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Why Our Needs Feel Shameful

Updated: Jul 2

In Monday's post, I shared the possible negative core beliefs we might have around our emotions and our emotional needs. You can read it here. Today I'd like to talk about how those deep, internalized beliefs are formed - how we come to feel ashamed of our emotions and our emotional needs.


We all have emotional needs from the moment we are born. Here are some of the emotional needs we all have:

  • Security: basic survival needs including food, shelter, clothing, medical care, and protection from harm.

  • Stability & Consistency: in the family and community; knowing someone will be there for us.

  • Structure: healthy boundaries and limits; protection balanced with freedom.

  • Emotional Support & Love: emotional coaching, trust-building, compassionate care and containers; spaces to express ourselves freely.

  • Education & Positive Role Models: places to learn and fail, people to look up to, empathy, models for healthy relationships.

  • What would you add?


These core needs are not inherently shameful, so what happens that leads us to associate these needs with shame and disconnection?


In Healing Developmental Trauma by Laurence Heller, PhD & Aline LaPierre PsyD, they state that:

"When basic needs are not met and the protest to get those needs met is unsuccessful, children come to feel that something is wrong with their needs; they cannot know that it is their environment that is not responding adequately."


We know that children are egocentric. This doesn't mean children are selfish. What it means is that children developmentally tend to see themselves at the center of what is happening around them, taking responsibility for what does and does not occur. This means when parents, family members, or caregivers fail to meet their core emotional needs, children will take responsibility for that failure. This means when a child protests, or uses their healthy anger to speak up for what they need or what they are missing, and an adult responds with shame, punishment, criticism, or abandonment, they will internalize that their anger is bad and there is something wrong with them for needing "so much". This all happens gradually and unconsciously. Because these experiences are woven into our development, it can feel like this is who we are and it has always been this way.


Let's come back to Healing Developmental Trauma for some more insight:

"Therefore, they internalize caregiver failures, experiencing them as their own personal failures. Reacting to their caregivers’ failure to meet their needs, children come to feel various degrees of anger, shame, guilt, and physiological collapse. Tragically, to the degree that there is chronic lack of attunement to their core needs, children do not learn to attune to the needs within themselves. When basic needs are consistently left unsatisfied, the need-satisfaction cycle is interrupted, and nervous system dysregulation and identity distortions are set in motion that often have a lifelong negative impact."



A graphic of concentric circles with the layers of why our needs become shameful. At the center is deep and unmet needs and rejection of our healthy protest. The next layer is caregiver failure, then internalized responsibility, then shame-based identity.


The identity distortions we may experience around emotional needs include those negative emotional beliefs: that we are burdensome for having needs and emotions, that emotions lead to disconnect and pain, that there is something wrong with us for needing support and help, that our needs and emotions drive people away.


Without an understanding of the deeper layers, we may live inside our shame-based identity and personal rejection of our own needs believing that is who we truly are, when in fact it is not.


Reflection Questions:

  1. Which of the core needs feels deep and unmet?

  2. What part of you feels ashamed for having needs? How old is that part?

  3. In what ways might shame be holding back grief and loss?


Join me on the app! So you don't miss a post! Survivor Wise App


Resources That Could Be Helpful:

  1. Curious about caring for personal needs? I'd suggest Why Is Self Love So Hard? - a guide that teaches about core needs about how we begin to meet them in a slow and gradual way. You learn about the self-love skills map and how we work with self-rejection. ($4)

  2. Breaking Free From The Cycle Of Stuck - this workbook helps you understand the impacts of trauma and how they contributed to the helplessness and shame. It offers recovery tools and modalities that address the underlying issues to help you move forward. ($12)

  3. Befriending Your Body Somatic Self Care Video Guide - In this guide, we use 16 somatic practices to begin developing a gentle relationship with our bodies and emotions. We work with our protective defenses including the inner critic. (Payment Plans Available)





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4 Comments


Thank u for this

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Sara Aird
Sara Aird
Jun 25
Replying to

You’re welcome 💛💛💛

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Oof that reflection question 3 tho.

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Sara Aird
Sara Aird
Jun 19
Replying to

Right?!? Peek under shame, and there’s often A LOT under it. 💛💛💛

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