Our final episode in the 5 part series on our core needs, I discuss the need of love and sexuality, what happens when this need is and isn’t met, how it can affect our self-esteem, what this unmet need could look like in real life, and if Heavenly Parents can meet these needs for us. I felt the Spirit flowing and guiding my thoughts in this one, so I hope you enjoy!
I felt this episode really flowing out of me through the spirit, um, and the spirit was really guiding my thoughts. So, I just want you to know that I do not consider myself to be an expert by any means. I am oftentimes simply regurgitating things that I am learning, and I will drop a link to the book that I’ve primarily learned these five core needs from.
But today’s episode is about the fifth and final core need. At least according to this book that I’m talking about, it’s the need of love and sexuality, and I’m gonna talk about that core need. I’m gonna talk about what happens when this need is met and when it isn’t met, how it can affect our self-esteem, and what it could look like in real life if this need is not met. And I’m also going to spend just a couple minutes talking whether Heavenly Parents can meet these needs for us. And finally, I want to talk briefly about how trauma healing is related to repentance. So while this core need is both love and sexuality, I’m going to simplify it by just focusing on the core need of love.
Relationships and Identity
It is interesting to note that sexuality develops on the same neuro pathway as identity. From a neurobiological perspective. So sexuality in this sense isn’t really about sex. It’s about a healthy self-identity. And keep in mind also from a gospel perspective, everything we do is done in relationship.
It’s in relationship and for relationship. So love and sexuality in terms of a healthy identity of one’s self. Is very much related to how we are in relationship. In fact, all of these core needs are about being in relationship. But I wanted to especially make note of this here in this episode, as we develop from childhood, the latest core need to develop is the need of love.
In many ways, the other core needs of connection, attunement, trust, and autonomy, all mean love to a very young child. And as we grow older, we’re able to differentiate a bit between the different nuances, the difference between connection and attunement, and trust and autonomy and love.
One thing that I had to overcome in my own trauma work early on, was the fact that I knew my parents loved me, so it didn’t make sense to me. That I could be so traumatized, so to speak, according to how my body was responding when I knew that their love was a fact.
It wasn’t until I really understood the difference between what I needed to grow and what I needed to thrive and love that I was able to reconcile my feelings with my experience, so ordinate of love. When this core need is met, ideally the child is able to bring their heart into relationship. I think of this as the ability to be vulnerable with another person, the ability to open yourself up to rejection, but when this need is not met, then being vulnerable or bringing your heart into relationship is much more difficult. In fact, a child may learn to reject, receiving and or expressing love in order to maintain the relationship, right? So they will kind of forego their own need in order to maintain that relationship, right? Because there are other needs in the relationship as well.
Shame and Identity Disconnect
When this need is met, we allow ourselves to live with an open heart and to integrate a loving relationship with a vital sexuality or identity. But when this need is not met, we have difficulty having an open heart and bringing love into a sexuality in a healthy way. It actually makes me think that this could be one of the reasons why we have so much shame wrapped up in our identities because if this need of love is not met, then love and identity can’t coexist within us. So we grow our identities while not allowing ourselves to love ourselves and shame is the logical result. Right? So that’s just kind of interesting to think about it in that way.
When this particular need of love is not met, it results in a self-esteem based on looks achievement and performance, basically a self-esteem based on something outside of us, not internal or inherent to us. And here’s a little side note. I think I said this about last week’s core need of autonomy.
For autonomy, the difficulty would be setting firm boundaries and for love. Self-esteem based on something outside of oneself. Really if we think about it, autonomy is about expressing our genuine selves in the world.
And so if that need isn’t met, then we might not be able to express ourselves and we might not be able to set healthy boundaries. But love is more of a need. Identity and self-esteem. So this is more about like where we derive our self-esteem, the need of love not being met, resulting in perfection of self or deriving worth from something outside of us.
Makes sense if we can’t bear to live with an open heart and risk rejection. Basing your lovability on an outside source then becomes a rational strategy because of the shame of sharing your heart and vulnerability.
What does this look like?
It seems pretty obvious what this would look like in real life, but I just want to kind of go over some possibilities, and this is by no means an exhaustive list. This is simply kind of me guessing at what this might look like for someone else and basing it on my own experience, because a lot of this really hits home with me. So really just perfectionism in a variety of ways in how you look, how you perform, what you achieve.
It might look like being very meticulous about your hair and. Probably for we women more so, um, but men to a lesser extent, it could look like wanting to always be in with the latest clothing trends. It could look like pushing oneself to the highest levels of achievement, for example, straight a’s being valedictorian.
Yeah, really feeling familiar to me. And also it makes sense how our culture has evolved to value these things as well, these kind of external sources of validation and worth. In extreme cases, it could look like high anxiety and panic attacks, or it could look like just complete overwhelm and depression. And also from kind of a religious perspective, because I noticed this a lot in the church, it could be kind of not allowing yourself to be a messy human keeping, high standards all the time, um, pushing yourself to do. The things of the gospel, like really focused on the actions of the gospel while feeling disconnected from the feelings of the gospel.
I see this final core need as kind of the crowning evolution of relationships. At first, our needs of connection, attunement, and trust have to do with our relationship intimately with our caregivers. But then as we move into the need of autonomy and we start to explore the world and express ourselves, We’re creating a little bit of separation between ourselves and our caregivers.
We’re figuring out who we are in the world on our own, and then this need of love and sexuality is really about our relationships with the world and with others in the world. In a sense, giving. Ourselves to the world, right? And when we can’t do that because these needs haven’t been fully met in ourselves, then we naturally separate ourselves.
And it just made me think of the idea that separation from God has historically been thought of as sin. And I like to think of it as wounding, right? So whether it is separation from our caregivers ourselves, or God, these wounds are the things that need healing in order for us to progress, in order for us to become our full selves in the world, it’s essentially a change or a repentance that we are after.
These healing of wounds and understanding this can help us turn toward any sources we have available to us at our disposal for healing. I am just feeling like this is really beautiful. It’s helping me see the parallel between the gospel and the atonement of Jesus Christ in healing in a gospel spiritual sense, and the work that I do with healing trauma. By the way, trauma means wound the word trauma in the original sense is analogous to wound. So whether we are working with a medical doctor or a psychologist or a practitioner in some way, we’re normally trying to create this healing in ourselves. And it’s the same for spiritual healing.
On a final note, I wanted to address this idea: Do these core needs have to be met by our caregivers or by people in the world that we’re in relationship with? Because oftentimes it’s our original caregivers, right? Our parents or our adoptive parents, or whoever it was that was taking care of us. But then as we grow and develop in the world, it’s our friends, our lovers, right? Who meet these needs. And so we can bring these wounds from our original caregivers into our relationships as you know, adults or young adults or you know, whatever stage that we are in.
And we are always wanting. The relationships that we’re in, we’re wanting those people to help meet these needs. So it’s obvious that our original caregivers could meet these needs. But I also just wanted to point out that friends, partners, whoever these needs can be met in a variety of ways.
Can your core needs be met by Heavenly Parents?
And in fact, I think that’s the healthiest way to do it, to have these core needs met by a variety of people in your life. So then that begs the question of can God or heavenly parents or our savior, Jesus Christ, can they meet these needs? And my thought is yes. My thought is that, I feel like this has been true in my life.
There really is no logical explanation why I haven’t been worse off in my life, you know, based on the amount of trauma that I have endured, and I firmly believe that while my needs were very inconsistently met by my parents, my original caregivers, I was blessed early on to have these needs met by my heavenly parents and by my brother, Jesus Christ, and it was really a healing balm for me.
I had experiences very early on that I have talked about on the podcast where I just knew that Heavenly Father was real, that he knew me, that he heard my prayers, that he met me in my needs, and so, created a pretty solid foundation of a source for me to have these needs met. So that connection and attunement and trust was actually really solid starting from about age seven with my relationship with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.
And then even as I look back, I think about how I did step away from the church and wasn’t really praying or doing any kind of active actions in order to maintain that relationship with God. I just think of that in terms of he allowed me that autonomy, right? To figure out who I was separate from him, and I always knew that he was there for me and that I could come back at any point in time.
And in fact, that whole time, that five to six years that I was not going to church, I kept feeling like I should go to church. Right? So, those core needs and, and also the need of love. I always felt like God loved me. That was never a question in my mind. So these needs definitely. Were met for me by my Heaven parents and I never questioned them.
So maybe, you know, there was some of my own agency in that, but I really feel like it was just a gift and a foundation and that it was really healing for me. So when my needs weren’t met by my parents and by other people in my life, I think that that relationship with Heavenly Father really made up for that in many ways.
Journal Questions (Download Here)
- Reflect on a time you reached out for love and it was reciprocated.
- How easy or difficult is it for you to be vulnerable in relationship?
- How has your relationship with Heavenly Parents or your Savior affected your sense of self or support?
The Practical Guide for Healing Developmental Trauma: Using the NeuroAffective Relational Model to Address Adverse Childhood Experiences and Resolve Complex Trauma by Laurence Heller and Brad J. Kammer