We communicate to be understood and to understand others.

~ Thich Nhat Hanh

Who among us has gone to another person looking for emotional support and found that person unresponsive?

As human beings, we long to be understood by others.  We have an innate need to have our emotional needs met by others. Being in an emotionally supportive community is one of the most surefire ways of reducing stress and living a longer, happier life.  

But sometimes, we turn to others for that emotional support and we find the support they offer lacking.

Sometimes we may even be subject to the other person (or people) tearing us down, doing the exact opposite of supporting us. And yet we can find ourselves returning time after time to that same person, or those same people, only to be ignored or torn down again.  

This begs the question of, “why?”  

Why would we return to a person who does not support us?

Truthfully because these people are often the people who are supposed to support us! Parents, spouses/ partners, family, and friends are all people with whom we are supposed to stand in a supportive community. And most often these are the people we can trust to be our emotional support system.

But, there are times when these people are just not available to fill our emotional wells.  And there are people who are NEVER available to fill our emotional wells.

So what do we do when the people who are supposed to be emotionally supporting us do not or can not?

The Metaphor of the Hardware Store

At one point a few years ago a very wise friend of mine (amazingly talented Kids & Teens Coach/ Tutor, Kimberly Keeth) shared a metaphor that helps us understand what to do when we are faced with this situation in our lives.  It goes like this:

When we need milk we go to grocery store.

When we need nails we go to the hardware store.

Emotionally, we sometimes get lost on our way to the grocery store though.

At these times of getting lost, we can find ourselves at the hardware store.

We find ourselves looking at nails when what we really need is milk.

The milk represents our emotional needs.  The different stores represent the people we associate with in life.

There are some people who are grocery stores. They are bright and airy and full of food that can nourish our bodies.  These are the people we want to go to for our emotional milk.

On the other hand, there are people who are hardware stores. There’s nothing wrong with a hardware store, it’s just not the right place to go to for milk. The hardware store does not have products that will nourish our bodies! The people who are hardware stores certainly have great products to offer the world, but they don’t have the products that will nourish our emotions.

What do you do when you live with the hardware store??

There are those of us who live with the person who represents our hardware store. I know this can be really hard.

You want (and need) your spouse or partner to be your emotional grocery store. But, sometimes he or she just can’t. Or, won’t. So what do we need to do?

The first thing we can try is to have a mindful conversation with the person to whom are turning to support us emotionally.

Remember, mindful communication keeps in mind the possible feelings and reactions of the other person. Mindful communication is thoughtful about both what we say and how we say it. Mindful communication does not make assumptions about what the other person is thinking or why the other person is not meeting our emotional needs.

And finally, mindful communication allows you to speak your truth with assurance, but not aggression.

We also need to find other people or other ways in which to take care of our own emotional needs. Stay tuned during the month of February. I will be posting two more blogs on this topic: How To Tell if Your People are Hardware Stores or Grocery Stores; And, How to Build Your Grocery Store Tribe.

In the meantime, be thinking about different ways you can take care of your own emotional needs!  Here’s a short list of examples:

  • Write in a journal
  • Talk to a friend
  • Go see a therapist
  • Meditate
  • Practice Mindful Movement – Yoga, Thai Chi, Chi Gong, slow walks or swims, etc.
  • Read uplifting books/ magazines/ blogs
  • Listen to helpful podcasts

There are many different ways you can nurture your emotional needs. Add to this list, or create one that is uniquely yours.  Post your ideas in the comments or on @peacefullivingwellness on Facebook! I would love to hear from you!

Love, Light and Namaste,


PS ~ If you are interested in talking to totally awesome Kids & Teens Coach, Kim Keeth about coaching for your kiddo you can reach her at KimKeeth1@gmail.com