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  • Writer's pictureJanika Byington

To Get What You Need, You Have to Know What You Need

Updated: Sep 3, 2022

There are four different types of need that we hardly understand and acknowledge. Nonetheless they motivate our every action and response.

The Four Needs details specific functions of spiritual, emotional, physical, and intellectual needs that drive individual behavior and experience. Although defining the Four Needs is simple, it uncovers the deep complexity of multifaceted human interaction.

But even at the simplest level, you can use the Four Needs to start improving your life right now. You can become more aware of your conflicting needs to resolve internal tension. As you better understand the needs of others as well as yourself, you will also have better relationships.

Before you can resolve relational tension, it is best to genuinely understand your own internal tension.


Boredom, unrest, lack of motivation. Discomfort, frustration, pain, anger. Withdrawal, sadness, depression. The full range of negative emotions indicates an unmet need.

Conversely, positive emotions indicate a satisfied need. But sometimes different needs can be in conflict.

For example: A child may be tired but refuse to sleep (often, for some children). The child is driven by the intellectual need to observe, explore, and learn about his new world. But he also has a need for rest and recovery. This creates internal conflict. It manifests as grumpiness. He knows he is missing something. So he cries for a drink or a comfort toy. But no matter how compliant the caregiver is with his demands he continues to fuss and tantrum. Why? Because he is confused about what he really needs at that time. Sleep.

No Substitute

Adults are no different. We experience stress and frustration from unexpressed, unsatisfied, or conflicting Needs. We too complicate and sabotage our satisfaction by trying to substitute with comforts, or create distractions to avoid the pain of dissatisfaction, instead of dealing with the actual need that is causing the problem.

This is the source of all addictive behavior. When we do not consciously acknowledge our needs and are unwilling or feel incapable of meeting them, we seek comfort and distraction. Because this produces a positive feeling, the mind accepts it. However, it knows that the need is still not fully satisfied. So rather than figuring out the actual need, it keeps signaling for more of the satisfier, that will never actually satisfy.

What Do We Need to be Truly Satisfied?

That is the ultimate question of life we are driven to answer.

"The answer is 42

"Are you sure?

"Yes, I've thought about it quite thoroughly."

We do not need a planet sized supercomputer to analyze and calculate the answer to everything. We just need to have all of our Four Needs met.

  • We Need Love to be emotionally satisfied

  • We need freedom to control and evaluate our sensory experience to be intellectually satisfied.

  • We need to have quality nutrition and protection to be physically satisfied.

  • We need to have something to believe in and a purpose to work toward to be spiritually satisfied.

Lifelong Pursuit

From person to person, situation to situation, in varying degrees throughout the lifespan, these needs will continue to drive our desires and aspirations. But the better we recognize each need and pay attention to our satisfaction levels, the more fulfillment and less conflict we will experience.

This will not happen all at once. We have deep habits of distortion and confusion. But if we pay better attention to each experience we will address our needs with increasing ease.

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