One of the difficult challenges for children, which could be a source of mental illness later in life, is when they do not get their basic needs met. A child needs shelter, food, safety, medical care, nutrition, affection, and love in order to develop in a healthy way both physically and psychologically. A child needs to be able to trust that those basic needs will be met. If those needs are not met, a child might suffer from that disadvantage as well as from an impaired child-parent relationship. And both of these factors can contribute to depression, anxiety, addiction, bipolar disorder, and other forms of mental illness later in life.
Often, if a child gets used to not having his or her basic needs met, he or she may learn to live with very little later in life. That person may develop the pattern of denying his or her own needs. And this can contribute to homelessness, poverty, and disease. It’s very common to see those who are struggling with an addiction to be living without their basic needs met.
For this reason, part of recovery is learning how to take care of yourself. This is a hard task sometimes because often a recovering addict carries an underlying belief that he or she is not worthy of having their needs met. Feeling this way is part of what contributes to an addiction in the first place. Addiction is a worsening cycle of self-harm. Turning that destructive cycle around into self-care, self-love, and self-compassion is an essential part of healing.
Furthermore, one of the most important lessons to learn in recovery is that there are various levels to our needs. In fact, you might remember the psychologist Abraham Maslow who wrote about the hierarchy of our needs. He explained that you need to get your most basic needs met first before you can go on to meeting other emotional, psychological, and even spiritual needs. For example, you need to be sure you have eaten before you can begin to process the sadness you feel about your past. Certainly, addiction treatment will include much attention to healing emotional and psychological needs. However, your safety, physical well being, nourishment and shelter need to be addressed first. Of course, if you are residing at a residential treatment center, you will be fed. You will have a safe place to rest your head every night, and you will have all of your basic needs met.
However, if you’re not participating in such treatment, it’s important to remember this for yourself. You’ll need to make sure that your basic needs are met. If you are homeless and you’re sober, it will likely be difficult to maintain your sobriety. If you are without enough money to eat or pay your bills, it will like be difficult to tend to your emotional or psychological needs of love and acceptance. Those basic needs have to be met first.
Knowing this can give you direction on where to begin, if you need help in recovery. In fact, you may need to pick up a phone book (if you don’t have online access) to search for the organizations in your community that can assist you with meeting your basic needs. Once these are taken care of, then you’ll have more mental freedom to give your attention to meeting your emotional and psychological needs. Up until then, however, your attention is going to be consumed by meeting your needs for survival.
It’s important to know that even if you have all your basic needs met in recovery, you may need to return to that from time to time, even with years of sobriety. For instance, you may need to give yourself a long, hot bath to relax in – a way to feel safe and secure. You may need to have a good, nourishing meal – a way to tend to your need for nourishment.
Meeting your basic needs is essential for lasting recovery and change.
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