Saturday, April 03, 2010

Mourning Unmet Needs (The Art of Letting Go)

"Hold on to your anger and use it as compost for your garden." - Thich Nhat Hanh

Recently I was feeling very angry and resentful. I felt this way for a couple days. I have learned that when I judge others it only contributes to anger and resentment. Despite knowing this, I kept judging this particular person. By doing this I only added more drama to the story I was creating in my mind. I attached myself to ideas of unfairness, rudeness, disrespect, pride and selfishness. This person was all of these in my story.

I found it strange that something would bother me so much that I would choose to go down this path of misery. "I should know better," I thought. "I am a counselor."

Mourning Needs
Then I remembered that I needed to mourn my unfulfilled needs. My needs for empathy, support, consideration, understanding, cooperation, consistency, respect and contribution were not met and they were not going to get met by this person. So I mourned. I said, "I am sad because my needs for empathy, support, consideration, understanding, cooperation, consistency, respect and contribution are not met. I am mourning these unmet needs." I repeated this a couple times.

As I did this I felt an internal shift and relief. I let go of my resentment as I accepted reality. I realized that I could not make this person meet these needs and that I had to find another way to meet these needs.

I now understand what Jesus meant when he said, "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted." The comfort comes from being free of resentment and in accepting reality. Then we are free to create a better dream.

As I look back on this difficult moment in my life I am reminded of the truth that seeds need to die to produce more seeds and fruit. When we mourn our unmet needs and die to what we cannot change we breathe new life into our souls. Marshall Rosenberg sums it up well when he says that "a need is life seeking expression."

When we mourn we make room for this to happen.

Taking Responsibility for Our Needs
As I looked at my needs that were not being lived out I took responsibility for them and gave myself empathy, support, consideration, understanding, cooperation and respect. This is what I would call self-empathy or self-connection. I walked away from resentment and held my needs with tenderness. I then starting brainstorming ideas and strategies for meeting these needs. What I came up with surprised me. For instance, I realized that other people could help me meet these needs. I also realized that I could do something specific to meet my need to contribute to others. I became aware that by setting boundaries I could even get my need for consistency and predictability met. The freedom I experienced was wonderful and I was filled with hope.

I encourage everyone to mourn needs in their lives that are not being fulfilled and then to brainstorm new ways to meet those needs. You just may find you can create a totally different story - one that is beautiful and full of hope and love.

PHOTO CAPTION: "Photo Courtesy"


philly5113 said...

I have to say this is very timely for me. Not only does it reflect the easter story it also gave me tools to work on some contemplations. I also appreciate the writings of Thich nhat hanh. I am re-reading and work from his Two Treasures. Thanks for this post.

Eddie Zacapa said...

Philly - Thanks for sharing this comment. It is encouraging to hear that this post could help another.

Unknown said...

Hi Eddie, yes, this post was quite timely for me as well as I have just ended a business relationship that did not go so well and I felt exactly how you described in your post. However, I love the idea of mourning the loss of my unmet needs and then letting go and moving forward. But first - acknowledging the loss in order to let it go. Thank you.

Eddie Zacapa said...

Zen - Thanks for sharing your comment. It meets my need to contribute and encourage others.

Robin said...

Hi Eddie, this post really speaks to me and I have come back to re-read it several times in the past week. I have been mourning my brother's passing, which is tangible from a mourning point of view in my mind. However there has been this enormous pain of resentment, sadness, emotions from the past, I had not dealt with. All of this have surfaced since watching the family dynamics play out. I felt a sadness so deep inside and could not understand why there was so much pain, until I read your post.

I can see unmet needs in others from an outsider's view, however I could not see my own. Thank you for your words. They are positive, healing ripples spreading out to others. Reading this and following your advice on how to mourn those unmet needs has helped me let go and heal.

Eddie Zacapa said...

Rasz, I'm so encouraged that this post was helpful during this time of loss.