8 Basic Human Emotional Needs

The needs or conditions that need to be fulfilled for an individual to feel fulfilled, happy, or at ease are emotional needs.1 One might feel dissatisfied, hurt, or frustrated when these needs are not fulfilled.

While every human has these needs in common, the strength of each need to be fulfilled differs for different individuals. Individuals who have these emotional needs fulfilled have healthy behaviour following the fulfilment, and similarly, individuals might show unhealthy or socially unacceptable behaviours 2if these needs are not met.

Abraham Maslow, a humanistic psychologist who gave us the hierarchy of needs, states that emotional needs are primary physical needs. In his theory of need hierarchy, he talks about how needs at the lower level should be met, and then only the upper-order needs be fulfilled.

For an individual on his journey toward achieving his fullest potential or becoming self-actualized, their basic needs should be fulfilled first. After one’s physiological needs, that is, food and water, and safety needs, that is, having a shelter and source of employment, one moves towards fulfilling their emotional needs or the need for love and belongingness.

You might have questions like, “What are the basic human emotional needs?” and “How do I meet my emotional needs on my own?” so let’s find the answer.

1. Basic Emotional Needs

These Are Your 9 Basic Emotional Needs. Are They Being Met?

A human being is a social animal. So it does not only have physical needs, but also certain emotional needs that are basic to every human being, and their satiation is important.

The basic emotional needs are:

1.1. Security 

If we always live in alert mode, looking for undue dangers in our surroundings, we can never live peacefully. Hence one of the first emotional needs that need to be met is security. We should have physical as well as emotional security. Physical security means an environment where we know that we are safe and secure and do not have to worry about being physically hurt or damaged.

Emotional security means having a sense of belonging; basically, it means loving and being loved by your loved ones. It means having the assurance that your loved one will not leave you or that your family and friends will stand by you in need.

Having a safe place can help an individual develop to their fullest potential. If you feel that this emotional need is not being met, try to make a list of factors that give you a sense of fear in that particular surrounding, and then think of actions you can take to change or remove those factors.

You must have seen people always stressing about little things, always getting anxious over certain normal factors. This happens to them because they feel vulnerable and they are not feeling safe. Having the emotion of security helps us in calming our minds and helps us be happier and stress-free.

Emotional needs
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1.2. Privacy

Privacy means a person’s personal space and their mind’s information private information that they want to keep to themselves only. Not having the feeling of privacy means feeling exposed.

Privacy can be confused with security. Security is about being safe, whereas privacy is about having space and being private.

Privacy is one of the emotional needs that should be met because it leads to the individual’s well-being. An individual should have enough time and space to themselves so that they can reflect on their experiences and learn something from them.

Individuals who are introverts, highly sensitive to overstimulation, and empaths need a little more privacy than others because they value their time and need it necessarily.

If you feel that you have no privacy on any day, you can meditate, try journaling or have some self-care or self-pampering time, and in this time, you can enjoy yourself and use the time to reflect upon your day.

To have me-time or private time you can take long baths or walk alone. You can sit at a park or on the terrace of your house in a bloomy environment. This will give you time to think for yourself, about your life and your matters.

1.3. Attention

One of the most prominent emotional needs is this attention. People always want to be acknowledged by other people.

People always want to have other people’s attention. People are always seeking adoration and consolation from other people. But this attention can be called materialistic attention needs.

The real attention needed is the attention from the people we care about, from people we look up to, and from people who are closest to us.

Attention is yet again one of those basic emotional needs for survival. Giving attention to our near and dear ones and receiving the same from them makes one feel valued and cared for.

It is important to give attention to others, and an individual must give enough attention to self-actualization because one can cater to their needs only if one pays attention to them.

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Photo by Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels

Giving attention to others can be in the form of checking up on them every once in a while or doing something that leaves them feeling loved, and when someone does the same for you, you should appreciate and acknowledge their efforts.

If you feel that your emotional need is not being met, try to spend some time with yourself first and then schedule an outing to meet with your near and dear ones.

1.4. Community Connection

We humans are social animals, unlike other animals. And we live in this society. The difference between society and community is that society is formed via interaction between people, and people with the same interests and ideology form a community.

Humans need to belong to some community because they want to be with the people and interact with people with similar mindsets, interests, and ideologies.

Among the list of emotional needs, this means that one should have a sense of connection with the community they live in and a feeling to do something above oneself and work towards a greater cause, something good. Humans are social beings and need to have a sense of connection to something greater than themselves.

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Photo by Darrel Und from Pexels

Having a sense of connection with your community can also lead to developing a sense of goodwill and kindness.

If you feel you lack this connection with your community, you can develop it by doing philanthropic work like donating to charity or volunteering.

One can always connect with the community by helping the underprivileged with their resources and time. You also can form a community of yourself.

As this is the age of the internet, we have many chat and community apps like WhatsApp groups and Telegram groups where you can invite people with similar interests. There is this app called Discord. It is one of the best apps to form a community online as it has all the features that can help you to make the virtual community almost real.

1.5. Sense of Achievement 

It’s your 60th birthday, your children wish you a happy birthday, and you live in a rented 3-bedroom apartment. And you are now thinking about what you have done in your lifetime.

You feel you have not achieved anything in your life. And that regret hurts the most. However, everyone’s life goals and desires are different when a person hasn’t achieved something significant that gives them mental peace. It keeps stinging.

This is one of the emotional needs without which life will feel aimless. To feel worthy or to maintain self-esteem, one should feel that they are working towards something of value, and completing it is an achievement.

We as humans have the ability to analyze, criticize, imagine and create. When we fail to achieve our set goal or target, we start to criticize ourselves and feel worthless at the extreme, and vice versa

Emotional needs
Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels

A consequence of this situation would be a loss of motivation and a feeling of frustration.

On such days when you lack this sense, you should write down every achievement of yours, everything you’ve accomplished to date, and maybe look at the degrees, certificates, and medals you own to remind yourself what you are capable of.

1.6. Sense of Self 

No one in this world wants to be average and mediocre. Everyone wants to be unique; everyone wants to stand out. Everyone wants to have their values and their view and have their judgment.

If a person completely relies on another person for everything, they don’t have their own self. They are doing what they are told, and they agree with the other person without using their own mind and thinking. This is the person who has lost their own self.

In the list of emotional needs, this one holds importance too. A sense of self means having our own perspective, thoughts, values, and judgments. It basically means to retain our individuality amongst a group of people. One should feel that they belong to a group or a community, but they should always stand firm on their values within that group.

Just for the sake of pleasing someone, one should never change their opinion or agree to something that is against their belief because, in the long term, our values and beliefs will stay with us.

When you feel this need is not being met, you should do something that sets you apart.

To have or regain the sense of self, you can try doing what you want to do or what your mind says before the arguments in your head. Doing something of your choice without anyone else’s interference. You make decisions based on your values and beliefs, not the other person’s. Continuing might get you in trouble, but it will surely help you regain your sense of self.

1.7. Volition

Volition means power over your life and decisions about your way of living. There can be several factors that can affect one person’s decision. There can be several people who can try to control one’s life.

Mostly this happens with parents and their children. Parents control their children’s lives to protect them from the outside world, but on the other side, children want volition. They want to have control over their lives. They want to make their own life decisions. It can happen in a professional relationship too. The boss may try to control the employee’s life to get better results for the firm or company.

Volition means that an individual has the power to decide the way he or she lives. We, humans, live in a power struggle, and if one does not have the power to decide the direction of their life, it might disturb one’s mental health.

We strive to exist autonomously and to drive our own lives. This need should be met for you to feel fulfilled. If you feel this need is not being fulfilled, you should try to have assertiveness while conversing with friends, family, or coworkers who make you powerless and try to establish clear and healthy boundaries.3

1.8. Meaning

You must have heard the phrase, “What is the meaning of all this”. And if you ask this question yourself regarding all your actions until now, you might get what emotion we are talking about.

If a person, let’s say, is 50 years old and has seen life’s ups and downs. He was doing it because it seemed right to do at that time. He kept doing it. And today, he is 50 years old and doesn’t know what he was doing all along. He doesn’t have a greater goal, a life goal. He did not have a greater purpose. So now he feels his 50 years of life have no meaning.

An individual should have a core set of beliefs that guide his or her life. The sense of achieving things might feel in vain if one doesn’t have a greater purpose. All individuals should have a sense that they belong to something greater, something that is above them.

We should have a coherent set of beliefs about what life is all about. To put it in very simple words, you should have the answer to “What’s my purpose in life” or “Why am I here.” If you question your existence, then start practising mindfulness.

The simplest you can do at that point is focus on your breath and think that everything happens for a reason, and if you’re breathing, it is for a reason.

2. In the End

These emotional needs are very important, but they can be harmful if given more attention than needed. It might happen because if one starts to focus too much on fulfilling their emotional needs, they might become self-obsessed or develop narcissistic tendencies.

Narcissistic tendencies include having an exaggerated sense of self, having a sense of entitlement, thinking that they are superior to the rest, having a feeling of envy for others, or even requiring constant admiration for self.

It also might happen that these emotional needs become similar to maintenance addiction, upon which withdrawal discomfort might be caused and no stimulation of the brain’s reward centre when gratified.

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  1. Lockwood, George, and Poul Perris. “A new look at core emotional needs.” The Wiley‐Blackwell handbook of schema therapy: Theory, research, and practice (2012): 41-66. ↩︎
  2. Hooper, Val, and Tarika Kalidas. “Acceptable and unacceptable behaviour on social networking sites: A study of the behavioural norms of youth on Facebook.” Electronic Journal of Information Systems Evaluation 15.3 (2012): pp259-268. ↩︎
  3. Katherine, Anne. Where to draw the line: How to set healthy boundaries every day. Simon and Schuster, 2000. ↩︎

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