She wanted to know if she should or shouldn’t leave her current relationship.
She explained to me how unhappy she had become with her partner over the past several months, but she wasn’t sure if she was making a mistake by walking away.
This state of ambivalence is extremely common among the people I see in my practice, and we have all been there at some point in our lives.
That tough space where we find ourselves between what we want, and what we should do.
It’s a place we can live for months or even years before confronting the one question we know we need to be asking.
This somewhat existential question feels uncomfortable, confusing and overwhelming because it simply doesn’t seem like an inquiry we are permitted to ask.
It’s a particularly challenging question for people who easily slip into what a recent article in Psychology Today refers to as the empathy trap.
Trained to consider others first, to be selfless, to wait your turn, to go last, to not be greedy, to be polite, and to make others happy at the expense of your own happiness are all lessons you might have learned growing up.
Tapping into your own desires becomes impossible when you’re trained to believe that this natural form of human introspection is an act of selfishness not self-care.
There is such a thing as healthy entitlement that directly correlates with self-value.
Healthy entitlement is something “I do for me” not something “I do for you in spite of me”.
Understanding what you want, and ultimately need, is of great benefit to you.
When you recognize that it’s okay to want, you open yourself up to connecting with your own desire.
When you learn more about what you desire you become more in touch with your needs.
When you become more intimate with your needs you can begin to get them met.
When your needs get met you feel happy and fulfilled.
When you’re happy and fulfilled you have more to give to the people you love.
It all begins with asking “what do I want?”
Want vs. Need
Every need underlies a want, but you’re not always in touch with that deeper need.
We learn that wanting something means we’re ambitious and goal oriented, but needing something means we’re weak and “needy”.
We believe wanting is an adult behavior while needing is infantile.
When it comes to the human experience wanting and needing are technically one in the same, but it’s easier to want than need because need implies dependency.
If you need something from someone then you’re vulnerable and at their mercy. You’ll likely feel rejected and a sense of shame if you’re need goes unmet.
If you want something and don’t get it you might feel disappointed, but the denial won’t touch the more primitive need underneath.
This is why you begin this process with discovering what you want. It’s safer than digging to the next layer which is need.
Start by asking yourself the question “what do I want?”
Give yourself permission to reach for the stars with the realization that wanting and getting don’t always coincide.
Let’s consult the Rolling Stones for a moment of clarity…
“You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you might just get what you need.”
Dr. Andra Brosh May 5th, 2015