I, You, and Need

I often make the mistake in therapy of reinforcing I-statements (“nice I’s!”) so much that it starts to imply it would be negative to use the word “you.”

But the word “you” is absolutely as crucial and as positive as the word “I”; maybe even more crucial.

When teaching people how to do empty chair work or direct contact, the instructions are: use the words “you” and “I” as much as possible. Both words are essential.  Together they paint the complete picture of the ‘contact in the field.’

When we add the word ‘need’ into the contact, then there’s a good/bad right/wrong way to do it.  It depends whether the word ‘need’ goes to the “I side” (I need) or the “you side” (you need).

The words: “you need” are almost always an error when we put them together.  It’s a lot like a ‘should’ – it can only be correct and healthy if there’s an ‘if’ somewhere around it.  “If I want to feel better, I should exercise.”  “If you want to have a good financial future, you need to plan and budget.”  If we don’t put an ‘if’ there, then it’s almost always false.

“You need to start treating me better.”  False.

“You need to let me know when you’re going somewhere.”  False.

The reason ‘you need’ is false is because of the centrality of self-preservation and self-regulation.  At any given moment, the organism is acting in accordance with its needs.  So if we’re sitting on the outside of an organism, viewing the organism, and then we impose an idea from the outside that it needs to be doing something different than what it’s already doing, that’s inherently false.  It’s already doing what it needs.

So if you notice the words ‘you need’ / ‘he needs’ / ‘she needs’ coming into your thoughts/voice, try and wiggle them around because they might be an error (based in some other need that you have).  Try changing the location of the word ‘need’ to the ‘I side’ (“I need you to start treating me better.”) or try adding an ‘if’ somewhere (“if you want to keep your X-Box this week, then you need to let me know where you’re going.”)

Keeping the self-preservation / self-regulation in mind, how interesting does this phrase look: “She only calls me when she needs something.”

Everything everyone is doing at every moment is because of their exact configuration of needs.  So if we tell someone what they need, it implies it’s different than what they’re currently doing – which makes it false – and thereby it’s much more of a reflection of our own needs.