May 14, 2024 by Dymphna

T-Bomb: Why some of us never really grow up

Truth Bomb Tuesday: It’s the first, and hardest, discipline of growing up

In many ways, growing up is about becoming responsible for you needs.

Think about it. At the extreme, in our infant years, we are completely dependent on others.

Not only do we need other to see that our needs are met, we need them to be able to anticipate our needs – we need them to be able to identify and articulate our needs before we are even conscious of… actually, before we’re really conscious at all.

We need people to articulate our needs. We need people to meet our needs.

And there’s nothing wrong with that. This isn’t another post slagging off the work-ethic of babies. I’m not kicking that hornet’s nest again. (You can’t say anything these days.)

But it’s right place in our early years that we have that level of dependency.

From there, the journey into maturity begins when we start to take responsibility for articulating and meeting our needs.

We become vocal little turds – sorry, darlings – in toddlerdom, but we still don’t have the ability to ensure our needs are met. (Get a job!)

But we continue to grow up. And ideally, in the end, we can articulate what we need, and create strategies for ensuring that those needs are met.

That’s the ideal.

But, one thing I’ve noticed is that a lot of people don’t reach this ideal. For some reason the process becomes arrested, and people aren’t able to take full responsibility for their needs.

And where does it fall down?

Well, notice that I drew a distinction between the articulation of needs and the strategies we employ to meet our needs.

The way I see, it’s almost never a problem with strategy. We are naturally strategic animals. We’re generally good at manipulating our environment and getting what we think we want.

So strategy is not the problem.

Articulation in the problem.

For whatever reason, a lot of us don’t learn the skills required to articulate what we need.

There’s a couple (at least) of reasons for that.

First, our needs can be a bit complex. We are complex creatures. Our need for food and water is straight forward – but the need to be self-actualised in a meaningful way in a role where I feel I am making a difference? That’s complex.

It can take a long time (and a lot of trial and error) before you can fully and clearly articulate what your higher-order needs actually are.

That’s the first reason.

But the second reason is that many of us don’t even get that far. We don’t even make those first clumsy tumbles into articulation because we just don’t expect that our needs ever could be met.

Maybe we grew up with an emotional parent who took up all of the oxygen. Maybe we were constantly beaten with the stick of “just be grateful for what you’ve got.”

Maybe we never developed a robust sense of self-worth, and without that sense of self-worth, we just didn’t believe that we deserved to have our needs met.

Whatever it is, it tells us not to try. “Don’t even bother naming your needs, they’re not going to be met anyway.”

And that means that we never submit ourselves to the training. It’s a skill. We all have to learn how to name our needs. All of us.

And we’re not going to be able to do it on first go. It takes practice. Lots of practice.

But most of us just don’t even make a start.

Which means we are never able to name our needs.

And if we can’t even name our needs, then all the strategy in the world is not going to help us.

So learn how to name your needs. This is the discipline that growing up demands.