‘I Need You’

“I need you like the flower needs the rain
You know I need you, guess I’ll start it all again
You know I need you like the winter needs the spring
You know I need you, I need you”

(America, 1972)

As a teen, what I most wanted to tell the girls who entranced me was “I need you.” I’m not sure if I ever said this to anyone, but it would rise up inside of me whenever I’d see the one who made my problems disappear.

I’m sure my neediness poured out of me, even without words, and was obvious to anyone with discernment. I moved to California in May of 1977 and began sixth grade in the fall and quickly people began calling me “insecure.” That was not a term thrown around much in my home country of Australia.

Listening to this song today, I remember my old yearning for someone to complete me. My favorite songs in the 1980s were love-sick anthems by groups such as Air Supply and ABBA.

I was often been told to think of others. That never did me much good. Until I could rewire my thinking, I was stuck for decades in a desperate search for attention. I was like a wounded soldier who could not care for others until he could get his own bleeding staunched.

To tell me as a teen that I should not have felt this way would not have done me any good. People don’t usually heal from being reprimanded and ridiculed. Happy people naturally think of others while unhappy people can’t sustain this for long.

Looking back at age 54, I’d like to tell my teenage self that this yearning was OK, that it would pass, that I should embrace and accept it, that these feelings were a microdot encompassing my love map, that it was a prompt to accept how desperately I needed a fix, and that nobody, in all likelihood, could provide one for long. Not many people come along who can give you an emotionally corrective experience. All they can do is distract you, or perhaps carry you for a bit.  

Feeling lonely in a group of people is a lousy feeling. Company can’t fix loneliness. Loneliness is a learned compulsion that can be unlearned.

When I would reach out to people from a lonely needy place, it did not usually go well. The type of people who would respond to my desperation were often equally sick.

I didn’t know then that nobody could fix me. Sure, people would enter my life and include me and the pain would go away for a while, but my tendencies to loneliness were still written into my mental patterns and that until I did the hard work of rewiring my reactions to stimuli, this yearning would continually pop up, often at the most inconvenient of times. 

My dad would tell me that there was no rider that can’t be thrown and no horse that can’t be rode. There’s porn out there that can trigger a hands-free ejaculation. Every untreated addict is vulnerable to situations and substances. Even the addict in recovery is going to stumble at times. With 12 Steps, I find it easier to desist from beating myself up after I’ve slipped, and instead get up and carry on. Sure, some song might come along and trigger a memory, and then all I can do is marvel at how far I’ve come from, and feel gratitude that I made it out of my desperation alive.

Joe says:

I did quite a bit of work on myself starting in my twenties. What were most valuable to me were the books Psychocybernetics by Matthew Maltz, Hypnosis by Leslie Lecron and A guide to rational living by Harper and Ellis. All of these books suggest that our neuroses can be addressed through relaxation, visualization and reprogramming, (Maltz) self hypnosis (Lecron) and through semantics by reframing our perceptions and the way we describe events to ourselves, and by not falsely attributing our perceptions to others intentions. I also started therapy which I went to weekly for four or five years. For those who haven’t been to therapy, the process for me went something like the therapist uncritically accepting and agreeing with everything I said, much of which included attribution of motives to others and my fear of how I was being perceived. Finally after months of uncritically listening and accepting what I said, the therapist at the margins was able to suggest alternative ways of looking at things. This was never a head on: You’re wrong, but always a subtle jab at a minor point: Could they have meant that in another way?

After months of this then the real work starts with dismantling the egoistic view of the world. Finally, I began studying Tibetan Buddhism. I did not particularly want to study or practice Buddhism, but I was fascinated by Tibet and how long it had retained its isolation from the rest of the world. The practice of Buddhism and everyday life in Tibet were so intertwined that I could only gain some understanding of it through studying and practicing Buddhism. For anyone who has not studied Buddhism the main emphasis is on learning to meditate. Meditation contrary to what I believed is in fact a way of retaining focus, by having the mind rest on breathing in and out, but being aware of what stimulus the senses are receiving, with the specific practice of if those stimulus distract one from resting on the breath returning to the breath.

This gets to your point about “I need you.” It is very common to think that we are incomplete and a “relationship” will complete you. This can be true if the two persons in the relationship love each other. However, if one party looks to the other to complete him or her and the other does not, then this unrequited love is nothing more than a neurotic projection. If the love is mutual, then there is a level of understanding that undermines the ego. For instance, in a loving relationship, I don’t think it is possible for one party to keep score of anything. Too many persons feel that they are putting too much into the relationship and resent their partner or spouse. In fact if there is communication and something needs to be done, it is done and even if it appears as though it is done for the other person, in fact it is willingly done for the benefit to the relationship.

A corollary to this is that If a person doesn’t like being alone, then what is the reason that person should inflict himself or herself on another. The first order of business for those who want a relationship is to as the Buddhists say, make friends with yourself. Or as therapists say, to accept yourself. Only after you are comfortable with yourself, can you both be comfortable with and make comfortable another.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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