2. Need

(1 month – 18 months)

Where the infant’s experience of having core satisfaction of basic needs is established in the relationship with the parents, leading to the beginning of self-regulation. In an adult, the disruptions from this stage can manifest either as a despairing or distrustful attitude about being able to get you needs met, and not being aware of what your needs are or how to sense satisfaction.

Early – Despairing

Late – Distrusting

General Attributes:

  • Mother is emotionally absent and does not meet needs of child; ex. A child left alone to cry for hours on end.
  • Does not recognize their OWN needs
  • Feels abandoned; left behind
  • Waiting for nourishment to come
  • Can love others, but has difficult taking love in from others; cares more about others than self
  • Energetically & emotionally merges with others and environment, loses self
  • Frequently engages in projective identification (defense)
  • Is very good at mirroring others
  • Tendency towards a pollyanna outlook on life; glass half full
  • “If you’re happy, then I’m happy.” ; “It’s all OK.”
  • Makes use of superficial platitudes, such as “Love is all there is.”
  • Tend to “babble” more
  • Don’t take in or absorb energy
  • Can result in anorexia.

Physical Attributes:

  • Eyes yearning/sucking seeking expression
  • Lips tend to be Full & ‘loose’

Need to Learn:

  • To feel deeply what they need
  • How to take contact in and absorb it so it lasts. Build capacity for satisfaction
  • Distinguish between their own needs and others; differentiate themselves from others & environment

General Attributes:

  • Mother only half-meets the needs of the child
  • Paranoid, distrustful, bitter,
  • Is certain others will not fulfil their needs.
  • Feels misunderstood. Takes what they can get.
  • Able to recognize their needs, however bitter that they are unfulfilled.
  • Pessimistic; glass half empty
  • “If I have to tell you my needs, it’s already too late.”
  • Knows their needs but it only feels right when they are met spontaneously.
  • Makes emotional but unarticulated demands. Typically will not ask for help.
  • Gives freely but is bitter over not receiving.
  • Rejects what they receive as wrong/not good enough. Takes in, spits back out.
  • Typical Defenses: Complaining, Ruminating
  • Nothing will ever satisfy them.
  • Manage their energy and feelings by rejecting
  • Can result in bulimia.

Physical Attributes:

  • One eye sucks in, other pushes away.
  • Lips tend to be pursed

Need to Learn:

  • That they themselves know what they need
  • To communicate their needs with specifics
  • Build capacity for satisfaction when needs are met

Developmental Themes:

Resources developed with good-enough parenting:
Trust in self and others

  • Establishes own rhythms – of being awake / sleeping, hungry / satisfied, etc.
  • Getting your needs met in a timely manner.
  • Learns to distinguish between different needs & feelings.
  • Beginning of the connection between words & objects.
  • Connecting words & emotions.
  • Concrete thought.
  • Beginning to say yes and no.
  • Right to have needs & to experience a state of satiation.
  • Experiencing that others can experience them & their needs (and respond with mirroring, verbal feedback & appropriate reactions).

Healthy Need – Satisfying: Feeling Secure that their needs will be met

As an adult, a person that is resourced will have a sense of what they need, and also how to act to satisfy that need: i.e., I’m hungry, I need to eat; or, I’m full, I want to stop eating. The adult body will have soft, contactful, eyes. They will hold their head and spine in an erect way. Their lips will be full, and they will be comfortable reaching out for their needs as well as taking in. They will enter into intimate relationships with an expectation and belief that they can express their needs to those close to them, and often enough receive a caring response. They also will be happy to reciprocate with that person’s requests for help, and will have a sense that this will mutually deepen the closeness between them.

Developmental Movements

Despairing - Early Need

Drawings sketched from photos in Bentzen (1968) and Hviid (1992)

“This baby is sitting up, but his spine is not yet strong enough to hold him in the upright position. He collapses and his head angles upwards awkwardly to make eye contact. Except for the head position, this is also the posture of the motor collapse of the infant in ‘microdepression’. This early stage of somatic organization is thought to define the oral posture of the man.

“The oral structure is shaped by threat of abandonment” (Bioenergetics)

His spine is collapsed, his head falls forwards as he gazes longingly into the world, and his arms and legs are passive. In the standing position spinal collapse forms an ‘S’ curve rather than the infant ‘C’ curve. There is a general sense of low tone and little strength in the body, especially in the arms and chest. This posture is read in somatic character systems as collapsed, but holding on against abandonment.”

Distrusting - Late Need

Attributes & Aspects from the Bodynamic Encyclopedia:

Holding patterns of the need structure

EARLY POSITION: DESPAIRING

Physically:

  • Stand with weight on the heels.
  • Over-extended knees.
  • The body forms a bow with the stomach pushed forward.
  • The spine has a marked curve, starting from the shoulder blades.
  • Thorax collapse by the breast bone.
  • Head pushed forward like a tortoise.
  • Full ‘loose’ lips.
LATE POSITION: DISTRUSTFUL

Physically:

  • Stand with weight on the heels.
  • Over-extended knees.
  • The body forms a bow with the stomach pushed forward.
  • The spine has a marked curve, starting from the shoulder blades.
  • Slight thorax collapse by the breast bone.
  • Head pushed forward (less marked in the distrustful position)
  • Possibly tight mouth (though sullen).

Expression in the eyes:

  • Yearning/seeking expression in the eyes.

Expression in the eyes:

  • Distrustful expression in the eyes.

Life patterns:

  • Difficulties feeling own needs, but at the same time good at sensing the needs of others.
  • Difficulties in feeling own needs and distinguishing between different needs, and/or between their own and others’ needs.

Life patterns:

  • Difficulties in satisfying their own needs – won’t reach out.
  • Don’t believe they get the right thing by asking for what they need. Believe that it is only ‘genuine’ if you get what you need without asking for it.

Key sentences:

  • I don’t know what I need.
  • I only need your love.
  • I can’t. I feel abandoned.
  • I’m left in the lurch.
  • You must be able to see what I need.

Key Sentences:

  • I always get the wrong thing.
  • No matter what I ask for, I never get it.
  • I am left behind.
  • Everybody else gets what they need, it’s only me that has to do without.
  • If I have to ask for it, it doesn’t matter (either it is not the right thing or you don’t want to give it to me).

Resources:

  • Loving, caring and clear thinking in intellectual matters.
  • Tenacious.

Resources:

  • Giving.
  • Has a healthy skepticism.

Specifics:

  • Don’t take in or absorb energy.
  • Poor ability to accommodate energy and feelings.
  • Experience themselves as being without energy, depressive or resigned.
  • Seek merging contact.

Specifics:

  • Manage their energy and feelings by rejecting.
  • Aggressive or distrustful tendencies.
  • Tendency to merging contact.

NEED STRUCTURE HANDOUT Ages 1 month to 1.5 years

Mutual connection for this stage: Can I have my needs met in a consistent, reliable, timely, and caring way, so I can be satisfied, relaxed, and feel connected?

Developmentally, need structure encompasses the time soon after birth to 1½ years of age. When human babies are born, they are completely dependent on their caretakers for food, comfort, contact, soothing – that is, all their needs, for both survival and thriving. A successful outcome developmentally occurs in a relationship with caretakers who are attuned enough to the baby’s needs that the infant begins to feel safe in their world, an important part of secure attachment.

The Mom and the baby actually figure this out together, through attunement and periods of trial and error. Initially, the baby communicates either comfort or discomfort, through sound, facial and body expressions. If things are going well, the baby’s relaxed body, contactful eyes, soft sounds; or active, energetic movement, bright eyes and excited sounds let Mom know to continue with what she is doing. If not, she and the baby have to work out what is needed to return to a more positive experience. Thus they learn together how to adjust to experiences of discomfort including needing food, needing soothing, needing to be alone, needing a change of diapers, needing to sleep, needing to have more or less stimulation.

The experience of being in relationship with someone who helps you figure these things out gives the child an internal sense that “I can communicate my discomfort to my caretakers and they will either know or help me figure out what I need, and help me regulate what I can not do for myself’’. The baby begins to sense in their body what “enough” feels like, and the relaxation that follows that sense. This developing sense of satisfaction signals that they can go on to another life experience. This is the beginning of a self-regulation process: discomfort, need, intervention, and finally relaxation. Through this repeated experience, of sensing their body and being in contact with a loving other, through both the good times and the stressful ones, the child ideally learns a basic trust in the world.

The most energized parts of the body at this time are the mouth and the eyes. The baby begins to focus better, and the infant can reach out with their eyes. The lips, mouth and tongue are extremely active in taste, sound and exploring everything they can put there. (Many people refer to this stage as the oral period.) At this stage a great way for an adult to make contact with an infant is by making mouth and tongue movements. Initially, the infant coos and babbles to communicate. Later, they make differentiated sounds and noises. Towards the end of this time period, the baby starts to use their first words, connecting words with objects, and to have concrete thoughts: “I want that”, or “again”.

The infant is also developing a sense of the boundaries of their own body. Doing movements like rolling over, pushing themself to a sitting position, or creeping and crawling, give the baby a feeling of skin contact with the floor. The skin is the physical boundary between inside and outside me. The baby is building an internal structure and sense of self

As an adult, a person that is resourced here will have a sense of what they need, and also how to satisfy that need by themselves: i.e., I’m hungry, I need to eat, or I’m full, I want to stop eating. The adult resourced need body will have soft, contactful, interested eyes. They will hold their head and spine in an erect way. Their lips will be full, and they will be comfortable reaching out for their needs as well as taking in. They will enter into intimate relationships with an expectation and belief that they can express their needs to those close to them, and often enough receive a caring response. They also will be happy to reciprocate with that person’s requests for help, and will have a sense that this will mutually deepen the closeness between them.

There are also two possible types of developmental disruptions during this time period. They can result in either the despairing or the mistrustful positions.

If the attunement between the parent and child is poor, if the infant is consistently either ignored or misread, if the Mom is depressed or otherwise unavailable, if the caretaker is upset by the baby’s distress, the child can to some extent give-up trying to get their needs met. This means the child has survived, but has not thrived. The baby collapses into a characterological position we call despairing. They do not expect contact, do not have a sense of what they need, and do not learn what satisfaction feels like.

As an adult, they still will not have a sense of what they need, and therefore may have little sense of their eating, sleeping, or contact needs and how to self regulate these primary rhythms. They also may not sense their likes and dislikes. They do not recognize what satisfaction feels like.

Their body reflects this collapse, with a spine that looks as if it has collapsed under the weight of their head. In fact, the infant’s head is proportionately much bigger than an adult’s, and it would take a lot of strength for the muscles of the spine as well as neck to hold up the head in an erect position. Because the infant did not get the contact and support they need to develop this posture, the collapse become unconscious and chronic. The adult’s upper chest will be concave around the breastbone, and look like a depressed area that needs filling. The facial expression will reflect the unmet need, with eyes that have a yearning quality, and lips that are soft and loose.

Behaviorally, the despairing adult may keep on talking conversationally (we call it babbling) as a way of trying to make and keep contact. They can experience themselves as not having energy, as resigned or depressed, as lost or outer directed. When they do receive something good they may not be able to really take it in. However, they also may be particularly good at sensing the needs of others, and may even use that as a way to find what they might need. As a result, they can be quite loving and caring. They can be attuned to others in a way they cannot be to themselves.

Refer to the Manual, pages 17, 18.
© Bodynamic Institute USA, 2013 Not for reproduction.