Behavior, Feelings and Needs

At the core of every behavior is a need. Some of those needs are perceived but as I’ve looked at my own heart and listened to the hearts of other men, I’ve come to believe that many, if not most of those needs are not just perceived but they are real. Each of those needs are experienced as a feeling. Each of those feelings are expressed as a behavior. My tendency is to look at the behavior. If the behavior brings about a result I am happy with then I leave it alone. But if the behavior results in things that are painful and unpleasant then I attempt to change the behavior. I don’t examine the feelings because I have taught myself to ignore them. If someone asks how I feel I respond with, “I feel good” or “I feel bad”.The truth though, is that neither of those are feelings. They are words we use to avoid thinking about the real feelings.

So, what are feelings? You may be familiar with the feeling wheels. They are usually multicolored wheels that list dozens , if not hundreds of feelings. These tools can be very helpful in assisting us as we try to understand what we are feeling. As we begin to understand what we are feeling we can begin to link these feelings to our behaviors. Chip Dodd, in his book, The Voice of the Heart, has narrowed those feeling wheels down to what he believes are 8 core feelings that we all experience. For me, learning how to experience and process my feelings instead of ignoring them was an important first step towards recovery.

Even deeper, below the feeling, is a need that we are trying to meet. We are probably alll are of needs like food, clothing, shelter, air, etc. But there are other needs that I would argue are just as important. These would be things like security, community, and a sense of value. There are many more than these. I have a new granddaughter. She is my fourth grandchild. As I am writing, she is two weeks old. All she does right now is eat, sleep, poop and pee. She is extremely talented at all four of those. She communicates all of her needs through crying. Even at two weeks she has a need to feel secure. When she cry’s she needs to know someone will respond. There are dozens of studies that address the problems that adults experience because of unmet needs in infancy and childhood.

I’m just scratching the surface on this topic, but the key to changing unwanted and unhealthy behavior is to look beneath the behavior. What are the feelings I am responding to when I act out? What need am I attempting to meet? Odds are the need is valid. How can I have that need met in a healthy way?

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Published by ronsthots

I'm a Certified Professional Recovery Coach. Feel free to email me at

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