Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Needy or what?

When does needy become over-needy? When does wanting emotional support become demanding and dependent?

It's easy to start relying on other people a bit too much, especially if sympathy comes naturally to them and they're reluctant to push people away when they're looking for help.

It's easy to think it's impossible to get through something on your own, that you just don't have the resources, and tempting to simply act helpless and wait for someone to give you a leg-up.

I hope I'm not over-needy myself. I do try to get through personal crises on my own without leaning too much on other people. I'm not one to rush for a shoulder to cry on or a soothing voice to tell me everything's going to be okay.

If anything, I'm probably not needy enough. I was brought up with the attitude that boys don't act fragile and vulnerable, they tough it out and fake gritty resilience even if they're secretly a barely functioning emotional wreck.

The fact is that we can't always deal with things on our own and even the strongest person may need a helping hand when everything's going pear-shaped.

But we probably all know someone who homes in on sympathy and wants more and more attention and support, until the friendly ear turns into growing impatience and wary avoidance.

Luckily I have a long-standing partner who by now is very attuned to my emotional state and knows when I need an "agony aunt" and when I need to work through something on my own. If she thinks I'm being over-needy, she won't hesitate to tell me. I'm not allowed to play the snivelling bag of nerves for too long.

Which is all to the good. I'd hate to be thought of as an emotional leech.


Bijoux said...

I often wonder if the technological world we live in has caused a rise in neediness, especially among young people. I'm shocked at the number of people I know who are in constant contact with their adult (college age and beyond) children. That would drive me crazy. You should be able to get through an evening out without an adult child calling you to ask a question.

As far as peers, I have only known a few needy people, and they can be quite draining.

Nick said...

Bijoux: Adult children being in constant contact must be very annoying unless you have a really close relationship with them. Luckily I have no adult children so the only people who keep in constant contact are cold callers - who are equally annoying!

Grannymar said...

Needy? Whats that? LOL!

Having lived alone for seventeen years now with no family or relations within at least 100 miles, I have learned not to be needy. Mind you it has drawbacks, when I am really unwell, people do not quite understand that I can be fragile and need help. Hell, I am still alive and coping!

Nick said...

Grannymar: You seem to be very good at coping on your own with the minimum of help. But you're right that a lot of people don't understand how fragile someone might be feeling and tend to trivialise their difficulties.

Jay, Sparking Synapse said...

I've met emotional leeches. One thing you can know about them is that they do NOT take kindly to being told they are being too needy, however gently you try to do so. And yes, by their constant complaining and asking for sympathy and help, they drive their friends away, one by one. I've learned to be wary of someone who wants me to be their new best friend because 'I don't know why but everyone lets me down sooner or later - I have no idea why they're so mean to me'. It's a dead give-away.

I won't be nasty to them, but neither will I encourage them to lean on me. Not any more.

CheerfulMonk said...

I used to be a great listener, and sometimes it really helped people for me to be there for them. But there were others that just wanted unending attention. Eventually I learned to tell the difference.

Wisewebwoman said...

There are times when we're all needy and need the emotional support but I've had to firmly but gently push the ever-needy away from me, I find it far too draining listening to the blow-by-blows over and over again.

It's not easy living alone but I've learned to grin and bear much over the years. Alone.


Nick said...

Jay: Yes, that sort of remark is a good sign of potential over-neediness. There has to be a reason why people keep "letting them down". And yes again, they don't like being told they're too demanding. "But I'm just looking for a bit of support here - what's wrong with that?"

Nick said...

Jean: People who want unending attention are just exhausting and unrewarding. For a while you think you're helping them but you gradually realise they're not responding to anything you say, it's simply non-stop venting.

www: As you say, listening to the same disgruntled blow-by-blow accounts over and over. And whatever you say, it never sinks in and you just get another stream of complaints.

Helen Devries said...

We're both a bit stiff upper lip....I'm happy to help someone if I can, but the realisation that nothing you can say or do will help them is dispiriting..

Nick said...

Helen: It's tricky, isn't it? Some people respond to friendly advice, others take no notice and you realise you're just wasting your time. Or they have such a big problem that they need serious professional help.

Rose Blackthorn said...

Emotional independence and resilience are important to me. I realised early on that I can't rely on other people to make it better, because my problems are my responsibility. Also, other people are also fighting their own battles. They have their own shit to deal with and my adding to their burdens isn't fair or kind.

I am lucky in that I have a partner I am able to go up to and thump and go "I'm needy, hold me/tell me I'm pretty/profess undying love to me" and who will do that.

I am also lucky in that I have access to counselling if I get particularly stuck.

As for neediness in other people, I confess to an impatience to listening to someone talking around the same issues again and again and not making peace with either their situation and themselves. An attitude of compassion and non-judgemental listening are two things that are work in progress for me.

Nick said...

Rose: "They have their own shit to deal with and my adding to their burdens isn't fair or kind." Indeed. That's why I aim for emotional independence as well.

I think it's only natural to get impatient with someone who's going round in circles and not making any serious effort to change themself. Compassion rapidly dries up when the person seems incapable of self-reflection.

Rummuser said...

I suppose that I have had a blessed life what with all my needs having been taken care of, and being taken care of and also some on and off wants too. In all honesty however, I must confess that I had nothing to do with reaching this blissful stage. It just happened that I reached there. I am very conscious of that and am ever grateful.

Liz Hinds said...

If someone in Zac's (one of the guests not the leaders) asked me about my life I would fall over with shock. But then the reason most of them are there is because they're needy, and taking is all they can do. Does that sound harsh?

I've been helping to support a young mum who is doing so well a lot of social service support is being withdrawn. You'd think that's good but now she complains that they're not doing their job. People become addicted to being helped I fear.

While others of us would battle on rather than ask for help.

A happy medium, that's what we need. (Like what's her name in that Noel Coward film/play.) (Blithe Spirit.) (Sorry!)

Nick said...

Ramana: I'm glad you feel you've had a blessed life with no unmet needs. That must be very unusual. I have plenty of unmet needs myself!

Liz: No, not harsh at all. You're right that some people are only able to take because of the way they've been brought up and their personal shortcomings. It's tough though if you're on the receiving end.

A happy medium, ha ha!

Jenny Woolf said...

I think I'd find it hard to be a therapist because many clients must be over needy. It is bad for everyone concerned. One of my friends calls it a symbiotic relationship in which both parties are behaving unhealthily.

Nick said...

Jenny: Ooh, I don't think Secret Agent Woman would agree with you on that (her being a therapist)! I think therapy done well can be immensely beneficial to the person under therapy. But there are certainly poorly trained or even untrained therapists who do their clients a lot of damage.

Secret Agent Woman said...

I don't think there is anything wrong with a certain amount of neediness. We ALL need love, affection, support. And an appropriate assertiveness helps you ask for what you want and need while accepting that the answer won't always be yes. A healthy person can generally take care of themselves and also look to others for strength in difficult times. We are, after all, wired to be social creatures. Pack animals, if you will.

As for therapy being unhealthy, it sure shouldn't be. Of course there are poorly trained therapists, as you say, and those who don't have solid boundaries. But I feel that I'm able to absorb others' neediness in that setting without stepping in to fill a void in their life. My job is to help people to learn to negotiate their needs in a healthy way and learn to set limits with others also in a healthy way. Ideally, they eventually take those skills and go it alone, no longer needing a therapist. Everyone I see, I start working toward them not needing to see me anymore.

Nick said...

Agent: Indeed, it's natural to be needy at times of personal crisis, though aiming in general to be self-sufficient. Being over-needy or constantly dependent is another matter.

As you say, we should be able to assert our own needs, but set limits on other people's needs, in a healthy way.