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For over a decade, David Tian, Ph.D., has helped hundreds of thousands of people from over 87 countries find happiness, success, and fulfilment in their social, professional, and love lives. His presentations – whether keynotes, seminars, or workshops – leave clients with insights into their behaviour, psychology, and keys to their empowerment. His training methodologies are the result of over a decade of coaching and education of thousands of students around the world. Join him on the “DTPHD Podcast” as he explores deep questions of meaning, success, truth, love, and the good life. Subscribe now.
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About Stefan Ravalli:
Forever studying masterful humans and the art of service the world over to bring their practices to our (sometimes “service-deficient”) culture, Stefan Ravalli combines all that with his expertise in meditation, mindfulness, and communication/listening to raise the game of service professionals – and anyone looking to upgrade how they connect with others (and themselves). Learning meditation was a game-changer for Stefan. It gave him the inner strength to be his unique self (without the negative self-talk!), connect with others better, and live a healthy happy life. Meditation also makes you realize your potential and gives you the fearlessness to pursue bigger and better things you never thought possible, so Stefan left a leadership role at a high-profile bar/restaurant to India to teach meditation. After doing that for years and deepening his tea ceremony practice, Stefan realized that the art of service was the richest path of self-cultivation available to him. Serving anything anywhere was the best way to apply and accelerate all the upgrades he got from meditation. So he started Serve Conscious to bring these tools and practices to anyone where service is part of their life – to awaken us to the power of service as a means of growth and self-mastery.
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Stop Being Needy in Life: How to Meet Your Own Needs for Connection in Healthier Ways
Truth, love, and the good. Here we go.
Stefan Ravalli: Hello, everyone. Welcome to the Tenshin podcast. My name is Stefan Ravalli. I’m a meditation mindfulness teacher, general conscious conversation starter, and maybe the only mindful service bell ringer out there, but hopefully more will join me soon. And I’m joined today by David Tian. How’s it going, David?
David Tian Ph.D.: Howdy. Doing well!
Stefan Ravalli: It’s always fun to talk. We’ve been having some lively discussions lately. Today, I want to talk about needs versus neediness. That would be a good terrain to explore, and talk about specific ones in us that are so often unmet. And I want to start with connection today and talk just about connection probably, and healthy ways of exploring that.
First of all, give you a chance to introduce yourself and talk about your projects.
David Tian Ph.D.: Oh, yes. I’m David Tian and for the past 13 years, I’ve been helping hundreds of thousands of people from over 87 countries in relationships, and dating, masculinity, lifestyle, and life overall. And you can find out more about me at davidtianphd.com. How about you, Stefan?
Stefan Ravalli: I’ve been in hospitality for a long time, as a careerist, as a leader, and a real dedicated hospitality professional. And that’s really the art of satisfying needs and understanding needs. And I wasn’t trained how to navigate that well enough in that industry, and that’s what I try to do with Serve Conscious: try to give people really good skills to understand deeply what’s going on in people, and what they need in the moment.
Because we think people want something surface-level, but underneath, there’s something else going on. And I’m going to go back a little more to my sort of path before hospitality, and that was in the film industry. And I was a screenwriter, and screenwriters, in any given scene, need to know what each character needs. Because in film, there’s always this tension between what’s being expressed in an obvious way, and what’s churning under the surface.
Because in film, people are always afraid of actually expressing their needs. Because if they did, there wouldn’t be any drama. And so, underneath, there’s needs churning, and you need to understand. And it’s kind of rewarding to watch a film, and begin to understand that about a character, and watch it kind of come to the surface in this big, “boiling” climax. And I guess what we’re teaching is that you don’t need this unnecessary drama.
Tension is fine. That’s the process of exploring and understanding, but you’ll experience tremendous relief simply by acknowledging your needs, and healthy ways of having them, and also potentially expressing them and meeting them. But you don’t need to necessarily jump through such hoops to meet them sometimes. And so, I guess we’ll talk a bit about that. So yeah, David. I mean, you’ve worked a lot with need too in your therapeutic background. What’s your perspective on that?
David Tian Ph.D.: Needs have been the basis of psychotherapy since the beginning, since Jung and Freud. Even in life coaching, Tony Robbins is famous for his formulation of Six Universal Human Needs and his constant needs analysis at his live events. This is the easiest formula to put people through to understand how they’re run, and why they behave and think the way they do, and feel the way they do. I guess we can just dive right into it. I want to keep this tight.
And one of the things I’ve noticed is two toxic extremes around need. So, one of them is a kind of toxic masculinity view of needs or approach to needs, which is that we don’t have them. So if you’re a real man, you got no needs. There are some needs. You got women, beer, and [INAUDIBLE 00:03:50] own food. There’s no room for tenderness.
It’s sort of like in that Predator movie, the Schwarzenegger, the original, where I think it was Jesse Ventura, after they just destroy this village or something, or bad guys, he gets cut. And then his friends or the other soldiers are like, “Dude, you got cut in your arm.” He’s like, “I ain’t got time to bleed.” That’s toxic masculinity.
On the one hand, just the repression of certain needs. It’s fine in the moment, certainly, if you are in the middle of a battle. You don’t want to be attending to your emotional needs anyway. There’s no time for that or you get killed. There are some situations where you’re in an emergency situation, and men, especially the really manly men, have been evolved for those purposes. And unfortunately in the modern world, fortunately or unfortunately – fortunately for me because I haven’t been as evolved, there aren’t many opportunities like those emergency, heroic, windows of opportunity to step up and renounce your needs in order for some greater good.
In most of modern life, like 99.99% of the time, you don’t need to shut your needs down in order to get on with life and make sure no one dies. There’s one toxic view of it, which is that you have no needs and you’re just going to go out and get what you want. And this is also found in achievers, like finance, and trading, and entrepreneurship, the denial of and repression of needs.
On the other side, social justice warriors, the cancel culture people. The other side is: My needs take precedence over yours. I have these needs. I demand that you meet my needs. There’s the opposite. Not only do you have needs, you’re now foisting your own needs under other people and demanding that they meet them or that they’re bad if they don’t meet them. There are two ends of the spectrum there.
I think from the mindfulness community, there’s going to be a lot more people on the blame and demanding side of things, but I don’t want to paint everyone with the same brush after all. I consider myself also in the mindfulness space, so there’s the two toxic ends of that spectrum. Especially when it comes back to a need for connection. I’ll throw it back to you, Stefan, on the need for connection.
Stefan Ravalli: It’s also considered maybe by some people who misunderstand spiritual practices, and Buddhism, and all of these traditions where you’re this demure-like monk who is sitting there, just happy to be there and have butterflies land on his head or whatever. “Oh, he’s beyond need. He’s just going to sit in his garden and just be.” He nailed it. And here I am, darting around, seeking fulfillment from all these things outside of me, when truly being alive just means simply being.
But anyone who’s sitting there, enjoying where they are, and just enjoying butterflies land on them has a need to do that. It’s like a need for solitude and peace. He is still acting according to need because every state that you’re in is the result of a need to be in that state. And if you care about something enough to live according to it, or anything at all makes you care and feel an emotion, it’s because there’s a need there. Needs stimulate care.
So, if all you care about is women hunting, and whatever, sex, like the dude thing. You’re only supposed to care about a few things. You have needs and they’re just these very basic needs, and those are the things that drive you. And all that means – those needs are on the low-end of the pyramid of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, of just simply survival, and procreation, and all that stuff. And you’re not really looking at the higher-level human needs that you can fulfill in order to be truly-developed.
And higher up on that list is connection. And connection sounds, I don’t know, I guess to some people, it sounds a little softer.
David Tian Ph.D.: Even if we had the scientific basis for everything, I don’t think it’s going to be that hard to imagine how you would drive somebody crazy throwing them in solitary confinement. Even if you remove the confinement part of it, throughout human history, exile has been worse than death. That’s so weird because – and this is the example I like to use for a big male audience, where they prioritize the need for freedom over the need for love. There’s all these different needs.
So, there’s a hierarchy of these needs that everyone has, and at different stages in your life, you’re going to prioritize some needs over others. And when you’re in your 20s as a dude normally in the modern world, it’s natural for you to prioritize freedom because you’re trying to break away from the family home and out from under the dominion of your parents, and try to establish your own space and your own mental and emotional space. So, it just makes a lot of sense.
But as they go on like that, they hopefully will reach a point where they realize that the need for love should be prioritized over freedom if they want to be fulfilled and if they want to lead a full life. So, the example I give them is exile. So, throughout the ancient and pre-modern world, I guess so even now, but there isn’t any where you can really get exiled, but you can get extradited. You’re not allowed back in the country. Imagine all of your loved ones are on the other side of the wall, and you’re not allowed to enter the wall, for whatever reason, are not allowed out of the wall. Like, they’re in this really nice jail. But you’re not allowed in.
But everyone you love, your family, your mom, your dad, your lover, all your good friends are on the other side of that wall, but you have complete freedom to roam the world all you want by your damn self. And you explain that to a guy… Some guys are like, “That sounds great!” Because they’ve been catalyst so hard from trauma and they just want to go off into the wilderness and live on their own off the land or something. But even then, they’ll usually try to find a dog to bring with them or something. And the dog, by the way, it’s a great way to meet the need for connection. They’ve been bred for the very purpose over hundreds of thousands of years, which is a fascinating topic on its own.
But yeah, even the toughest dude knows, at his core, that there is this need for connection.
Stefan Ravalli: Yeah, and you could put some big spiritual proposition at being on the other side of the wall and you’ve lost connection to your family than if you were to just be like really super Buddhist. You can break those attachments, and then just be totally non-attached. And yes, sure, fine, absolutely. If life requires you to break an attachment, it will certainly reveal that to you, and it’s time to be not attached.
But that doesn’t mean not wanting anything to do with anybody else is a policy in which to live life, and to avoid the possibility of relationships…
David Tian Ph.D.: Well, the thing is, the Buddhist rhetoric around attachment is that they’re attached to attachment. The other thing is that they all have communities. They have the Sangha. So, they don’t usually just go off forever on their own. They die often… they often are – even if they’re in a cave meditating alone for years, there’s somebody who brings them rice and gruel. Without that person who’s groveling on his knees to hand them some rice, they’d be dead. So, you still have the need for human connection. It would be amazing if we could just, on a whim, go to a mountain and meditate all day, and have all of our physical needs met. That would just be amazing.
Now, I want to go there because then I can just bring some other people along and like, “Hey, check this out.” They just bring you food, and give you shelter, and keep you alive. All you got to do is close your eyes and meditate. It’s amazing. But there’s a lot of rhetoric in the Buddhist community and Buddhist history like we broke down with judgment. They use these words in particular ways that are for rhetorical devices, but what they’re really after, the whole anti-attachment thing throughout Buddhist history, is that there’s still a way that you need to be.
And they’re very much attached to that way of life, because the chances of you being reincarnated as a human are about the same as – what was the saying? The same as a turtle coming up through the bottom of a yoke that is floating in the middle of the ocean. So, in other words, thousands of thousands of years. So, you better take advantage of this opportunity and make the most of it. So, join the sangha, join the Buddhist community.
Stefan Ravalli: Right. And if you’re looking at things from the perspective of non-attachment, that means don’t… All really non-attachment needs in application to your life is not being attached to whatever is not serving you right now. Be ready to let go whatever is not working. Which means, your tendency for isolation, if you find that it’s no longer delivering what it used to, that’s a time to go and start having relationships and trying to interface with others.
And I’ve lived in both ways in my life, kind of as a loner, and then deeply involved in social networks. I’ve experimented with both. I’ve lived monastically on a monastery with people but cut off from the world, and then lived in the world. And didn’t find either scenario gave me more fulfillment. When people go off like – Let’s say someone gets exiled, they’re like, “Great. Now, I’m on my own. Now, it’s just me and the world and I’m free.” But ultimately, they’re going to want connection. They’re going to want to go deep inside and find connection to something bigger than them within their own consciousness.
Everyone wants to feel like they’ve got some sort of communion with something beyond just their little meat vessel and the voice in their head. And they want shared experience. We all want shared experience. And if we are truly capable of knowing ourselves and knowing who we are, we’re able to do that because if it involves a bit of compromise, or involves adjusting to how other people are, we’re self-knowing enough to be able to handle that. A lot of people that think, “Oh, I don’t need anybody.” All they’re willing to say is, “I’m too afraid of the influence of others because I’m so uncertain of who I am.” So really, it’s good to look at what’s driving those needs. What’s driving those perceived needs?
David Tian Ph.D.: Well, the need for connection I think is internal. It’s part of our biological makeup. And you can callous to it. You can just decide, “I’m going to cut that off and not have that anymore.” And that’s part of the toxic view of needs. I suppose people will demonize needs as if you shouldn’t have these particular needs, and that’s fine. Like, let’s say you don’t want to have the need for connection because you feel like it makes you weak. Go for it. Like, I literally will say… I don’t like to argue and convince anybody of what’s good for them. You go and try it out and let me know how it goes in 10 years.
So yeah, so even those who make this their life story, don’t need connection. They end up in a monastery with this community. So, you can literally, if you just wanted to meditate and be on your own, you could just find a forest and just go. But people will book a flight to a monastery with tons of other monks there, and they’re all meditating together, and some cook is making vegetarian food. And then you got to sweep the grounds. This is a whole community. Community was soaked into the culture for thousands of years. Even now when you go back, the amount of population density of most Asian cities is insane when you’re in America.
You have no clue. Anytime you go to America, even New York City, it feels like a small town compared to 30 million in Tokyo. Asians from the beginning, from recorded history, have congregated to these huge cities, where they have these monastic communities. Because the monks depend on begging to have the money to be able to make the rice because they’re not really – until they’ve started to get some agriculture and farming in there. But still, I mean, a lot of it was begging.
And without the community of people who will fund the monastery, it wouldn’t have worked. So, the whole monastic lifestyle requires community, requires connection. So again, the hypocrisy of these types of rhetoric, once you bring the logic to it, can be cut up pretty easily. But you don’t want to do that to yourself. You do not want to be cutting off your own needs, and repressing, and callusing yourself because there are these parts of us that have these needs, that if you repress them, they don’t go away. They’re just hiding in the shadows.
If you want to do well in life, the thing to do is to not just callous yourself and cut it off. Because you can’t actually do that, but it’s actually to realize that they’re there and then just to look for healthy ways to meet them. So, Stefan was talking about how we have a need for connection with ourselves, and meditation is absolutely the best way to meet that need. And because it’s manageable. It’s within your own control. It requires very little equipment or none at all. And you can do that right away.
Just close your eyes, go inside, and you can connect with yourself. So many of those men who’ve been callusing these needs in themselves have difficulty even doing that. So, in the previous podcast, we talked about how these emotions and memories that are perhaps painful or associated with some kind of trauma bubble up when that happens, and they just want to push them away as if they shouldn’t be there. And that’s the beginning of connecting. And it’s an amazing feeling if you embrace it.
And so, hopefully, you’ve discovered through maybe – I have some inner child meditations that I do for my paid groups and so on, and we have these ways of facilitating your connection with yourself that you should do on a regular basis, if not daily, or twice a day. And then also, connection with nature and the world. So, these yogis who go off into the mountains. And there’s some who just literally go off into the wilderness. And there are also mountain men or whatever you call them. I’m not sure, the Bear Gryllses of the world who literally just find some national park, and try to live off the land, and really get off on that maybe with their dog. They’re connecting with the world, the greater world; the world of nature, and the sun, and the moon, and everything else that they’re still connecting.
And that need for connection, psychology theorists have discovered, is very similar, if not the same, as the need for other human beings and the need for connection with other people and yourself. You can also meet that need by just going out into nature.
Stefan Ravalli: Yeah. And some notes about denying that you have the need, or trying not to have it, or trying to paint some story that you’re beyond need now… We do this probably because there’s conditioning around needs that we’ve collected. Because in high school or something like that, especially high school, actually, or any sort of really insecure period of our lives, we desperately needed the validation of others. We needed people to define who we were.
And we associate with a period of weakness, because we were not quite together yet. And you know, high school might have been really difficult or traumatic for us in this way. We might have felt really vulnerable. So now, we think going into adulthood, we can’t acknowledge that we have these needs for connection with others. Because in high school, it brought us so much pain and problems. And so, we push down these needs.
But every time you push down a need, it’s going to find a way to let you know it’s there and it’s probably going to do so more aggressively. That’s just the world.
David Tian Ph.D.: That’s what repression does.
Stefan Ravalli: That’s the golden rule of repression. And so, notice it when it pops up. It’s going to pop up, and it’s popping up in ways that you may not expect. For example, if you’re talking to somebody and they’re frustrating you, that’s your need for connection popping up. Because you want them to behave a certain way, right?
Now, they’re not going to. You can’t control others, but you have a need to feel alignment with them that’s not occurring. So when that happens, what do you need to do? Control them so they align with you and that need is met? No. This is what I have learned about navigating your own needs, that actually was revealed to me with my discussion with amazing Buddhist and a mindful communication guy named Oren Jay Sofer when we were doing an interview recently on my podcast.
He said, “All you need to do is honor the need. See what you’re feeling, look at what need is underneath it, and just say, “Hey, you should be there. It’s good that you’re there. It’s right that you’re there,” this need for connection, without depending on it being fulfilled by someone else.”
You just acknowledge it. And when a need within us is acknowledged, then that helps smooth the edges, and that helps integrate you and put you back together rather than cutting yourself into pieces as you repress things that you don’t want because they’re intense or they’ve given you problems in the past. And just that honoring of a need inside of you is so powerful as a starting point, to begin to navigate them. Because what’s important in navigating your own needs and the needs of others is not just simply ticking the box of fulfilling it. It’s simply knowing it’s there and honoring it.
Because once you think, “Oh, this need’s popped up. I need to fulfill it.” That’s what everyone does. “I need you to fulfill it for me. You got to participate in that you got to act how I want you to act so that I feel like my needs are met.” That’s when we run into trouble. But we’re the only ones responsible for meeting our needs. We can request that others do that if it’s appropriate. They can help us fulfill our needs, but ultimately, it’s really not on them. It’s on us.
And without burdening, if we’re worried about burdening others with our needs, all we have to do is honor ourselves and our own sort of need having nature, and say, “This is a really good need.” How can I take this need into the world in ways that are valuable to it and to myself? And then, that puts you on a much healthier and potentially transformative path, as someone having needs not just this like, you know, this desperate tank that needs to be filled by the outside world. Now, you’re an agent of connection.
David Tian Ph.D.: Yeah, you’re right that the acknowledging of it is the first step, that it’s going to be required. What I’ve discovered is that – I do lectures and seminars on human needs, and it’s a relatively easy task for me to argue people into submission, to admit that they have needs. That’s not the hard part. So they’re like, “Yes. I have this need for love, but she won’t love me.” So, there’s a lot of needy guys out there in the world, and a lot of guys who feel lonely, and they can acknowledge that. They’ve got no problems saying, “I have this human need for connection and it’s not being met.”
The problem is, they don’t know how to meet their needs in ways that are healthy, sustainable, that is in their control and that they can experience on a daily basis. Let’s take another human need: significance. This is a common achiever need that drives them. They often put off meeting that need until they get some big goal, like they finally exit from their company, or they sell it, or they get the trophy, or they finish the exam, whatever, and they don’t allow themselves to meet that need until the grand goal is met.
And same with connection. They wait until they can talk to some friends before they do that. So, I’ll give an example for myself. You can meet your needs in lots of small ways that add up to meeting them in a big way. And it’s something you should work into your life every day. I used to live in hotels for years, and that was great because you get total loyalty, and so, I was ambassador elite, and I got free suite upgrades and all that. So, it was very magical. It’s not what people usually think if they live in the US because US hotels suck compared to what life is like in Asia.
But it made for a lonely life because I basically had everything – my office, all my work was done in the suite. And my Monday to Friday human connection was limited to the buffet downstairs or upstairs, and occasional room service and the housekeeping. And so, you imagine it was like, “Hi, bye.” And I discovered, after a while, “Wow, I totally engineered this life so that I feel lonely.”
Well, one of the downsides is I felt lonely. So, I had to learn to find manageable and healthy ways to meet my need for connection that were within my control and that I could do on a daily basis. You just sit and think about it. And so, one of them was I started to work more in the Starbucks down the street, and it was a big Starbucks with a really great view. And even just one or two hours there, the buzz of the activity. I was able to fulfill my need that I had. These are all variable, how much connection you need at that particular stage in your life. But I had a relatively low threshold for meeting that need, and I met it just by getting out there.
And if I wanted to, I could talk to the barista or the people nearby, or meet a friend for coffee, a chat or something. So, I didn’t have to stay in my room alone in my bathrobe, which was a cool work outfit – as a digital nomad, that’s what we get to do. But I could go out to the Starbucks. And actually, it’s amazing, just being around people and the buzz of activity helped me have that need for connection met, and I felt like, “Okay, I was around people. I wasn’t stuck in a jail.”
Because after a while if you choose the most comfortable St. Regis suite or whatever but you’re by yourself, it’s just a really nice jail, right? So, getting out with people, even going to the lounge if you have access to that, and just working there, it’s amazing because that will actually fulfill your need for connection. This is also one reason why I’ve discovered a lot of digital nomads are much more productive in co-working environments, even though they’re literally doing the same and work on the same laptop. But they’re sitting in a building or a room with lots of other people who are working, and that gives them energy and helps fulfill their need for connection, even when they’re not even talking to any of those people.
So, there’s just looking for ways, strategies, for meeting your needs in healthy, manageable, sustainable, frequent, and within your control basis, or ways of doing it, and start starting to implement those.
Stefan Ravalli: Great topic.
David Tian Ph.D.: Yeah. Alright, great. So, thanks so much for listening and watching. You can learn more about me at davidtianphd.com. And Stefan, where can they get a hold of you?
Stefan Ravalli: Check me out at serveconscious.com or find me on any social media platform and just type in my name. I’m probably the only person in the world, and if you find someone else with my spelling of my name, let me know because they must die.
David Tian Ph.D.: If you want to learn more about the two of us and what we’re doing here with this project, go to tenshinmindfulness.com. Alright, thanks so much for listening and watching, and we’d love to hear from you. Until next time, signing out. Thanks again.
Hey, it’s David again. Before you go, a couple last things. First, all the show notes and links to resources can be found at davidtianphd.com/dtphdpodcast. Or you can just go to davidtianphd.com and find it through the top navigation menu. Second, if you’d like to interact with me and other like-minded fans of this podcast personally, then join our private DTPHD podcast Facebook group. We’ve got an awesome community of intelligent, wise individuals from literally all around the world.
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