To a great extent, our identity is formed in relationship. Our psychological Self develops and is sustained by the many experiences we have with others. Children grow up identifying with those around them, taking on specific characteristics and behaviors. However, it is through our relationships with others that our sense of Self and our sense of Other develops. Our Self identity is greatly impacted by how our needs are related to both in our early life and in our adult relationships.
Development and Impact
As infants we have many relational needs, starting with the biological need for warmth, nourishment, protection and contact. Other relational needs that sustain the development of our sense of self are sometimes less obvious. In particular, having our feelings and needs understood and reflected back to us through appropriate responses gives coherence to our sense of self.
It is through having our relational needs met that we learn to relate to others and form our Self identity. Our identities are to a large degree, formed by the experience of having our needs related to, or not. These experiences accumulate and become a part of our psychological structure.
If we feel we are loved and nourished, we internalize this into our experience of Self. We internalize not only the feeling of being loved and nourished, but the capacity for loving and for nourishing others. These internalized experiences form emotional templates that will impact all of our relationships. The absence of having our needs met is likewise internalized and impacts our relationships.
Current Relational Needs
Because our relational selves continue to grow throughout our lifetime, we continue to need others to supply us with responses that meet our relational needs. Being aware of these needs is important because as adults, we have to learn to manage our own needs.
As adults we find others that can meet some of our needs and we learn ways to handle our needs when they are not met. Becoming more aware of these less obvious relational needs makes it easier to understand ourselves and some of our complicated emotional reactions.
A List of Relational Needs
These are some relational needs that are met/or not met in relationship.
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