalists tend to reduce a need to something without which one cannot live, even as pertains to mental health. The idea that one needs very few things to stay alive is generalized to other areas. Yes, we can live without many things...but not well.
A need can best be described as a necessity or requirement. However, this definition requires clarification. Necessity or requirement for what? In the realm of mental health, we define a need as what is necessary or required for proper functioning. While you can operate without certain things, you cannot function as intended without their presence. Take your limbs, for example. While you can technically live without them, your need for them has not disappeared; it has simply transferred. Without them you will need increased support from others to sustain life (even more so when consideration is given to quality of life). While your new need for outside assistance may be met, your functioning has been altered because the original need for limbs was not satisfied. Like our bodies, the human psyche is also comprised of overlapping systems. Parts of the psyche can compensate for the sake of survival, but not without impact elsewhere.
Often clients blame themselves for having needs, as if they somehow have an infinitely unproportionate amount in comparison to others. They punish themselves not only for having them, but also for failure to successfully diminish them. They berate themselves for not being strong enough to remain unaffected by pain, disappointment, sadness, fear, hurt, etc. Ironically, people who feel this way, do not have more needs than the rest, they simply have more UNMET needs than others.
Needs do not simply disappear. As previously mentioned, they transfer. They cannot be squashed out and any effort to do so is both frustrating and futile. They demand a response. Defense mechanisms (denial, projection, and rationalization to name a few) are indicative of this fact. They are often a natural response to unmet needs without the discomfort of ever acknowledging the stimulus or our response.
We all have needs that were not and are not perfectly satisfied (and subsequently, we experience pain) in varying forms and degrees; consequently, we compensate. It is often to these compensatory responses that people point as proof of excessive neediness. It is not the mark of an emotionally healthy person to have fewer needs, but rather to simply experience unmet needs and respond accordingly when they occur.
Part of the therapeutic process is learning what your needs are, deciphering which ones are unmet, satisfying as many as possible, and developing appropriate coping mechanisms (conscious choice) for the ones that remain unfulfilled. Once we have mastered this process, there is less occasion for defense mechanisms (unconscious choice) aimed at protecting ourselves from perceived threats of pain. I just happen to know a great therapist who can assist you with this...if you NEED!