Needing and waiting (and kittens)

IMG_20131027_173327Last night I had a dream, well two actually, where the first one was about kittens being killed by twisting their necks (a definite ‘what is wrong with me?’ brain production) but this piece is about the second one. So, the second dream I think was a little less shocking than the first one, although I don’t remember it as vividly as the kittens (really, what is wrong with me). I remember it was about waiting, needing, yearning, craving something and having to wait until the need/yearning/craving becomes so big and painful that my body could not deal with it any longer and wanted to scream. I’m sure I was waiting on something important but almost nothing could really justify this feeling of such a massive NEED. It was almost like a poison that redirected any attention towards anything, straight to the ‘need’. And I don’t even remember what it was.

I remember waking up with the though ‘what is wrong with me (kittens) and then, ‘needs and waiting are the same’. Great thought, and I believe it even made sense at the time. This morning, not so much, but I’ve been trying to make sense of it a bit better and I think I meant ‘unmet needs and waiting are connected’. Or something…. I haven’t fully figured it out yet but here goes.

When I crave something that I really want, when having to wait for it patiently, this feeling of need grows and grows until I can hardly contain it. This goes from really wanting to have a sandwich/biscuit/coffee to really wanting to kiss someone that doesn’t know my desire yet, to wanting some help because I can’t cope with X. The pain of the need grows when I have to wait, either because I can’t get the thing I want myself and need to wait for someone to give it to me, or because I feel I need to restrain and control myself out of decency/pride. And sometimes I wait because I want ‘it’ to happen without me needing to ask for, or push it. Sometimes I will wait for someone to stop doing something, and as I wait this need for them to stop grows and grows and grows until it becomes so painful that I need to scream ‘please stop making so much noise when you brush your teeth!!! ‘. At the same time, when asking for something we really want (like kissing someone we hardly know), this direct expression of our needs could very well chase them away. So we wait, wait until the time is right, or for it to just… happen.

And I realise that waiting for certain things is perfectly appropriate, we can’t be like little kids that will, without filter, tell others exactly what they want (‘I want a lolly/ pee/see grandma in Australia’) even when it’s not really appropriate or realistic. To tell someone what I want even feels a little bit childlike and egocentric. I think there might even be a bit of a feeling that if I want something that I need help with getting, I might not really deserve it? Let’s say I need help, not with simple things, but big things that affect my life greatly. Now, I’m not sure if I need the help of my friends or family, in a way I feel I need to be able to do this by myself, but I kind of want their help, yet I haven’t asked for it. I’ve waited for a very long time for help to arrive, such a long time that the feeling of wanting things to change, for something to arrive to end the waiting,  grew into something that was bigger than me. And then I asked for help,  and that feeling of waiting for something to arrive popped like a bubble, because I had put all my effort in blowing it up so much.  Even though I’m not much further ahead than I was, at least now I am focussing on the actual things I’m working on, instead of sitting here waiting, for this big thing to go away, and this other big thing (like ‘being okay’) to arrive.

And sitting there waiting and wanting, needing, it could become all that I thought about. Waiting for a change, instead of changing, waiting for help instead of helping myself or just asking. Waiting to feel better, and not realising that sometimes/often I already felt better. I managed to discount feeling better because I didn’t feel better ‘enough’ yet to justify how long and hard I’ve waited for it. I wanted fucking ‘Disney world on drugs’ feeling better, not just ‘ hah, the sun is out’-better. As this need and wait for change grew and grew and grew, I felt that the only change that was going to satisfy and justify this need/want, had to be a big change. Another flat, job, country, yet again. As the feeling of need grew with waiting, I blocked my ability to make small changes, one step at a time and ask for help along the way. Even though I think that’s the way things change and how ‘feeling better’ arrives, instead of expecting ‘it’ to just land on my doorstep, complete with instructions.

So wait, and need. I still don’t know what my dream was about (including the one on kittens… what is wrong with me?!), but it had to do with the pain of waiting on the thing that I need, a pain that grows and grows and grows until it is bigger than the need and getting the thing I need doesn’t satisfy anymore. And at the same time, waiting is sometimes necessary to get what we need. Sometimes things need patience, like a casserole sometimes things need time to get ready. I guess the thing that is valuable to work with is knowing when to wait and knowing when to get/ask for the thing I want or need. And making mistakes on the way is kind of the only way to learn. And there is no shame in that.






What I need.

needsIn my course we have spoken a lot about needs, and unmet needs in particular, as they are so closely connected to our behaviour. Unmet needs in this context are often very basic needs, like care, feeling important, or being recognised as capable. In the TA-counseling world, unmet needs are thought to stem from not having these particular needs met in our developmental stage, and because of this we carry them on into adulthood. If a need for care is not met, a child can be very crafty in manipulating the situation into being cared for by a parent anyway, for example by getting hurt a lot or being really sad and quiet. Different things for different children. This is clever, and helps a child get their needs met by a parent, even when the parent might be busy/distracted/in need of care themselves.

The problem occurs when this becomes a pattern, and the need is only met when the child behaves a certain way towards the person they want care from. When she finds that this same kind of behaviour works on other caretakers as well, it might become a behaviour that she decides is the best way to get (for example) care. In the TA world it is thought that we decide on a script about what life and our relationships are going to be like when we’re very young, practise and perfect these decisions in childhood, and play it out in adulthood. This all to get the things we need with the highest success rate. When it comes to having needs, when someone is taught through experience that the best way to get these met is through a certain behaviour, it might seem to her that this is also the only way to get what she needs. And if this child is me, it doesn’t mean that my parents have neglected me, it means that they have reacted to certain behaviour, and I have made a decision based on that. No ill intend, just me acting like a little professor.

Now going through all this theory, the question arises on how we get out of this. How do we avoid ‘the game’ (Eric Berne 1964 (yes, let’s harvard style it)). How do we get a need met without having to behave a certain way to get it. By asking? I think so… There is a lot of trust involved in asking however, and in a way we might want our partners/family to KNOW what we need, without us having to ask for it. Still, if I sulk because I feel unimportant, this might result in attention. But it’s not the exact attention that I need and usually ends in both parties feeling like crap, as well as unimportant. If I sulk because I want someone to say ‘yes Jude, you are important to me and I will do this thing for you that you haven’t asked me for’, that’s a wee bit demanding, I realise that. But it’s hard to ask someone for our basic needs. And I think that is because the idea that if someone will reject such a core heartfelt need, it would be shattering. At least, it would if we were still 5 years old when these needs first arose…

I think it’s easy to carry around this fear of rejection, because it is so closely tied to survival. There are TA writers that theorised on rejection and negative attention being so much more potent than positive attention because they are warning signals for life threatening situations. Therefore, whatever I do, I don’t want to be rejected, because if I’m rejected, I will be alone and I will die. Well… that’s very final, but maybe you get the meaning. This was definitely true when I was 4 or 5 years old, without my parents I would not have a home, or food or shelter. Rejection would mean a lot more than feeling a bit miffed. I think children do realise how dependent they are on their parents, they make the world turn round and magically know things, like that bad dreams won’t come true, and that we will get better when we’re sick. They are powerful forces, possibly the most powerful in the mind of a 4 year old, so rejection is to be avoided at all cost. I think it’s quite easy to carry around this survival instinct that used to tell us that rejection = life threatening, and possibly quite valuable to realise that this is now no longer the case.

And there is another side to the difficulty of verbalising our needs I think.  Telling someone that I need something from them is scary because the receiver of this request might feel they are not doing well enough. Another thing that I really really want to avoid is sadness in the person that I need, because sadness in my mother or father meant sadness in the house, air, water, food. The person that I need most now, if he is sad, then the house, air, water and food is sad and I don’t want that for either of us. Silly enough I don’t think about how nice it is when someone tells me they need me. It means that I have enough worth to care for them, or even the power to help them feel better. It means our relationship is valuable enough to put work into it if it needs improving. That’s ace!

I need certain people to see me as important, and the wishes that I have to be important. I need to also realise that I should tell them my wishes first and ask them what their wishes are in our relationship. This is with everyone that I have an intimate relationship with, where with ‘intimate’ I don’t mean sex-intimate, but a relationship were we share feelings and open ourselves in a way that allows us to make the other person feel different. Intimate relationships happen when needs and longings occur and can be expressed. They’re pretty cool and also a bit of hard work. And scary, because once you’re in them, that whole primal fear of rejection starts happening. I think that’s why it’s so easy to go into games and behaviour that we think might get us what we need without having to ask.

Saying ‘I need you’ seems so scary, but I’ve been trying to say it a bit more to the people that I love. Maybe because I’m in a bit of needy situation, but also because it feels good, empowering. I think I also need them to tell me what they need, in order to feel like we have an equal relationship. Needs now are not so much about survival, but about feeling good, secure and emotionally confident. Games are tiring and just never get me what I need as much as ‘I need you’ would do. And still… writing this gives me a bit of fear as well. Going off the script, ignoring all that I have decided on and doing the opposite is scary. But I think I’m deciding that’s it’s okay to need people, not because I would be lost without them, but because life is so much better with them.