While recently giving a lecture in the San Francisco area, I was asked: "Would you please talk about the need to feel needed? It seems to be a very important, fundamental instinct."
I responded by first saying it was one of the most beautiful questions I've been asked in a long time. I began by telling the story of two beautiful, white, draft horses owned by a friend. The horses were inseparable. Their worlds revolved around one another. They loved each other. When one of them passed away, the other, although perfectly healthy, also died within two weeks. We hear stories of long-term married couples having a similar scenario. So, let's take a deeper look at what is actually going on here.
The need to be needed is universal, natural, and healthy. Yet, it can take on many different forms. There is a unique form, a unique state of awareness, for each and every individual which correlates to their personal experience of the need to be needed. This state of awareness is all about the people involved. It is all about our relationship with others. It's all about love. It is so all-consuming that it is a physiological state. It is a mental state that determines the very mode of function of the brain waves—the physiology of the brain.
The need to be needed births our significant relationships which overtake the very mode of function of our awareness. Without even thinking about it, what we see, do, and experience is all done through the eyes of the nature of that awareness.
Commonly, this is experienced in terms of family. Without even thinking about it, everything in life is processed, as if metabolized, through the mechanics of that state. The experiences of all five senses are held, processed, and experienced through that mechanic. It is as if everything one sees is seen through the eyes of their relationship with those near and dear ones.
As time goes by, things change. Loved ones pass away. The shock and sense of loss we experience at these times is not limited to an emotional loss. The very mode of function of our brains ceases to be supported by the reality of life and death.
This may seem like a theoretical notion. But in times of loss, they can be all important. Our need to be needed must take on a new form, which means the very function of the mode of our awareness must be restructured. Our relationship with everything in life must change. Understanding this in these moments can help make that necessary shift.
Depending upon the circumstances, that shift can range from minimal to dramatic. The possible states of that brain wave pattern should not be underestimated. It does not need to be based upon the need for loved ones in a conventional sense. It can be as far-reaching as a universal love for humanity and all of life.
Life is funny. In many ways, we are fed by an infinitely steady state of awareness, fully enraptured by, for example, our commitment to loved ones. Yet, at the same time, the awareness, when healthy, can accommodate an infinitely flexible state. As the underlying values of our life change, the structure of our minds can shift to accommodate. Though our experience of who and what needs us may change, the fundamental need to be needed can find other ways of being fulfilled. That is, of course, not always easily accomplished. It can take time. But as the winds of life shift, so too can the very structure of our consciousness shift.
Michael Mamas is the founder of The Center of Rational Spirituality, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the betterment of humanity through the integration of ancient spiritual wisdom with modern rational thought. From personal issues to global trends, Michael Mamas helps individuals and organizations develop a deeper understanding and more comprehensive outlook by providing a 'bridge' between the abstract and concrete, the Eastern and Western, and the ancient and modern. Dr. Michael Mamas has been teaching for 35 years (including in the U.S., India, Europe, and Canada) and writes on a variety of subjects on his blog, MichaelMamas.net.