One of the pop-psychology tidbits I hear all the time are about unmet needs, and the unhelpful things people do to meet them.
The St. Michael chaplet I pray every day asks for protection against the snares of the devil, and recently as I thought those words, I heard in my head, “Unmet needs.”
Later, it occurred to me that “unmet needs” is the unlocked back door in our souls, the place it’s easiest for evil to make a foothold. Because when we can’t or don’t meet our needs the way they should be met, then we start doing other things to try filling the gap, and they’re either not legitimate means of meeting those needs, or else they don’t work. Or both.
I think the standard one you see in textbooks is the child who isn’t loved by her parents. When she has children of her own, she then begins expecting them to love her unconditionally, and in doing so fails to provide them unconditional love (because her love of them is dependent on them unconditionally loving her.) It inverts the natural order of things (parents should parent their children, not be parented by their children) and the unmet needs of the mother are both passed along to her children (who now have unmet needs) and to some extent remain unmet, so she keeps looking for fulfillment in other ways.
And we try meeting those needs in ways that don’t work: eating too much or eating the wrong things, or buying things we don’t need, or the more self-destructive ones like alcohol and other addictive substances. Or we meet the need with anger, by telling ourselves we don’t need it or don’t want it. But a true need can’t go away. In the absence of the fulfillment to that need, a part of us starves.
It’s a snare, in other words. I’d just never thought of it that way before. The other half of that, I guess, is that God is the ultimate “fulfiller of needs,” and wouldn’t have given a human being any needs that could not in some legitimate way be fulfilled.
Then I considered: we live in a society driven by advertising and the need to consume. The whole thrust of our economy is to create unmet needs in every single person. Needs that in many cases it may not be possible to fulfill. The “need” to be eternally young or eternally attractive to everyone, for example.
It’s not sustainable. I’ve said that before. But now I see a different aspect, that the more we create unmet needs (and in come cases, unfulfillable needs) in people, the more disordered ways people will begin attempting to fill them.