Discovering your deeper need is an exercise designed to help you recognize how and why your feelings arise, what those feelings entail and how they are pointing you into the direction of your deeper need. Discovering your deeper need is a precursor to voicing what it is that you need in a way that’s clear and concise. Discovering your deeper need is a journaling exercise for anyone who has trouble identifying what their needs are in a relationship. Your deeper need is the need that’s intimately connected to your feelings. Perhaps there’s been conflict in your relationship and you haven’t been able to resolve it due to a misunderstanding around what you’re asking for. Maybe escalation has increased because one or both parties doesn’t feel heard or understood. Maybe you’re trying to explain your needs to your partner, only to feel frustrated when they aren’t able to understand you.

Being understood by others is valuable, but understanding yourself is a priceless step in this process. It can feel disorienting when you’re not able to identify what it is that you need from yourself and from others.

An Example

You feel insecure in your relationship. You have fears that your partner will leave you. Instead of realizing this fear, you experience a dull ache in your stomach, or a desire to be with your partner all the time. The insecurity isn’t being addressed head on with your partner, and you’re not able to ask for anything specific that could help you feel more secure in your relationship. Your partner is frustrated and upset because you aren’t giving them space, not knowing that you are experiencing a fear that could be rectified if understood and communicated. Perhaps you need your partner to spend less time on the internet, or you wish your partner would provide a little more emotional reassurance through more loving language or reminding you of their care. But instead of identifying what you need to heal, you get angry at yourself and your partner, and the gap between you grows wider, creating more anxiety and fear in you, and the cycle continues.

You may not recognize your insecure feelings, let alone be able to identify a need that will help heal your insecurities. This is why the journaling exercise can be such an asset. You can take time with yourself to go through this exercise without having to immediately share anything with your partner. Discovering your deeper needs is self-care, it’s sending the message to yourself that your feelings matter, and that you are willing to take the time to offer yourself care inwardly, as a way to identify more clearly what kind of love and care you want from the outside in.

Discovering Your Deeper Need: A Journaling Exercise

Take your time answering the questions. it’s okay if the answers don’t come easy for you, they aren’t simple questions. It’s perfectly fine to set your journal down, take a break and return to the exercise if you get stuck. This journal exercise is for your exploration. Discovering your deeper need is a self-reflective exercise.

1. When you___________________________________________________.

2. I felt: (Pick up to 10 feelings) _____________________________________________________________________

If you need some help in naming your feelings, google image search, "Feeling Wheel". Feeling Wheels are valuable because they help you to pin-point how you’re feeling in a particular moment.

3. Pick your top 3 feelings (Narrow down your list from 10 to 3 ) _____________________________________________________________.

4. I imagined that _________________________________________________________________.

5. What it reminds me of is_____________________________________________.

6. My deeper need is__________________________________________________.

Examples with Explanations and Suggestions

1. When you: Told me that your ex-partner was beautiful and had a great body.

Keep this answer short and concise. Focus in on what your partner did, or didn’t do in a way that’s clear and factual. If you answer this question with too much depth or length, it will confuse you when you try and narrow down how you felt in a particular moment. You can do this exercise as many times as you need to, so you don’t have to try and fit in multiple moments at once. Remember this exercise is for your exploration.

2. I felt: insecure, anxious, annoyed, overwhelmed and distracted. (Pick up to 10 feelings).

The feeling wheel is a great tool for anyone who wants to learn how to recognize and name their feelings. Sometimes our feelings are hard to describe, but seeing the many options the feeling wheel provides can help us narrow them down. Remember that your feelings are always valid, so don’t hold back. This exercise is for you. It’s really hard to identify your feelings if you’re not used to doing so, but it gets easier with practice. The feeling wheel includes complex, yet common emotional experiences amongst human beings. You’re not alone in your feelings.

3. Pick your top 3 feelings: annoyed, insecure and distracted. (Narrow down your list from 10 to 3)

Narrow down for top 3 feelings. You can still acknowledge that you feel more than 3 feelings, but it helps to narrow down to 3 feelings that are the most prominent for you. The more you can narrow down your feelings, the higher likelihood that you can pin-point a need that’s connected to them. When you look at your longer list of feelings, what is inarguable? What is the most charged? What do you feel the most? When you look at the top 3 feelings, do you sense them in your body, as well as your mind? Example: anxiety can send strong signals through the chest and belly. You may feel heat in the body where anger is present. Remember feelings are not right or wrong, they are just information.

4. I imagined that: You don’t think I’m as good-looking as your ex. Maybe you want to go back with your ex. You will leave me for your ex. I’m not enough for you.

Reflect on your answer to question #1. What are you afraid of? What thoughts are coming up? Are you imagining a worst case scenario? In this case, you talked about an ex and I’m imagining that you want to get back together with her. I’m wondering if you think your ex is a better match for you than I am. And I’m feeling insecure as a result.

5. What it reminds me of is: My ex-partner who cheated on me. He really hurt my feelings. I remember how hard that was. I remember feeling that I wasn’t good enough. I remember comparing myself to the person he cheated on me with. I remember thinking they were better looking than me. When you talk about your ex, I think about my past, too, but my past hurts!

What does this current situation remind you of? In this case, I’m thinking about all the times I’ve been hurt before, specifically a time I was cheated on. I was remembering the hurt that caused me. I don’t want that to happen again; it was disappointing and sad.

6. My deeper need is: To feel loved, to feel special, to feel valuable, to feel like I’m enough for you, to be reminded that you’re there for me when I’m feeling insecure, to feel respected by you.

In order to get relief from the past and into the present and the future, what do you need? What did you miss out on in previous relationships? The deeper need is one that will address your feelings in a longer term, sustainable way. If there’s insecurity, rather than wanting your partner to spend every minute alongside you, which isn’t a long-term solution, you can address the need to feel loved, to feel special and to feel like you are enough. Identifying your deeper needs will help both you and your partner to feel more successful in the relationship. Even if you never share this exercise with your partner, it will still help you immensely to recognize what it is that you need. Rather than your feelings remaining a mystery, this exercise can help you to increase self-awareness and help you to see yourself with more clarity. Exploring your deeper needs is self-compassionate because it shows your inner-world that it’s cared for.

7. I have a request: Could you ask me if I’m open to hearing about your ex before bringing them up in conversation? Could you say, “You are enough for me.”? Can we take some time to celebrate the uniqueness of our partnership by sharing some things that we think are special about our relationship? It would mean a lot to me to know that I’m special to you.

What would you need to help relieve some of your negative feelings? Also, think about what would help you find relief from your question #5 responses. Perhaps if you had a long history of being hurt and feeling insecure in relationships, you need to experience something different in your current partnership. Maybe the need goes beyond “stop talking about your ex-partner” and centers around “I need to feel like I’m valuable in this relationship.” Although this is a self-reflective exercise, it helps to identify what the request would be if you were to voice it to your partner. This helps the situation feel more personalized and helps you to focus on what it would look like to bring that deeper need into action.

Parting Words

You can do this journaling exercise on a continual basis; it’s helpful to use this if you’re having a hard time articulating your feelings and understanding your needs. There is a path to more conscious communication, and it starts with identifying what you’re feeling and what you need. It’s helpful to use this if you notice a desire for your partner to “just know what you’re thinking,” or you notice that it’s hard for you to express yourself clearly during conflict. What we feel hurt about in the present often has a thread that connects to past pain, as well. You can use this journal exercise to get clear in yourself, and you have the option to share the results with your partner. However, don’t rush to share. It may be helpful to do this exercise a couple times to get the hang of it, and to make sure you’re being authentic with yourself and not for the sake of sharing this with your partner. Discovering our deeper needs is a deeply personal process, be patient and practice in earnest.

Find a psychotherapist near me to help you discover your deeper needs: Call 215 - 922-LOVE at The Center For Growth.