How to Release Neediness

October 8th, 2012 by Steve Pavlina

Learn to notice and appreciate the hidden abundance obscured by scarcity and lack, and more abundance will flow to you.

Although I enjoy some very nice abundance in my life today (time freedom, work I love, travel, wonderful friends, amazing kids), I don’t need anything in particular to feel rich. As I see it, I attracted these things into my life because I learned to cultivate a relationship with life based on appreciation and gratitude before all of this showed up.

Appreciation

Years ago when I was broke and experiencing quite a lot of lack, I focused on deepening my appreciation for simple things: a long walk at night, a warm hug, the sensual experience of a sweet piece of fruit, etc.

Beyond that, I also looked for ways to appreciate the painful parts of my life, and especially for the amazing growth lessons they contained.

I allowed myself to appreciate my colorblindness; I see the world differently than most. I gave myself permission to see the good in being arrested multiple times when I was a teenager; I can empathize with people who commit crimes without condemning them. I forgave myself for all the bad business decisions I made; I understand the temptation to focus on making money first and foremost.

If you perceive a sense of scarcity in your life right now, I feel for you. I can empathize with what you’re going through since I’ve been there myself. I know how stressful it can be. I used to have creditors calling me 10 times a day, asking “When can you make a payment?” I also know how frustrating it can be to keep seeking that next opportunity to finally make something happen, only to repeatedly watch your efforts crash and burn. I lived that way for years.

A Transformational Question

I pose to you a question that I found immensely transformational many years ago:

Is it possible for you to still enjoy your life even if your financial situation stays the same or even gets worse for the rest of your life?

When I asked myself that question, at first I wasn’t sure. But as I pondered it, I began to see that there’s so much more to life than money. Why center my happiness and sense of self-worth around something that reduces to a number in a computer database?

At the time, my number had a minus sign in front of it. And I had assumed that this tiny horizontal strip had the power to rob me of much of my enjoyment of life. I believed that without enough money flowing, I couldn’t fully enjoy my life. And so I created — yes, created — a lot of unnecessary stress and frustration for myself.

I determined that even if I stayed completely broke for my whole life, I could still enjoy my life immensely if I really committed myself to that. I could still enjoy great relationships, long walks, healthy food (which grows on trees), stimulating conversations, writing, hugs and affection, and even world travel. Other broke people had enjoyed all of those things. Why not me? I soon concluded that a lack of financial success could not prevent me from creating a very happy and abundant life. A minus sign simply didn’t have that kind of power, unless I yielded my own power to it.

That realization permanently transformed my relationship to money — and beyond that, to life itself. I no longer felt this clawing neediness to earn more money and to get out of debt. I stopped caring how much or how little I earned. I stopped using my income as my measure of success.

I decided to center my work around what I loved to do instead of around what I thought I needed to do to make money. That completely turned my financial life around within a year. To this day, money seems to flow into my life very easily. But even though I have more money flowing through my life today, I still don’t fuss over the numbers. I measure my success by my happiness and enjoyment of life, and this is under my control regardless of what’s going on in my finances.

It’s not the craving for more money that invites abundance. It’s the release of fear attached to being perpetually broke. Can you let go of your fear and resistance to being broke? Could you still enjoy your life even if you remained broke and in debt for the rest of your life? If you can do that, you will welcome the experience of true abundance into your life.

What good is abundance anyway if it can be ruined just by changing a number in a database? True abundance should be unconditional, should it not? If abundance can be threatened, it’s not abundance; it’s still scarcity.

Releasing Neediness

It isn’t hard to see that neediness is repulsive to people, and since money flows through people, neediness repels money too. The more you need money, the less you’ll have it. Haven’t you experienced this already?

How do you feel when people ask you for money, stating that they need it badly? Does their need stir loving generosity within you? Or does it make you clench up a bit? Maybe a mixture of both sometimes, depending on the circumstances?

When do you most enjoy giving? Do you love giving to the neediest people? Or would you rather give to those who will truly appreciate and value your gift the most?

The key to abundance is to stop needing more, and start appreciating what you already have.

Life can be very generous with those who cultivate a sense of appreciation. Even when it seems like you don’t have enough, could you allow yourself to perceive that perhaps you already have more than enough? Is it possible that you already have everything you need to be happy?

Relating Without Neediness

The same dynamic plays out in our relationships too.

I’ve been enjoying a delightful flow of abundance in my social life these days, and I can trace it to a similar realization. I asked a very similar question:

Is it possible to still enjoy my life immensely even if my social life never got any better than it is now, or even if it declined?

Could you still enjoy your life even if you never had a boyfriend or girlfriend again? Even if you never had sex again?

I realized that in this case, the answer was still yes. Even if my relationship life seemed very lacking, I could still find countless things to enjoy in life. I could enjoy nature, get a dog, go deeper into my meditation practice, continue writing and speaking, travel around the world, etc.

Even if I didn’t feel much social love coming back to me from others, I could still be very loving, and that would be enough to enjoy a sense of abundance.

In all honesty I would find it a much greater challenge to enjoy my life if I didn’t experience lots of touch and affection, but I do believe that if I knew I’d have scarcity in this area for the rest of my life, I could surrender to that, and I could still enjoy my life overall. I wouldn’t need to create suffering and misery for myself.

Curiosity and Love

If I don’t need anything from other people, then what’s the motivation to socialize? For me it’s two things mainly: curiosity and love.

When I meet new people, I’m curious to learn more about them. I’m curious about how compatible we are and in what ways. I’m curious where the flow of our connection will lead, even when it’s fresh and new. I hold the sense that anything is possible, and so this curiosity about what will happen next is a powerful motivator for me.

My second motivator is that I love seeing people happy.

One way I express love is by joking around and being playful. When people who’ve only read my blog finally meet me in person, they often tell me that they had no idea that I could be so silly. That sort of thing just doesn’t translate very well to blog posts, but it naturally comes through in interpersonal interactions. Ever since I was a kid, I loved to make people laugh.

Another way I express love, specifically with women, is through touch. When I have a good connection with a woman, I love to cuddle her, caress her, massage her, and scratch her head while we talk. When we’re walking around outside, I will almost always hold her hand or put my arm around her. I won’t do this with someone who’d rather not connect in that way of course, but with someone who likes being touched a lot, I love making her feel good when we’re together. It’s also fun to explore what each person likes best.

When someone is unhappy, I also feel a natural desire to want to make them feel better. During my recent Oslo trip, one woman there was feeling sad because her boyfriend had broken up with her while she was away. I was set to go out to the movies with two other women that night, so I invited her to come with us. During the movie I sat next to her and held her hand, massaged her neck, and caressed her arms. On the walk back through the cold, wet streets, I held her hand and put my arm around her. And when we got back to the apartment, I gave her a nice neck and shoulder massage and a very sensual head scratching. I didn’t need anything from her. I just wanted to make her feel good and to let her know that she was still loved. I don’t expect these simple gestures to override the sting of a breakup. This is simply my natural behavior when I’m in the flow; maybe it helps in some small way. Loving touch can be very comforting for someone who may be feeling vulnerable.

Transforming Past Pain

Years ago I had some pretty big hang-ups about sharing touch with anyone. I didn’t feel comfortable reaching out and touching people. I figured most people didn’t want to be touched and that lots of prerequisites had to be met first. Touching people casually was out of the question — it was much too aggressive, borderline assault.

These limitations trace back to my childhood. I was barely touched at all as a kid. If someone tried to hug me, I often flinched and cut the hug short. I would actively avoid people I knew to be the huggy types, hiding in my room to avoid interacting with certain relatives as long as possible.

As a child I was touched more often to inflict pain than to express love, and so I saw touch as more of a threat than a gift. It shouldn’t be too surprising then that even into adulthood, I projected this feeling onto others, remaining very skittish and believing that touching someone was practically an act of violence. I felt very conflicted because these conditioned feelings couldn’t completely override my human desire to touch and be touched. So I grew up with very mixed associations. More often than not, I held back when it came to sharing touch with someone new. I just couldn’t go there; it didn’t feel safe.

I remember on one occasion while I was in college, a very attractive girl invited me to study with her. Partway into our study session, I soon realized that the study invite was just her way of spending some alone time with me; her mind was clearly not on the books. At one point when she reached over and caressed my arm, I froze up and quickly made an excuse to leave. Then I went out of my way to avoid her for the rest of the semester. Logically I knew she was just trying to connect, but emotionally I reacted to her touch as if it were a grave threat. I wanted nothing to do with her after that. Sad but true.

I gradually made an effort to improve, and with time I was able to let go of these negative associations. First I had to welcome receiving touch as an expression of love and stop seeing it as a threat. And then I had to see the beauty in reaching out to touch someone without feeling like I was assaulting them. This was not an easy line of development, and it required pushing my comfort zone further and further out, but eventually I tipped to the other side. Now I can’t imagine ever wanting to go back to how I used to be.

The most important change I made to overcome this problem was to deliberately hang out with touchy, huggy people. It took time, and I could only handle it in small doses at first, but it really helped to interact with people who saw touch as a very natural way to connect. I just needed to warm up to it at my own pace.

Today I feel very comfortable expressing love and affection through touch, including with people I’ve just met. I’m also much better at recognizing when someone else is receptive to touch vs. when they’re skittish about it. I’m never aggressive about touching people, nor is it ever necessary to act that way. Instead I make gradual invites and gauge the person’s response. Most of the time it’s obvious that they welcome being touched, but if there’s ever any doubt, I just ask, “Does this feel good to you?”

Instead of seeing touch as a selfish act, as if I’m taking something from the other person, I now recognize it as a beautiful way to express love and caring. I just love making women feel good by touching them in ways that give them sensual pleasure and leave them feeling happy, relaxed, peaceful, and cared for.

The greatest shift I experienced here was when I let go of neediness and replaced it with a sense of appreciation. Instead of feeling like I need to reach out and touch people, I focus on feeling deeply appreciative for all the experiences of touch that are already in my life. I love feeling the warmth of a woman’s body pressed up against me, the sounds of her soft moans of pleasure as I squeeze her neck, the sight of her smile as she looks up at me, the moisture of her lips as we kiss. Instead of taking these experiences for granted and demanding more, I welcome whatever shows up. Even if I don’t have sexual chemistry with a woman, I can still enjoy making her feel good through touch.

I also appreciate that having been on the other side, I can more easily relate to others who are very skittish about being touched. When I recognize women who are like this, especially those who’ve had abuse in their past, I like to issue gentle invites to help them to reconnect with touch when they feel ready to do so. These women are normally very receptive to the idea, especially if they’ve read my blog and already know a lot about me and where I’m coming from. I give them full control and let them set the pace, never pushing them and expressing no attachment to outcomes. I really like being in a position to help these women release some of their past pain and to welcome them back into the fold. Doing this gives added meaning to my own path of growth in this area. I don’t feel sorry for these women or look down on them; rather I see myself in them. Helping them open up is very cathartic for me.

There are other ways to express love by touching each other emotionally, even without physical contact. One night in Oslo during a party, I spent about an hour just looking at a woman across the room. We gazed into each others’ eyes intently, smiling and beaming unconditional love at each other. We tuned out everyone else in the room and focused on holding and amplifying that vibe of love. At first people joked about what we were doing, thinking that maybe we were having a staring contest. But then some of them started to express appreciation for the love energy that we were creating in the room.

My past self would never recognize my current self in this area. He would find it unfathomable that I could express love through touch so casually and without fear, worry, or resistance. It’s rewarding, but sometimes also stunning, to look back and see how much I’ve changed here, largely by replacing neediness, fear, and worry with appreciation and gratitude.

Social Abundance

As a result of going through a lot of internal transformation over the years, I’ve become much more relaxed socially. When I connect with old friends or meet new people, I’m able to be fully present without needing anything from them. I don’t need them to approve of me. I don’t need us to do business together. I don’t need us to go to bed together. I may still have desires for certain types of connections, but I’m not attached to how they turn out. My sense of social abundance is becoming increasingly unconditional.

Just as I saw with the transformation in my financial life many years ago, this is creating a similar transformation in my social life. Instead of setting social goals or trying to create specific outcomes, I just hold this vibe of abundance, I welcome whatever shows up, and I appreciate the heck out of it, no matter how small it seems.

In general, this vibe of unconditional happiness is very attractive. When people see that I’m going to be happy no matter what and that I truly don’t need anything from them, they naturally want to spend time together. And these connections are easy, flowing, and graceful. It’s easy to feel comfortable around people who truly don’t need anything from you. Within the past week, I’ve been told more than once how relaxing it is to hang out with me. Years ago I seldom got that kind of feedback.

When I was in Oslo last week, I reveled in how quickly and easily new connections flowed into my life — and especially at how deep they became, practically overnight. I’d never been to Norway before, and I hardly knew anyone there when I arrived, but by the end of the trip, I had made some amazing new friends, and it felt like we’d known each other for years. As I stood on the train platform, hugging three of my new friends goodbye before I boarded the 4:59 am train to the airport, it was stunning to realize that only 7 days had passed since I arrived.

On this trip I didn’t set goals or make plans. Before I arrived, I had thought about seeing the fjords, but I didn’t cling to that idea. I simply held the intention of going with the flow in each moment. On several occasions people asked me about my plans for the day, and I replied, “No set plans. I’m just going with the flow of what arises today.”

I had so much fun on this trip, and the main reason was this pervasive sense of abundance. I welcomed and appreciated everything that came up.

I even came down with a cold and a mild fever the day I was scheduled to speak at the conference there, a result of jetlag and going too many nights in a row on minimal sleep. It’s been a long time since I’ve been sick, but instead of resisting it, I decided to welcome the illness. I allowed myself to appreciate the extra challenge of doing my presentation when I wasn’t feeling my best. I drank a lot of water and missed seeing all of the other speakers that day so I could get some extra rest. I was the last speaker of the conference, so I didn’t take the stage till about 6:30pm.

I made it through my 2-hour presentation just fine, energized by the wonderful audience there. Afterwards I participated in an hour-long panel discussion with the other speakers, then answered questions individually and took photos with people in the audience. At the end of the day, I was physically exhausted, but I felt very grateful for the opportunity to share a heart-felt message with such an amazing group. When I got back to the apartment, I had a quick bite to eat and collapsed into bed. Soon I was feeling much better, and as I recovered, I felt even more grateful for the return of my energy.

Unconditional Gratitude

A very powerful lesson that I’m still integrating into my life is: Feel grateful no matter what.

No matter what your situation looks like right now, you can always find something to appreciate. Even when it seems as if the whole world is against you and everything in your life is breaking down, pause for a moment and find something to appreciate in that moment. Appreciate the growth challenge. Appreciate your next meal. Appreciate that my blog is here for you as a free resource.

If you can learn to relate to life on the basis of unconditional gratitude, thanking life for whatever it sends your way, you’ll transform your whole experience of living. Life will become a true gift instead of a struggle.

You can’t do battle with life and expect to win. To condemn what’s arising in your life right now only makes you powerless, and it drops you to a vibe that’s only going to attract more scarcity.

Please do the best you can not to relate to life on the basis of neediness. See if you can conclude as I did that no matter what happens with your finances or your relationships, you can still enjoy a rich and rewarding life. Once you know that’s possible for you, it’s much easier to relate to life with a sense of appreciation and gratitude. And this is a very attractive vibe indeed.

You don’t need anything more. You are whole and complete just as you are. Your life is already rich and abundant, if you will only choose to look. Life has been trying for years to say “I love you.” Would you kindly take a moment to acknowledge this?


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