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We have seen from numerous other articles that I have published on this site that if we suffered significant childhood trauma we are at much increased risk, as adults, of developing various psychological conditions such as depression, anxiety, borderline personality disorder, complex post-traumatic stress disorder, and alcoholism/drug addiction.

These mental illnesses can lead to a whole host of behavioral problems such as an inability to control emotions and unstable personal interaction, especially with intimate partners.

It is hardly surprising, therefore, that, due to such problems, many of our emotional needs may fail to be met.

But what are our basic human emotional needs? I list some of the main ones below:



A CAPACITY TO TRUST: this includes both being able to trust others and trust oneself

OPTIMISM / HOPE FOR THE FUTURE: having the ability to adopt a positive mental attitude whilst guarding against unrealistically high expectations

A MEANINGFUL LIFE PURPOSE: including meaningful work and relationships

CONTRIBUTION TO SOCIETY / OTHERS: having a sense of ‘giving something back’ in life

CONNECTION TO SOCIETY / OTHERS: feeling connected to one’s community, culture, family, friends, and society in general

ABILITY TO ADAPT / FLEXIBILITY: having good coping abilities when things work out less than ideally / not as one expected

SENSE OF CONTROL / PERSONAL AUTONOMY: having freedom of choice and being able to direct one’s own life/confidence to make one’s own decisions

A CAPACITY FOR SELF-ACCEPTANCE: including being in touch with, and respectful of, one’s own needs and being compassionate with oneself when one makes mistakes

FREEDOM FOR SELF-EXPRESSION / AUTHENTIC LIVING: not being afraid to be oneself and being able to express that self free of fear or intimidation

STATUS AND RECOGNITION: being treated as an equal and being accepted for oneself; not being treated as inferior / beneath others / as a ‘second class citizen’

FEELING SAFE AND SECURE: this includes feeling safe within one’s family and in one’s personal space and being free from fear of physical or psychological attack/intimidation

LOVE AND AFFECTION: this includes being able to both give and receive love and affection

(NB. this list is not intended to be exhaustive)

Of course, different individuals will attach different degrees of importance to the above emotional needs.


Accepting, admitting (both to ourselves and to others), and facing up to our unmet emotional needs can be mentally painful. Indeed, we may avoid thinking about them, or distract ourselves from them by, for example, working excessively hard (sometimes informally referred to as ‘workaholism‘) albeit, perhaps, with a constant, inner, vague aching sensation for something of fundamental value missing from our lives (even though we may not be consciously aware of, much of the time, what that ‘something‘ is), creating a sense of emptiness.

A certain amount of courage may, therefore, be required if we are to set about trying to meet our thus far unsatisfied emotional needs, whether we attempt to do it with the aid of a professional therapist, through self-help, or through a combination of the two.

You may also be interested in reading my related post: Why We’re Never Satisfied: Maslow’s Hierarchy Of Needs.

Related Resources:

Get in touch with your emotions – click here

Improve self-acceptance – click here

Learn to trust again – click here

Control your emotions – click here

Increase positivity – click here

Accept love – click here

Develop optimism – click here


David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).