Do You Need To Be Needed?

This post came about after talking with a friend about someone in my life who I find quite draining now. Someone who, when I am around, really has no personal engagement—a sense of a death friendship rather than an alive and invigorated friendship. I spoke about this a little in a recent post. My friend and I have been talking about how everything ‘out there’ is a character ‘in here’; in other words, we can’t be triggered or uplifted by another unless it is a part of who we are or a part of us we may want to let go of. We also need to properly embrace and welcome change to take place.

So I sat quietly at my computer, wanting to understand what role she was playing for me, and I felt myself go sleepy and unconscious. I knew that after doing inner child work, this was often a way for me not to face some of the difficult stuff—stuff I am resistant to facing. And so the title of the post appeared in my mind: ‘Do I need to be needed?’

This friend I befriended during lockdowns was in a dark place, suffering from severe mental health issues that had led her to try to commit suicide many times. Back when I met her, I had an identity of being a helper, needing to help people as a way to inflate my self-esteem. It felt initially rewarding to be of support to someone in need, but three years later, I find myself feeling extremely drained around this person. We have nothing in common whatsoever; she is in her 70s, and because of her mental health, she has a very doom-and-gloom attitude towards life and anything happening in her life. And while I can have appreciation and compassion for her health issues, I find it becoming harder and harder to manage even the few hours a week that I see her. I come home feeling exhausted, empty, and sometimes depressed. The hardest part of all of this is that I am her only friend, and because of this, it puts enormous pressure on me to still be there even though it feels like time to move on from her.

What Part Is ‘The Other’ Playing?

Now she can’t make me feel any of these ways, so there has to be a payoff for this in me in some way, so I write this post to understand what exactly is going on for me. If she were a part of me, what part is she playing?

If I am to analyse this, she is someone who focuses on the negative in life; she looks for what isn’t working all of the time; she is in need of people to distract her from her own mindset of pain. She can’t take ownership or take responsibility for her part in the pain of her life; it is always someone outside or something outside that is responsible. She makes choices to try and get fixes for her psychological turmoil. For example, after recently getting a dog and discovering the dog was only a band-aid in the first 2 weeks, now the negative voices are back. She wonders why this dog is so different from her other dogs; she is nervous about everything and doesn’t trust anyone, and I look, and I can see the dog is a good reflection of her. She looks for crutches to support her and fix her mind but isn’t prepared to really dive deep and resists any looking into her childhood trauma. She wants medication and pills to take the negativity away.

And I guess if I look at it as what I see as a problem for me, it’s feeling like I have to be something for someone I do not want to be anymore. She would be a part of me I couldn’t get rid of. A part of me feels stuck and imprisoned. I guess in many ways she would reflect my shadow—the part of my shadow that does not want to change, does not want anything new to happen, does not trust the unknown, wants certainty, wants other people to take the pain away, and seriously doesn’t want to take responsibility for my own mind or thoughts. She represents the really unwanted me—the part I really don’t want to be anymore. The part of me I want to medicate away or comfort eat away is the part of me I want to run away from.

And therein lies the healing.

How To Integrate Unwanted Parts

How do I now integrate this part I am so disgusted about and uncomfortable with? How do I embrace this part of me? And why am I equally wanting to get rid of this part of me yet also feeling that I need to look after it even though I feel depleted by it? What part of me does not want to let this other part of me go or change? What do I gain from holding on to this part of me that doesn’t want to take responsibility for my life? What do I gain from holding onto a doom-and-gloom mindset? What secondary benefits do I receive?

Why have I got someone in my life I feel is more important to protect than my own need for freedom and wellbeing? Why do I feel unable to let go of this behaviour?

A part of me feels that if I let her go, she will kill herself or at least attempt to kill herself again.

And because of this, I am scared to let the friendship go. I feel held to ransom by a woman who views me as a good friend and her only friend locally.

But who is holding me to ransom?

I am.

After sleeping on this, not wanting to be cruel to this woman who is obviously in a lot of mental stress and pain, I did an inner child meditation to discover why I was beginning to be triggered too much, why being around her felt such a drain and exhausting, and I discovered that not only was it parts of me that I no longer wish to be anymore, because I was like this too, but also that she is an image of a childhood experience.

When I was small, before my sister was born, my mother was depressed a lot. I had forgotten this experience, but remember now that she wouldn’t play with me as a child, was very bitter about life, and also blamed my father for going to work and her own choices to stay at home and not go out. She has no friends, so I was her only friend, but I was a child; that wasn’t my job. It wasn’t my responsibility to make my mother feel better or to ensure that she was not alone. Her job in many respects was to not only give me what I needed in terms of food, clothing, etc. but emotional nourishment too, but I never received this as a child from her. She was unable to give this because of her own childhood trauma, which I feel she has blocked out in many ways. So I felt trapped at home with her, especially if I didn’t have friends, locked in this dynamic of what felt like a prison in many ways as a child. My innocent, playful, and joyful self was drained and exhausted by someone who was unable to give me what I needed growing up. I have always been a deep empath, and so whatever she felt, I felt. For my own safety, I did what I felt was my duty to be there, but I know this set me up to take responsibility for many people in my life.

I created the identity of being needed. If I was needed, I mattered. I was enough.

So here I am facing this same experience in adult life, knowing I need to let go of my friend. I can’t do a quick, fast rip off of the band aid because I’m not cruel. I know it would hurt her too much, but I need to slowly remove access to my energy from her. To care for me is to release her dependency on me. And the hardest thing is accepting that, not only am I not responsible for what she does or doesn’t do, but if she does something to herself, I am not responsible for her choices or how she responds or reacts to my decision for self-care.

Since Michael passed away, I have been grieving a lot, and nine months later, I feel this need to start re-emerging in the world. This includes doing things that let the light back in. My heart, my mind, and my body all need activities and people who support this upliftment process. I will see my friend less regularly because this is what I need for my own healing journey. I feel lighter making the decision; I know the ‘need to be needed’ identity is not needed anymore, and I am most certainly never responsible for another human being, especially how they receive what I choose to do. It’s something many people need to learn in life, and many of us find it hard to do.

The question I ask myself now is: should I feel trapped or imprisoned because I fear how others will respond if I move away from them? Or should I let go of those prison bars and trust that whatever is needed is for me to move away, and whatever the ‘other’ person does is their own path, not mine to take responsibility for?

We feel.

We heal.

We move forward, even if our choices are hard to make.

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Kelly Martin
Kelly Martin

Kelly Martin, author of ‘When Everyone Shines But You’ is a dedicated writer and blogger who fearlessly explores life’s deepest questions. Faced with a decade of profound anxiety and grief following the loss of her father and her best friend Michael, Kelly embarked on a transformative journey guided by mindfulness, and she hasn’t looked back since. Through her insightful writing, engaging podcasts, and inspiring You Tube channel Kelly empowers others to unearth the hidden treasures within their pain, embracing the profound truth that they are ‘enough’ exactly as they are.

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