I’ve spent a fair amount of time studying behavioral science and personality types. I find it useful for self-analysis, writing books, and understanding people around me. Even though I began with the Enneagram, I moved on to Myers-Briggs. Honestly, they are both useful, albeit different, ways of viewing the world around me. However, I don’t spend too much time reading about these typing system these days (the same is also true for behavioral science and neuroscience–my interests have moved on). I’ve come to the point where it’s more to my benefit to continue studying the people around me as I’ve always done. Have I stopped with the self-analysis? No, I haven’t. Every day, a piece of personality advice shows up in my inbox. One of the messages this week struck a chord with me. It was my lost childhood message: Your needs are not a problem.
My personality predicts that I will need to hear this message. In fact, I’ve spent a great deal of time ranting about this lately–insisting to others that my needs matter. At the age of forty, it surfaced from deep below like bubbles in soda water floating up to the top of my conscious mind. Then the computer-generated, impersonal personality advice showed up in my inbox, and I suddenly became self-aware in a way I hadn’t previously been. I recognized the thinking pattern that has been swirling around in my gray matter since childhood–Why should anybody care about your needs? Who are you? You have to take care of your own needs. You must read books, study, whatever it takes, to hoard the resources you will need. And once you have them, you still won’t deserve them because your needs don’t matter.
We pick up all kinds of baggage in childhood, regardless of whether we’ve grown up in healthy homes or not. It’s simply the nature of humans. We’re complicated, each of us reacting to our environments in contrasting ways, while often projecting our fears onto others. Here are the lost childhood messages, and you can imagine how these messages might grate against each other:
1. You are good.
2. You are wanted.
3. You are loved for yourself.
4. You are seen for who you are.
5. Your needs are not a problem.
6. You are safe.
7. You will be taken care of.
8. You will not be betrayed.
9. Your presence matters.
While all of these are important messages for us to hear and acknowledge, it’s likely that one will resonate more than the others with our psychology. For me, my brain stumbles over your needs are not a problem. The words stab at me. As well they should, because believing the opposite can cause relationship issues. Can you imagine if I subconsciously believe that my needs don’t matter and, consequently, begin hoarding resources around me, while a friend who doesn’t believe she’s wanted has her fears aggravated by my difficulty in giving her what I don’t believe I have to begin with (and vice versa)?
It’s sad, really, how most of us lack self-awareness. Wouldn’t it be wonderful NOT to have to recognize these patterns at age forty? Wouldn’t it be better to find the sanity that awaits outside our egos earlier in life? Certainly, we can learn to be decent human beings without ever becoming terribly self-aware. We can learn because our parents taught us morals, or because our religion taught us the Golden Rule, or because important teachers mentored us with their mature examples. All of us have something to give to the world, though, no matter how our personality expresses itself. The more self-aware we are, the more we will have to give to others–and the more meaningful it will be for us when we give. Imagine for a moment that your lost childhood message is that your presence matters. Imagine that you’ve become aware of this–that, instead of slipping into a fantasy world involving drugs, alcohol, or entertainment, you become truly and actively present to those around you. Imagine how much good you can bring to others just by being there for them.
What can you bring to the world by becoming aware of your lost childhood message? Think about it for a moment. Pause and take a deep breath and be honest with yourself for once in your life. What message do you need to hear?