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Surfacing the Unmet Need

When you struggle, when you are torn between two parts of yourself – perhaps the part of you that has a strong “want,” and a part of you that knows better – recognize this as a call from deep within, from a part of yourself that is, in fact, needing something.

The more immediate and pressing the desire, the more starved that part of you is to have its deeper longing met. However, the “want” that expresses itself – the desire for food, for example – is not the underlying need.

If we immediately satisfy the want on the surface, the deeper need, which is left unmet, starts to float back down to its place at the bottom of our being, repressed and un-looked-at. We know it will surface again, and perhaps again it will receive that substitute – the fulfillment of its want – while its deeper need remains unmet. And on it goes.

The beautiful gift here is that, once we do meet the need, that part of us feels seen again. No longer banished, it can take its place in our inner cosmos and, not only that, it can begin to blend into the spaciousness of our entire being. We feel whole again, un-fragmented.

What I am saying here is that this part of you that surfaces with its strong desire, is not the “binge eating part” of you. It’s actually a part of you that has a different characteristic, and a deeper need. Binge eating is just a technique that it knows to calm itself down, like a child trying to calm itself with a candy bar when what it truly needs is a hug or time with mommy.

It’s a part of you that, once upon a time, long ago, you decided for whatever reason (cultural, often – both in the family culture and in the larger culture) that it wasn’t welcome. And there it went, banished to the bottom of your being, yet never completely blotted out (I have found, at least at this stage of my understanding, that blotting out a piece of yourself is not only impossible, it is also highly undesirable for reasons I’ll mention below).

For example, there is a part of me that strongly requires freedom and space. Early in life, for many reasons both cultural and personal, I decided that taking that freedom and space would not be compatible with living in a family. I had a strong notion that the two could not coexist. Family was a high ideal for me, and so I stuffed this part of myself way, way down, believing that I should be available for everyone’s needs but my own, at any time.

And from that place of being stuffed down, this orphaned part of me that just wanted space, began to unconsciously rule my life. It did so by creating behaviors I felt I had no control over. Behaviors like rage, and binge eating. Like any being that is starved of its needs, eventually it begins to look like kind of a demon, as it goes about trying to get what it wants in whatever way possible.

It may look thrashing, hell-raising, even, in its attempts to get what it needs. And yet, it is not a demon. In reality, its a beautiful part of myself that won’t go away, that won’t stop expressing its needs, because my deeper intelligence knows that, once having integrated that part, I will shine brighter than I have ever before.

A more beautiful and radiant life is possible.

To see the deeper need, we have to be willing, even for little bits at a time, to stay with the sticky feeling arising in us. Before we go to satisfy the want, we can ask, what is it you deeply, deeply need?

For more on this work, see the podcast “Feeding Your Demons with Charlotte Rotterdam.”

Podcasts are wonderful because you can stream them on your phone as you walk or run, exercise in the gym, drive your car, or do your cleaning. You can also relax with a cuppa and look out the window as the words wash over you. Whatever way you wish to enjoy, I do hope you check out our growing array of podcasts.


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