A huge part of healing from toxic relationships is learning to trust yourself again so you can feel solid in your sense of self and navigate relationships without losing who you are. Trusting yourself again starts with trusting your own feelings, learning how to uncover the underlying need, and expressing those needs so they can be met.
This isn’t always easy if you’ve spent your life tucking your needs away so that you can feel safe in relationships. When we feel like our needs might rock (or even tip) the boat in a toxic relationship, we learn to disconnect from them to maintain safety. Not having our needs acknowledged and validated creates a disconnect from who we are and what makes us feel truly happy.
Reconnecting to Your Needs - A Tool!
No matter what angle or approach you take, healing involves learning to listen to your feelings. Feelings can be understood as a response to our needs being met or our needs not being met within a given situation. In this way, negative or challenging feelings are like signals that alert us that a need isn’t being met and we need to take action. Trusting these signals, as uncomfortable as they may be, allows us to take a step back and identify the underlying need that isn’t being met and then make choices to validate and fulfill that unmet need.
To begin to develop this skill, start by deciding on a specific situation that is causing big emotions.
Now, take a look at the center of this feelings wheel to identify the primary emotional response you feel when you think about this situation. Fear, anger, disgust, and sadness are all ones that typically coincide with not having your needs met.
See if you can choose a feeling in the second circle and then the outer circle to get deeper into what you are feeling.
Now, let’s see what underlying unmet need might be causing this emotional response Take a look at this Needs Inventory by the Center for Non-Violent Communication and see if you can pull out a word to describe what that feeling needs at this moment.
The core human needs are:
The list provides more nuanced and specific needs in each category. As you read though the words on the page you may find yourself connecting to a specific one, finding this word may even change the intensity of how you are feeling. This is the beginning of connecting to your feelings and the core need hidden below them. Incredibly important information!
Now that you have gone through this tool you may have more insight and understanding as to why such big feelings arise when they are not met. It makes sense, these needs are core needs!
You also have the language needed to communicate them to the people in your life!
If you’d like, you can use a journal to develop this skill even further by listening to and exploring your feelings and needs - repetition is key to strengthening any new skill!
Brainstorm what choices and actions can help satisfy that need. You can use this information to make requests in relationships so that you can find safety and peace in relationships with others.
You could even take a moment to write out what you have uncovered. An example of this might look like:
When ___________ happens I feel ____________.
I would like ___________ to happen so that my
need for ______________ can be met.
Learning to reconnect to yourself and your wants/needs is not always easy, but it is an integral part of the healing process. When you are better able to identify what you need, you can take responsibility for having them met, or letting go of people/situations where your needs are not considered.
I know that the last sentence may sound overwhelming if you are at the start of this work - that is ok; this is a lifelong process. Start with smaller situations with people you trust. It will get easier as you practice!