When Last Did you Ask for What you Need?
We assume people should understand what we’re going through.
We believe the people close to us should know the signs, examining our gestures and reading our reactions, all obvious clues as to what we’re experiencing internally.
We feel a huge heap of emotion going on inside us and when others don’t demonstrate what we believe to be appropriate reaction, we feel misunderstood. The perceived lack of reaction can feel brutal. It can feel cold and isolating. Why don’t they get me? Why are they being so uncaring? Why are they not helping me in my time of need?
But why would they?
Why on earth would someone know what’s going on with you, how you’re really feeling or what you need…if you’ve never said a word about it?
Over the course of the past week I’ve observed this as a theme. Feelings of helplessness, loneliness, and despair: people are going through tough times. The situation doesn’t matter - it feels tough for them.
But for every one of these women, it wasn’t the actual feeling of fear or grief or worry that was the toughest to deal with. It was the feeling that they were completely alone in their feelings. That no one around them understood. That the people closest to them were disconnected and disinterested from the things that mattered most in their world.
We’d all like to believe in relationships that are so intimate and so in-tune that we read each other’s emotions ahead of time.
We like to believe in an ability to anticipate reactions and provide the steady foundations of crisis support in any given moment. If our relationships were strong and deep, surely this would be the case?
I don’t think this is true.
Yes, we have times of being in tune and receptive and open. When we’re in a good space we might very well be able to intuit at a deeper level, to listen more closely, to read the early signs. And for sure it’s something we all aim to work at.
But when dealing with day-to-day life and its ongoing onslaught of …well…stuff, our ability to do this gets clouded. It gets shadowed over by bills and bath time. It gets overlooked by laundry and logistics.
This is real life.
So no, I don’t believe we can expect the significant people in our lives to just “get it”. I don’t think we can blame our heartless partners for not being more understanding.
Because we haven’t even given them anything to understand.
We haven’t said a word.
We’ve placed them in the dark. And then blamed them for not being the ones to shine the light.
As hard as it is, it’s time for us to start participating in this ourselves. It’s time for us to start taking responsibility for our needs and start actively choosing engagement.
We start small.
We start by acknowledging to ourselves how we’re feeling. And then we practise telling the other exactly that. Nothing more. Just how we’re feeling. No lengthy debates or story-telling or rationalising or solving. Just a sharing of where we happen to be right now.
Through giving the other the opportunity to see into our worlds, we’re telling them that this matters.
We’re allowing a sharing of emotion instead of a locking out. And we’re opening up the space for other to give us what we’re asking for.
We may be surprised. It might come in the form of a hug or a kind word. Maybe it opens up conversation. Maybe it’s just the slightest opening of sorts, the start of a new awareness, a new understanding.
But it’s a start.