We talk about it constantly. We yearn for it. We try to fill the void with other things to make dealing with it easier. It is a hunger.
What are you hungry for?
Rachel W. Cole posted a great article about labeling yourself as “needy” when you should be recognizing that same urge as “hunger.” We don’t deny ourselves the opportunity to satisfy a hunger or thirst, so why do we deny ourselves the opportunity to fill up our other emotional cups? We are afraid of being needy, of going overboard, of taking too much. “Yes, it feels like we’ll never get enough. Just like, when we are starving for food, at first, we think we really could eat the whole kitchen. Not so in either case,” says Cole, and she’s got a great point.
We are often hungry for love, companionship, friendship, touch, and being heard, as the article points out. There are a few additional “hungers” we mislabel as neediness, that we not only need to satisfy within ourselves, but need to recognize in others:
The need for attention.
The need for recognition
The need for acceptance.
The need to belong.
Don’t empty out your pantry without feeding yourself first. It is OK to focus on filling up your plate with precisely what you need. You are not being needy or selfish.
When we see unflattering “attention seeking” behavior in others, let’s offer them a “meal” instead of criticism.
Too many times, I turn to actual food when I am hungry for something else on my list. I have even forced myself on a bowl of ice cream, well after the point of fullness, just to quell some rising need. How do we know what it is we really need? Maybe the list will help. Once we know what it is we really want, we can look for it in the proper place. You don’t go grocery shopping at an office supply store! Why would we look for belonging with crazy behavior? Or at the end of a tray of Oreos?
Cole recommends the following to treat our emotional hunger:
- Begin by renaming this ‘neediness’ with a more accurate term: hunger.
- Ask for what you want.
- Honor this hunger and feed it.
- Receive the “cravings” with kindness, instead of shame.
Wow! Thinking about the way we deal with emotional hunger in the same terms as physical hunger has put a spin on “emptiness” that I have never thought of before. The shame we feel when we want to be desired, seen, or connected can be as overwhelming as the shame we feel when we want seconds. Food shame, emotional shame, hunger, starvation, emptiness. There are connections here.