Social Vampirism: The Needy Personality
By Charles Shahar Posted: 07.06.2006
Needy types are people who drain your energy because they constantly require your attention, affection, or affirmation. In fact, they are desperate for any type of support you can give them.
They are generally demanding of your time and effort, and thus it is tiring to be around them. If you ignore or avoid them, they will be hurt by your rejection, and may get frantic, desperate or spiteful.
Few needy types are aware of just how much of a drain they are on others. Most would not care. Needy types are ultimately selfish. Their needs come first. No matter how caring or loving they seem, your desires and concerns are secondary issues for them. In fact, their neediness blinds them to the needs of others. If they do give of themselves, there is generally a price to pay, namely they will obligate you into returning their favors, by making sure you never forget their generosity.
The needy type has an overwhelming anxiety regarding rejection. They are sensitive to any indication that someone is withdrawing their attention from them. The needy type will view people who ignore them with intense dismay. They will try to change such a person’s opinion by falling over themselves to please them. But if such attempts fail they get bitter, and even nasty. For the needy person those who ignore them are enemies. They will be obsessed about such individuals, often bad-mouthing them to others.
There are a number of reasons why people become so needy for love and attention. Most needy types either did not have sufficient emotional nurturing in childhood, or had too much! It is easy to see that if a person is reared by cold, unresponsive parents they will be denied a basic need in childhood, and never grow past the stage of needing to have their worth confirmed. A needy person is in an arrested stage of development, still looking desperately for the emotional support they lacked in their younger years. People who grow up without the presence of their parents, in institutions for example, often have issues related to worth confirmation as adults.
It is interesting that those who get too much nurturing, who are reared by a compulsively doting parent, can also turn out to be needy. Despite the indulgence, the parent is too busy fulfilling their own needs agenda to pay attention to what the child actually wants. The child is taught to repress what they really feel, and to satisfy the expectations of their caregiver. The latter uses emotional blackmail: “I’ll give you all the loving you want, but I must always remain the centre of your universe. You must nurture me constantly in return.” The child’s actual needs and desires get lost in this equation.
The doting parent teaches the child to become dependant on the care and attention of others. The child isn’t given an opportunity to assert their needs, and make their own way in the world. They are not taught to be strong, to trust their own feelings, and to have confidence in themselves. The child is not given the opportunity to make mistakes or take responsibility for their actions. In short, the child does not come to know their own value, and to develop an inner evaluation of themselves. They continue to look for confirmation of their worth through others.
Needy parents make their kids needy. They make their children dependant on them to satisfy their own need for love and nurturing. They cling to the child, and are actually supremely selfish through this attitude. When it comes time for the child to emotionally detach from the parent, they sabotage this initiative by promoting fear (you are not strong enough; it’s a harsh world) or guilt (I have no one to look after me; after all I’ve done for you…). The child never becomes self-sufficient as an adult, particularly on an emotional level.
We all get needy at certain points in our life. There are days when we feel especially vulnerable. There are times when we crave encouragement, when we need to vent our feelings, or when we just require someone to tell us how special or wonderful we are. Nothing is wrong with that. But if we require such a confirmation continuously, and from every person we meet, then we have a neurotic need. If we become outraged or hurt every time someone fails to pay attention to us, then we are caught in a neurotic struggle that can bring us only suffering.
There are a number of features that define neurotic neediness. It is firstly insatiable. No matter how much confirmation or praise you give the needy person, the next day they will demand the same all over again. They seem to have an infinite need for approval. This has aptly been described as a black hole or bottomless pit of need. The reason is that they won’t stop needing affirmation until a fundamental inner transformation takes place. That is, until they love themselves!
Such an insatiable request for support makes needy types very frustrating to deal with. Their need is absolute. You just spent an afternoon reassuring them, and perhaps helping them with a problem. But a few days later you don’t pay careful attention to their complaints because you are just too busy or tired. They will be disappointed, surprised or even dismayed that you deny them such attention. They see your behaviours as a slight. You can support them till the cows come out, but the next day is like starting over.
Another feature of neurotic neediness is that it is driven by anxiety. The major fear is of rejection. Such a fear makes the neurotic behave irrationally. They will interpret events and actions in the context of this fear. They will frame your behaviours through the filter of their anxiety. Thus, whereas you pay less attention to them because you are busy, they believe (unconsciously) that you are bringing their worth into question. Perhaps you don’t care about them any more. They quickly start to panic as a result.
A final feature of extreme neediness is lack of insight. Needy people are usually not aware of their neurotic tendencies, and would not even describe themselves as needy. Particularly if they are a martyr type, they will never admit to themselves that their behaviours is inherently selfish. They expect something in return for their caring or helping behaviours. They are manipulative, and will use guilt or emotional blackmail to get attention or praise. Yet they have no clue that their behaviours are destructive, and that they are sneaky and deceitful in their dealings with people.