The Social Taboo of Need

In our social darwinistic dog-eat-dog-each-human-to-themself culture, needing help from family,  friends, and surprisingly even (sometimes) professionals is unacceptable and something to be ashamed of, generally speaking. Many of us have been brought up to believe it is sexy to be fiercely independent. A badass is someone who works hard and gets it all done by themselves.

Needing help from another person is a social no-no.  It is hard to need another person because we risk them being repelled by it and when they do get repelled, then we have to deal with feeling the crippling shame as a result of it. It can be cause for some of us to retreat back into our shells or keeping up the facade of being strong and badass. Why do you think most of us sport fake smiles and strong facades as often as we do? What if we are compensating for what is so taboo to do? To be fair, it is not just the person in need that gets hurt, but also the need-ed. The other party is equally traumatized. It is hard to be on the end of someone’s need for help because we might be reminded of how we were pathologically needed as children and how that stole our souls. It taught us that we are here to take care of others and that our needs are nonexistent. Who wants to be reminded of those events that shaped this belief? So, when one says they need help, they are risking someone’s repressed emotional flashback surfacing of being inappropriately needed as a child. It might be difficult for both parties to separate the childhood wound (both of needing and being needed) from reality. If we step away from our wounds, in reality, need is benevolent. But the child-mind blocks rationale (because it wants to heal) and need has the potential to throw us into emotional flashbacks making intimacy and authenticity with other adult humans challenging if not impossible.

“One of the greatest barriers to connection is the cultural importance we place on “going it alone.” Somehow we’ve come to equate success with not needing anyone. Many of us are willing to extend a helping hand, but we’re very reluctant to reach out for help when we need it ourselves. It’s as if we’ve divided the world into “those who offer help” and “those who need help.” The truth is that we are both.”

-Brené Brown


Just to keep from being overwhelmed and having my adoption trauma re-triggered, I have learned to be very careful of who I show my needs to. I have told someone before “I need help really badly” and the relationship took a dive after that. Thankfully, my husband welcomes my need and I welcome his. But outside this special relationship, I think it is hard to find people who understand need without feeling violated or overwhelmed.

The truth is, while we are innately autonomous creatures, we are also inherently creatures of need by our very design. We know this because when our needs are not met, we suffer. We are all connected. Your pain is mine and my pain is yours; they are not separate. We are made to help each other figure this game of Life out. But to see this truth, we would have to get some of our own healing work done and/or deprogram from our social conditioning that taught us that needing each other is “bad”.

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