Steve Hein's

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Here is an early draft of the first chapter of one of the new books I am working on. It will be called "Your Emotional Needs"


You never believe me!

That is what my partner said in one of the last "fights" we had.

We were in Puerto Iguazu, on the Argentine side of the world famous Iquazu waterfalls. We had planned to start our new life together there. I was going to teach English and she was going to teach Portuguese.

It is a place many couples go for their honeymoon. But after only a few days there together, she gave up on our short but intense relationship. She packed her bags and left.

Over the next few days I thought about what she really meant when she said "You never believe me." For many years now I have been trying to decode people's words and translate them into a language of feelings and emotional needs. I find this to be a very helpful exercise. As I thought about her words, I started to remember things she had told me earlier in our relationship. One of the first things I remebered was something she told me about her mother and step father.

When she was in her early twenties her mother re-married. She told me her step-father had been touching her in appropriate ways. When she told her mother this, her mother did not believe her.

I also remembered that she told me once that her mother did not use the internet much and did not like to read things online. My partner, though, liked to do online research. She said she would often tell her mother things she had read online and her mother would not believe her.

So it became clear to me that what she needed was to feel more believed by those important to her. On the day when she said "You never believe me" she was in pain. She was in pain from not feeling believed by me. This set off a chain reaction of painful memories of other times she had not felt believed. Some of those were fresh in her memory, others were not. She gave me more clues to her painful feelings and her unmet emotional needs that day. After she attacked me with "You never believe me," she added that I hadn't believed her when she told me about the water in our hotel room and about something else which I have now forgotten. So now, looking back, it is all much more clear to me. For years she had felt pain from not having her mother, and probably others, believe her when she told them things. So when she felt disbelieved by me she sprang into a type of animal survival instinct response. She went on the attack.

That day, when she said, "you never believe me," I was too stunned to even reply. She is normally an extremely peaceful and gentle person. It was very rare that she would feel so hostile. In fact, I am not sure there had been even one time where I saw this kind of reaction from her.

I have learned that when people go into the attack mode like that they are in some kind of pain. Often, this pain is from some unmet emotional or psychological need. We might even call it a brain need because it seems the brain needs certain feelings so it can maintain a healthy, secure and peaceful chemical balance. So on that day, knowing she was in some kind of pain, I did not counter attack. I did not defend myself. I simply remained silent, trying to figure out what had sparked such painful feelings.

If someone would have asked me how I felt at that moment I might have said, "attacked and confused." I must admit did not feel a lot of empathy for my partner. I felt some, but not very much right at that moment. Nor did I feel much connection to her pain. I suppose one reason I did not feel connected to her pain was that I did not understand it. If someone would have asked me "How much do you understand why your partner is in pain right now... from 0 to 10?" I might have said either zero or one.

Something else I learned a long time ago is that it is very difficult, if not biologically impossible, to feel both defensive and empathy at the same time. I believe this comes from the way we have evolved, in other words, the way our brains have been wired over time. For example, if we are being attacked by we probaby don't think, "Oh, the poor lion. He must be hungry. I will let him eat my arm."

So on that day in the romantic village of Puerto Iguazu I did not immediately feel empathy for my partner. I really did not feel very defensive either, to be honest, since I was more surprised and confused than anything else. But I definitely felt a little attacked. So as I see it, my partner was in the "fighting" mode of her evolved and learned survival response mechanisms. But I really believe that she did not know what she was fighting for.

I say that she did not know what she was fighting for because I feel sure that if someone had asked her, "How are you feeling right now and what do you need?", she would not have been able to give them a very precise answer. I suspect she would have said something like "I feel angry because he never believes me!" But this would not be telling us very much, as I will explain later.

Something else I have learned is that saying we are "angry" is not very helpful. It is not helpful because it doesn't help us identify what we need and why we are upset or in pain.

I have also learned that saying things like "because he never believes me" is something like a road sign pointing you on a detour or pointing you in the wrong direction.

I will explain why in the next chapter. I will also talk more about why saying we are angry is not very helpful.





Caring vs. Control

Common Painful Feelings

Conflict Resolution

Cutting/Self Harm



Emotional Abuse

Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Needs


Hein Painful Emotions





Mail from Readers


Needs vs. Rights





Romantic Relationships

Teen Suicide

Understanding ....



Here is a more complete list of topics