Have you ever heard someone being described as needy? Maybe you've even heard the technical term of co-dependency, where you have TWO needy people in a relationship with each other. But what makes a person a needy one, rather than someone with genuine needs? And if we can't depend on anyone else, surely we'll be very vulnerable and isolated? The term co-dependency originally grew out of work with alcoholics, where it was observed that they often had a partner who enabled them to continue drinking. Then, in cases of morbid obesity, it seems that the overweight person often has a 'feeder' that keeps them fat. The most stunning case I've seen is the 'sofa lady' of Atlanta USA, who had sat on the sofa so long that her skin had grown into it and she couldn't be removed. The medics had to take the side off her house and transport her to hospital on the back of a lorry - sofa and all! So how did she get to the kitchen or shop for her food without anyone noticing the state she was in and getting her some help? She had a boyfriend.
Two Sides of the Same Coin
What would make someone deliberately encourage such self-destructive behaviour in a person they claimed to love or care about? Well there are two side to the co-dependency coin. Person 'A' needs to be needed. They feel secure by being in control of everything in the relationship. They are unconsciously acting like a parent and tend to feel overly responsible for things. If the relationship isn't working they blame themselves and decide to try harder to make things run more smoothly. In extreme cases they become an oppressor or abuser. Person 'B' wants to be wanted. They feel secure by letting someone else take control of everything in the relationship. They are unconsciously acting like a child and want to avoid being responsible for things. If the relationship isn't working they blame the other person and try to manipulate things to go their way.
I believe co-dependent relationship patterns are the norm - in couples, families, friendships and even in the workplace. I've known people who say that they "don't want someone who plays mind games or does drama!" Unfortunately, people who play mind games, and act out dramas, rarely have any clue that's what they're doing. There are people who DO know they're being nasty and hurtful but they believe the other person deserves it. They also have contempt for their victim's weakness in putting up with their abuse. These patterns are painful, destructive and miserable for both sides of the co-dependency coin and usually bewildering and beyond the understanding of either person involved. Until at least one of them decides they've had enough and decides to get help or to get out.
Washing Away the Toxic Residues
Simply leaving a toxic, co-dependent relationship isn't enough to solve the problem of neediness. If the root cause isn't pulled out, it will grow back again in the next friendship, courtship or workplace dynamic. Neediness will even manifest if the person opts for independence and withdrawal from relationships by attempting to find a false serenity in isolation from the world. I'd say a needy person is one with a backlog of unmet needs that have now built up into a burden. Their roots grew as a child in a stingy and/or overbearing environment. Stinginess in a family strangles your genuine needs for attention, affection, good food, comfortable and safe spaces, stimulation and encouragement. As a child you are largely powerless to understand why this is happening, let alone do anything to change it, so you resort to what little options you DO have. You may try to keep giving to your parents in some way, hoping they'll eventually fill up enough to turn around and give you the things that you rightfully need from them - but they never do. You could become manipulative, a 'good girl' who tries to be perfect, clever and pretty or a 'good boy' who is always helpful, strong and attentive to the needs of others - while starving inside. Many kids escape into their imagination, into books or television and thoughts of "when I grow up, then I'll have everything that I want....", while the emptiness in the present day continues to gnaw away at their heart and soul.
On the Pathway Balancing Journey, Level 2 'The Community' is about relationships and recently it has been the main Level to come up in sessions. New entries to the this manual have been about 'washing away the toxic residues of the super-ego' and the Direction of 'Clearing Away Old Patterns, with new Steps about 'Holding our values'. The natural progression of life is to be dependent as a child and then more independent into adulthood. To break from toxic co-dependence and neediness, the first step is to know you don't need stingy, manipulative or emotionally volatile people around you anymore. Take a step back from them and look at ways to fill your time and space with more satisfying activities or kinder relationships. This process is sometimes known as resourcing.
That's a lie. Once you see the stinginess is theirs, and nothing to do with who you are, you can leave it behind and begin to thrive. You were designed to live in an abundant place and with the right companions. Choose wisdom in who you allow to affect you and the Book of Proverbs says that 'you will find favour and good success in the sight of God and man'. If you keep turning to generosity and kindness, to fruitful and satisfying activities, you will have no time or space for the stingy people to bring you down or make you feel worthless. You don't need them anymore. No one really needs to be needed, but everyone needs to be loved and valued - don't settle for anything less.
To read more on co-dependency, check out the book 'Love is a Choice' here
Visit the Pathway Balancing 'Searching & Change' page here