We Have Two Vital Emotional/Relational Needs

Photography:Opal Imagery

By Lelia Schott

In our very first moments on earth, we seek connection. We spend our entire lives seeking or avoiding it depending on whether it feels safe or threatening. 

An important prerequisite for an emotionally healthy home is how safe each family member feels to rest in relationship with one another and grow into their most resourceful self.

Our first and most intimate relationships create a blueprint. We are hardwired for connection so we will keep longing for it. We need to be connected to ourselves, trusted others, nature, and creativity.

Our first and most intimate relationships create a blueprint. We are hardwired for connection so we will keep longing for it. 

Without connection, without fulfilling attachment and true authenticity, we seek unhealthy substitutes and coping mechanisms. Without a connection to ourselves (authenticity) and others (attachment), we cannot thrive.

Dr. Gabor Mate describes ‘attachment’ as “invited to exist” and ‘authenticity’ as “invited to be ourselves”. 

Attachment is to be us and authenticity is to be you.” 

He goes on to explain that when people are faced with the choice of either attachment or authenticity in their relationships, most will go for attachment first, seeking approval and recognition from others instead of learning how to give it to themselves.

We ALL benefit from understanding needs, emotions, feelings, behaviour and how they impact us and one another and the world around us. 

A young child’s greatest need is to feel attached to and accepted by their parent or primary care-giver (Attachment). A close second emotional need is to experience self-acceptance (Authenticity).

To explain what happens when children are forced to choose between two vital emotional and relational needs, attachment and authenticity, I like to use the terms coined by Bonnie Harris: “harmony kids” versus “integrity kids”.

A young child’s greatest need is to feel attached to and accepted by their parent or primary care-giver (Attachment). A close second emotional need is to experience self-acceptance (Authenticity).

If forced to choose, harmony kids will push down their feelings and needs to stay in attachment, whereas an integrity child cannot betray their authenticity for the sake of attachment.

“The more compliant children care more about social interaction, getting along, and everyone being happy. They are more sensitive to conflict and more likely to take another’s point of view. Harmony is their top value while personal integrity is tops for stand-their-ground kids.” – Bonnie Harris.

The Harmony kids are easy, although we need to help them feel A young child’s greatest need is to feel attached to and accepted by their parent or primary care-giver (Attachment). A close second emotional need is to experience self-acceptance (Authenticity).setting boundaries and speaking up for themselves. 

Integrity kids are the ones who are often labelled as “problem children” because we can easily push them further away with our resistance to their resistance. 

Bonnie says, “They will win every time, except the win is lost for them when they feel unaccepted and misunderstood by the most important people in their lives”.  

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