Category Archives: Needs

“I Feel So Bad!”

Part 2 of 5 “Emotions 101.” Today we explore  ~

“Of course I numb, distract, dismiss or bury my feelings when I feel so bad.  Got any better ideas?”

Yes, I do actually.

Think about what you’d do if you decided your stomach-ache was a medical, not emotional, condition. You’d go to the doctor and describe each symptom as accurately as possible:  “Well doc, it feels like this knife stabbing me, but not continuously. It started over here see, above the belly button.  Now it’s down here, lower right. Boy it gets worse when I sneeze, and driving over here didn’t help any.”  And so on.

The more timely and accurate your description of the pain, the more timely and accurate the diagnosis; in this case, possible appendicitis. So, how do we talk about emotions like this?  On a continuum between Woody Allen’s overindulgence and John Wayne’s heroic suppression is a just-right spot where feelings can be discussed in a timely and accurate way.

“Sure!” you scoff, “Like I’m ever going to want to talk about how bad I feel.”

Here are four (possibly life-saving) reasons to reconsider ~

  • NAMING ~ Since I’m a novice sailor I’ll use a sailboat analogy. I’m at the “sad, mad, glad” vocabulary stage vis-à-vis sailing. I get in a boat and see ropes and sails. Captain Helen comes aboard and distinguishes the main sheet, jib sheet, halyard and boom vang for “ropes”. She sees a main sail, jib and spinnaker for “sails.”  Having a precise vocabulary for all the distinct parts of a sailboat allows Helen to describe quickly and accurately what needs attention and when. “Pull that rope Gemma!” will get us capsized. “Haul in the main!” might result in a nice tack. Building your vocabulary is Step #1 toward emotional (and nautical) mastery.

(Click below for Parrott’s 176 Emotions sorted into 6 main categories)

Parrott’s Emotions Tree 2001

  • CLAIMING ~ Once you can distinguish (for example) annoyance, torment and envy from the general feeling of angry you get to claim them. You are entitled to your feelings! Even the ugly ones. Especially the ugly ones! Too often we screech to a halt here and think “Oh no! It’s not nice to feel tormented by Kindergarten violinists and note a huge surge of envy for the art teacher whose room is blissfully quiet.” But if this is what you feel, claim your experience. It’s like saying “Oh, better not mention the lump to the doctor. Lumps aren’t nice.” Tell her for heaven’s sake!
  • DIAGNOSINGAngry is highly imprecise. Makes it hard to know what’s wrong. But sit with annoyance, torment and envy for a while and you’ll have a much more accurate picture of your inner state. This violin class is not working for you; you are annoyed – tortured even – by the noise, and beginning to recognize you need a change. Older students? Teach a different subject? So, with diagnosis comes…
  • Treatment TRANSFORMATION ~ Take one feeling at a time and ask yourself “I feel annoyed with this violin class. What would I rather feel? What’s the opposite of annoyed? Gratified? Pleased? Yes, I want to feel pleased with my day’s work, so what do I need?”  Now you are off down the rabbit hole of transforming your inner state into one you’d much rather experience. (See Blog How to use feelings to point to needs)

Tomorrow:   “I’m fine.” Great, so is my wine! Aren’t you enthralled, excited or triumphant? Let’s liven up your happy place.

Don’t Die Without . . .

Expressing Your True Feelings


In Bronnie Ware’s heartfelt blog she notes that the five most common regrets of those near death are ~

  • I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
  • I wish I didn’t work so hard.
  • I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
  • I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
  • I wish that I had let myself be happier.


How about that!

Feelings – those things I’m constantly encouraging us to become more familiar with and fluent in – rank as the number 3 most devastating loss when not expressed.

Here is what Bronnie wrote:

Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.

We cannot control the reactions of others. However, although people may initially react when you change the way you are by speaking honestly, in the end it raises the relationship to a whole new and healthier level. Either that or it releases the unhealthy relationship from your life. Either way, you win.

What does it take to express your feelings? If you are not sure, join me for Emotions 101,  a five-part fun series running 4th – 8th March 2013. Topics include ~

1. Is that a feeling, or a stomach ache? Don’t laugh – it can be hard to tell sometimes. Learn how to recognize your emotions. (Blog on 4th March  2013);

2. Sad? Mad? How about Lonely, Wistful, Incensed, Ashamed? Dump the kindergarten terms for your complex internal maelstrom.  (Blog on 5th March 2013);

3. “I’m fine.” Great, so is my wine! Aren’t you Enchanted, Elated or Thrilled?  Let’s liven up your Happy place. (Blog on 6th March 2013);

4. “I feel like you should…”If this is how you’ve been talking about your feelings, it’s time to learn how to be more honest and effective. (Blog on 7th March 2013);

5. “No you don’t!” If this is how you respond when someone shares their feelings, come learn how to listen so people will open up to you. (Blog on 8th March 2013).

So – whether you’re Oscar Wilde ~

I don’t want to be at the mercy of my emotions. I want to use them, to enjoy them, and to dominate them. ― Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

or Elizabeth Gilbert ~

“Your emotions are the slaves to your thoughts, and you are the slave to your emotions.”
Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia

you’ll find something of interest. See you for Emotions 101,  4th – 8th March 2013.






Top 10 Emotional Needs

Why do we couple-up?

According to Dr. Harley of (from whom I have adapted these descriptions of needs) couples cite the 10 emotional needs listed below as most important to them. These are what they want out of their primary love relationship. For fun, rank order these with #1 (most important to you) to #10 (least important to you), and compare notes with your lover. You might each learn a thing or two.

_____ AFFECTION  (you have a consistent and willing place in your partner’s arms and heart for touch, hugs and snuggles)

_____ SEXUAL FULFILLMENT  (you enjoy making love and find your sexual relationship is allowed both full expression and evolution).

_____ RECREATIONAL COMPANIONSHIP (you enjoy spending most of your free time together and find that certain activities are enhanced by sharing them with your partner.)

_____ INTIMATE CONVERSATION (your partner is your go-to person for what is on your mind. You find it easy to open up to your partner because he or she listens and understands you in a way that feels satisfying and unique.)

_____ HONESTY AND OPENNESS (you trust one another to share what is important and not to withhold secrets that might be hurtful.)

_____ PHYSICAL ATTRACTIVENESS (you are proud to be with your partner, you like showing him or her off to your friends, you are happy to have “caught” such a person!)

_____ DOMESTIC SUPPORT (you and your partner have figured out how to run a home together. You know what your areas of strength and weakness are and you both manage to navigate these successfully so your home space meets both your needs.)

_____ FINANCIAL SUPPORT (you and your partner can discuss how the income you need is brought in. You can agree as to how each of you contributes, how much, how often and what to do when you need to renegotiate these needs.)

_____ FAMILY COMMITMENT (you and your partner have a similar appetite for sharing your lives with extended family. You can manage your in-laws with consideration and compassion and can put your marriage ahead of pressure from outside.)

_____ ADMIRATION (your partner is proud of who you are, what you accomplish, how you accomplish things and tells you this quite often).

It’s pretty common to find we try to fulfill the needs we want for our partner – assuming they want the same thing. So, if you’ve not been connecting as well with your sweetie lately – compare notes.  If your #1 is Intimate Conversation and your partner’s #1 is Recreational Companionship, it might explain why the fishing trips are so fraught. You want to use this time away for some D & M’s (deep and meaningfuls) whilst your partner just hopes you’ll both pursue fish.

Watch this space for EMOTIONS  101 – a five-part series, starting on 4 March 2013, on how to recognize, talk about, express and use your emotions effectively.

Use Feelings to Identify Needs.

If you’ve ever been curious about the connection between FEELINGS and NEEDS, try this.


Jot down what you’re feeling this moment. Reference anything – relationships, work, fitness, future plans. Whatever is alive for you right now – take a feelings inventory.

Need some prompts?  Here are 16 common emotions, sorted as Negative and Positive.


  • Angry
  • Anxious
  • Afraid
  • Ashamed
  • Disconnected
  • Disgusted
  • Drained
  • Sad


  • Confident
  • Connected
  • Engaged
  • Excited
  • Grateful
  • Peaceful
  • Happy
  • Surprized

OK – make your list.

Bet you noted more than one feeling! Here’s my list, right now:

  • Frustrated
  • Anxious
  • Jealous
  • Excited
  • Hopeful
  • Sad
  • Intrigued

“So what?”

Here’s the magic.

With Questions 2 and 3 I’ll show you how to use your feelings/emotions to help identify what you need in this moment, even though your conscious mind might be clueless.


Of the feelings you just identified, there’ll be some you’ll want to keep feeling. For me that’s excited, hopeful, intrigued and sad. I don’t mind sad. It motivates me to keep trying to make the world a better place. It’s an old friend.

The other feelings you possibly want to transform or not feel. For me that’s frustrated, anxious & jealous.

Take any one of the feelings you want to transform and ask ~

“What feeling would I prefer to have?”

Take my feeling of “frustrated” as an example.

Q ~ In the face of feeling frustrated, what feeling(s) would I prefer to have?

A ~ Flow, inspiration, audacity, faith, confidence

Nearly done – stay with me here. Soon you’ll be able to connect your feelings and needs in a flash, but I want to slow it down to show you how.

Now we’re ready for ~

Ask ~

“Now that I know I’m feeling ____________, and I’ve identified I’d rather be feeling ______________ , what do I need to get me there?”

For me this looks like ~

Now that I know I’m feeling frustrated, and I’ve identified I’d rather be feeling flow, inspiration, audacity, faith & confidence, what do I need to get me there?

Here’s my free-association response ~

I need to live audaciously. I need to do one thing out of my comfort zone each day. I need to take big, fat risks and stop hiding behind needing things to be perfect. I need to be OK with failure. I need to leave frustration because it is keeping me safely stuck!

Huh! My conscious mind did not know this. I was thinking caution, more research, more time, less risk. But apparently my emotional body has a whole other plan!  I’ve moved from feeling vaguely upset and stuck in a project, to a forward momentum action plan. My feelings pointed me toward what I need. OK – now I’m intrigued to see what happens when I work with anxiety and jealousy!

Might this work for you?

Help Your Kid Show Anger

Part 2 of 2 ~ Letter to a client about what to do when her child shouts “I hate you!”

from my A Client Writes* series

(Continued from Part 1 of 2, posted on 25 February, 2013)

Let’s continue the math teacher example to start with.
A thoughtful teacher would stay focused on helping Suzy learn something. She’d also not tell herself unhelpful stories about Suzy being too stubborn, stupid, or lazy to learn.  She might have noticed that Suzy had the numbers right, but backwards, and say:

“Suzy, you think the answer is eighty-four. Can you come put those numbers up on the board for us?”
Suzy goes to the board and writes (correctly) 48, whilst saying “eighty-four”.
“Ah! You’ve got the maths right yes, the answer is forty-eight, but in your mind you see the eight coming before the four don’t you? So you shouted out eighty-four! Let’s you and me chat later about how to get the numbers in the right order in your head – that can be tough!”

Whole different ball game, right?

No self-defending, shaming, giving up on, or belittling her. Suzy is probably excited to know she has the basic maths right, even though she sees she has some work to do in not muddling the numbers up.

To the extent we parents can come at these issues calmly, like a good teacher, we can help our children become excited about, and competent in, their emotional intelligence.

Meanwhile, back at home, if you can see Alice’s “mistakes” as attempts to tell you about her emotions, you can respond like the thoughtful teacher. Here’s how this might look.
“Oh Alice, you have strong feelings about this! Do you feel ~ [guess what she might be feeling here]

  • irritated that I’m asking you to clear up now?
  • maybe frustrated, since you’re nearly done?
  • even resentful that grown-ups can stay up as long as they like on their projects?
  • and maybe a bit sad, because it’s not going quite the way you’d hoped and you’re not sure how you’ll fix it tomorrow?”

If you’ve got the feelings wrong she will correct you, or you can ask her ~ “Where am I right and where am I wrong? Help me understand what you are feeling.”

Let her know that when she says something like “I hate you!” she may well be mad at you, but you wonder if there is more. And because you care, you want to help her figure this out. Let her know most people don’t like to be told someone hates them but there is a way she can talk about her feelings that will help her gets her needs met in a way that makes friends, rather than in a way that makes enemies.

Maybe what Alice needs now, as she stops her project prematurely, is to make sure she sets aside some more time tomorrow to finish it up and maybe she needs better glue since things keep falling off (or whatever – you get the idea, right!).

Let me know how this goes and what you notice.



Tomorrow: How to use Feelings to point toward Needs.

* My clients get much more than the typical “50 minute hour.” I’m on their team. I often write between sessions, and encourage regular texts and emails. In these intermittent “A Client Writes” postings, I share some tools and tips I’ve been asked about (after removing any identifying details of course). If you want some of this – let’s chat!