THE BLOG

The Most Taboo Word in Our Vocabulary

09/04/2012 03:11 pm ET | Updated Nov 04, 2012

Admitting to having a need is instantly equated to weakness -- possibly appearing as a plea for sympathy and this is something to avoid at all costs. Need is extremely uncouth. I've listened to many people who believe that a person who is expressing their challenges, or suffering from a long-term illness, or (apparently even worse) is unhappy, is actually attempting to be manipulative. As such, this particular perception was reason enough for a defensive stance to trump a more caring one.

Often I have heard the term "victim" applied toward anyone who feels saddened or trapped. A sense of hopelessness offends. It's for this reason that we avoid receiving care or admitting to our real feelings (which often lay dormant within ourselves). We say, "I'm okay, it's all good, no, I'm fine," even when straddled with something as scary as cancer. Niggling out of support from fear of how we'll be perceived -- as someone who needs something.

Who wants to seem like a sad sack, even when faced with a life-destroying condition? It's so unattractive by our cultural standards that it's now hip to bypass needs. Shockingly, this is most prevalent within the "spiritual" communities. Here's one of the most painful phrases I've heard to date: "I don't have time for his/her negative energy." Which, if the person making that statement truly understood they were passing judgment, they might feel less Gandhi and more akin to their (unconscious) parents.

Denial of needs has been strongly indoctrinated within both sexes. Women often reject care to avoid (the horror of) being called "needy." Many go so far as to apply further proof of their needless state with the self-imposed "tough bitch" stance. Or, as Gwen Stefani of No Doubt likes to say it a tad more gently, "I'm a rough and tough." No needs needed there.

The men I've met violently oppose the word "need" (recently a male friend referred to another as "such a girl" because he needed more help than my friend thought justified) -- demonstrated through the countless times I've been told by a male, "I don't neeeeed you to do anything," or "I don't neeeeed your care or concern." I guess they want to emphasize that they can do it for themselves, and therefore are not weak and are most certainly without needs.

The word "need" is being disgraced from our vocabularies -- which to me is erasing the humane component out of humanity. If properly embraced, it's what makes us human. It's the commonality of our needs that allows for the ability to connect, care, empathize, serve and continue with a life that has meaning. Choosing to meet someone's needs distinguishes us out from the other mammals, those without consciousness.

How lonely that feels to me when I hear someone deny having needs, or when I'm denied an opportunity to fulfill someone's need. I want to add to the beauty of life, and when I am told "no" through the belief that nothing is needed, there's a touch of sadness that creeps through. It's as if my heart understands it's just been short-changed an opportunity to connect and actively participate in loving another person.

I've come to the conclusion that when someone labels me "needy," it's more a reflection of his or her emotional state than mine. This became clear to me through my cat! Poor bugger. She just wanted a little affection and I grew agitated. Off I went with the reactive, "God, you're so needy!" when it clicked... I didn't have it to give. I didn't have the ability to be nurturing in that moment, and I blamed her. Love those lightbulb moments. Now when she wants a cuddle and I feel a bit of tension arise, I realize I can either choose to stop and give her a few satisfying strokes, or I can let her know "not now" and I don't have to feel bad about it. I don't have to call her names like "needy." I can show care now (by how I handle her) and then again later with a bit of the physical nurturing she likes.

It's our ability to respond with care that separates us out from the robotic counterparts our world is trying to create as replacements for actual love. Japan is feverishly working on robots to care for the aging, as there will be an explosion of people needing care in their elder years. The fact that this is considered a solution in and of itself is a horrific thought. We've been trained to accept that needs are only acceptable if under the category of food, water and shelter. That only those basics should be expected to give a sense of completion to our whole selves mystifies me. If we're lucky, we grow into much more complex beings than the eating, pooping machines we were when first entering onto the scene. My experience has shown me that to live a satisfying life, I need to experience the fulfillment of many types of needs. Beauty, connection, understanding, personal expression, joy, fairness are a few of them, and without them I only have access to a tempered life, one limited to fleeting stints of connection.

For more by Kimberly Berg, click here.

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