We’ve all been “need-shamed” in our culture. But our needs hold the key to the deepest possibility of real connection, and until we learn to value them, we’ll put up roadblocks to love. In this episode, you’ll learn about honoring, liberating and expressing your needs–and the huge difference that it will make in your life.
Table of Contents
- Getting To The Other Side of Fear
- The Terrain Outside The Safety Gate
- Suppressing Versus Expressing Your Needs
- Recognizing and Honoring Your Needs
- The Art of Expressing Your Needs
Episode Introduction: Expressing Your Needs
What about all those moments where there’s something you want to say, something you want to share, something you want to ask for, and it’s just too hard, and it’s just too scary. Stay tuned to the Deeper Dating Podcast and we’re going to explore the power and importance of those moments and what to do when you’re in that situation.
Hello everybody and welcome to The Deeper Dating Podcast. I’m Ken Page and I’m a psychotherapist and a coach and today, I am going to talk about the liberating and terrifying experience of being who you really are.
This week and every week, I’m going to share the greatest tools I know to help you find love and keep it flourishing and heal your life in that process because the skills of dating are nothing more than the skills of love and we know that the skills of love are the greatest skills there are.
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So let’s jump in. What I want to talk about is something that is kind of so radical and essential and important and something that has been a process that has changed my life, and as a psychotherapist and a coach, it’s kind of one of the essence things that I see again and again for people who are really doing their intimacy work. What I want to talk about is what happens when we show who we are and we show who we are in a generative way, and what happens when we don’t do that?
And both of those points are really, really important for anyone who wants to cultivate self-love, a feeling of a place in this world, and romantic and sexual love. So, how many times have we experienced… how many times have you experienced this?
Getting To The Other Side of Fear
I know I’ve experienced it a lot. Being in an environment and having a feeling, a want, a need, a perspective, and being scared to share it for whatever the reason you being authentic at that moment feels like a risk.
I mean, that’s a human, human, common experience and that is these kind of… these experiences in our lives or these kinds of micro coming outs that are like mini-initiation rites. And an initiation rite is when you’re confronted with a challenge that you don’t know if you could do, but then if you do it, and you get to the other side, you’re more you and you’re able to be more you in the world and our life is filled with these moments and in sex, in love, in our creative pursuits.
I know an author who has this great line, he says,
“If you’re not writing to a firing squad, you’re not writing at all.”
And I love that because there’s a firing squad. Sometimes it’s outside, often, it’s inside and we feel it when we step out of the bounds of who we think we’re supposed to be into the terrain of who we really are.
So imagine that there is a space, we can think of this spatially.
There’s the safe zone where you know you can express yourself and it will be accepted, it will be comfortable, it will be fine, it’s not going to cause problems.
The Terrain Outside The Safety Gate
And then there’s the outskirts land where you’re stepping into a state of greater vulnerability which is scary. Greater originality, which is scary because we’re kind of herd animals in a way and when we step out of originality, we fear that we might be left alone, or anytime that we’re stepping into a zone that feels true to us, but we know that isn’t going to be easily accepted.
That’s the terrain that’s outside the safety gate, but here’s the thing, all of that terrain that is authentically us, that’s outside the safety gate. If that terrain is not inhabited by us, now that doesn’t mean that you have to express it because it might not be safe to express it, but what it means is you honor it and you value it.
These are my feelings, these are my perspectives. They may be really different, but they are me. They are me. That’s owning and occupying that space and from there, we can pivot, we can turn. We have a core that we can move out of and decide in a healthy way. Do I want to share this? Do I not want to share this? Is this safe to share? Is it not safe to share?
That’s when we can occupy that zone of the scary parts of us, the shadow parts of us, the different parts of us, the unique parts of us, the parts with deep needs and deep passions. And that stuff is holy stuff and it’s hugely important and it’s really powerful.
The Tender Parts of Ourselves
And when we can inhabit that and be able to make that choice and we choose to share those parts of ourselves, which are best shared in a safe relationship with a safe person, sometimes we need to share them in an unsafe relationship, in an unsafe situation, but we need to do it because we need to stand up for ourselves.
And if we can do that consciously knowing that it’s hard and scary and that there are risks, that’s fine, but when it comes to parts of ourselves that feel really tender and you can think about this, you can think,
“What are the parts of me that in a relationship are tender for me to share?”
And I think they’re kind of different for all of us. They’re like fingerprints, they’re universal in one way, but they’re really also different for each one of us. So what are those parts? I know for me when I share very effusive feelings, there’s a lot of shame because of past history.
Those are really vulnerable for me. Effusive feelings and I have a lot of effusive feelings. Places of hurt and tenderness, places of need, those are some of mine that I’ve had to do a lot of work on being able to claim and occupy that territory.
The Byproducts of Disintegration
Now, when we claim and occupy that territory inside ourselves and we’re with a safe person and we share it in a generative way, which is as they say, “say what you mean, mean what you say, but don’t say it mean”. Or the beautiful words Harville Hendrix says, “Turn your anger into an ask.” Or whatever it is that’s on the edge for you and you share it in a generative way with someone who is safe and it is met and heard, it’s just the best feeling.
You feel like there’s a place for you on this planet and you feel like one of the places for you on this planet that feels like home is with this person and that’s glorious. And when it’s somebody we’re sexually attracted to, there’s a blossoming of sexual desire that comes out of that.
There’s a joy, there’s a sense of romance, there’s a sense of rightness or at homeness. It’s a fabulous, wonderful feeling where romance is healthy. Where romance is not based on feeling deprived and trying to get the person to meet your needs, but actually feeling seen and connected.
Sometimes, however, we don’t occupy that space and we’re in a relationship with someone and we are afraid to claim that part of ourselves. We’re afraid to hold it inside ourselves and say, “Yeah, these are my wants at this moment. These are my needs. They’re good, they’re fine, they’re great. They’re acceptable.”
When we can’t do that, when we feel ashamed, a bunch of different things are going to happen which are called kind of the byproducts of disintegration because we’re not integrated. We are not okay with who we are.
Suppressing Versus Expressing Your Needs
One thing that happens is if we suppress those needs, there’s going to be a feeling of shame that goes with that and there’s going to be a burying of energy. And that is a kind of act of quiet violence against our being.
So you’re with somebody on a date, you like this person and there’s something you want to share and something you want to say and you don’t say it because it just feels a little bit scary or you’re not ready to or you feel a little ashamed or really a little embarrassed by it.
So what’s going to happen is you just created a mini implosion. I mean, we do it all the time and it’s just part of existence. But when we do that, when we bury something we want to say or feel and not for good reasons, like this other person is going through something difficult and we don’t want to dump this on them, but out of shame. When that happens, it’s an act of quiet violence against our being, and all of a sudden, the space that should be filled with an acceptance of ourselves is now space that can be taken over by other people. Because we haven’t claimed it and we haven’t owned it, and when that happens, we are likely to end up in masochistic situations.
When shame stops us from owning and expressing who we are, there is a pocket where pain is usually going to enter. For one thing, even though we haven’t tried it with the person, our insides will think, “This person just rejected these parts of me.”
Toxic Dating Advice
It’s not rational, but it’s what we will feel when we reject those parts of ourselves. So that’s what happens. Those are some of the things that happen when we suppress those impulses to be authentic. To express maybe the words “I love you” that we’re afraid to say, or maybe, “Let’s have sex.” Or maybe, “I just am feeling really vulnerable and I’d love to be held,” or, “I’d rather look… I’d like to look into your eyes now. Let’s hold hands. Let’s look into each other’s eyes.” Or, “Let’s go have an adventure. I’m really in the mood for an adventure and for some fun.” Or, “Could you touch me a little more gently?” Or, “It’s okay, you could be rough.”
The myriad of things that we get shy about and tender about. When we can claim those and speak them and they’re met, that’s joy. That’s joy. That’s fabulous. It builds the bond, it builds Eros, it builds the connection.
When we are ashamed of those parts of ourselves and hence we suppress them, we will assume that the other person has rejected us. Also, we’ll move into a state where we’re just like, “I say it’s like climbing a wobbly ladder. We’re not going to feel solid inside because somehow, we’re not okay anymore.” And I think you could take a minute and remember both of those feelings and experiences in your life.
I’m going to share a story about this that I really love. I have a friend and she was dating and dating and not meeting anybody for a lot of years and she really wanted to have a kid.
The Reward of Expressing Your Needs
Now, this was at the time of the book, The Rules, when women who read that book and she had read it and been really affected by it were told, “Don’t ask for too much, don’t put out your needs too much, don’t act too excited, don’t act too enthusiastic.” And there are new variations of that that are being shared all the time in dating advice and they’re toxic.
Why are they toxic? Because they’re telling you you should kind of be a little bit ashamed of those parts of you.
Anyway, so she really liked this guy and she had been dating him and she’d had had a lot of disappointing experiences. The truth was she was very clear that she wanted to get married and have kids and yet she knew… Obviously, you don’t go around saying that too early because you’re going to scare somebody off.
But so she met this guy, she really liked him and he really liked her and they were like their third or fourth date and she just said, “The hell with it. I can’t do this anymore.” So she looked at him and she said, “So before we go any further, there’s just something I have to tell you because if this is not right for you, that’s fine, but we’re probably not going to be a match.”
Recognizing and Honoring Your Needs
And she said, “I really want to get married and I really want to have kids.” And he looked at her and he said, “Where do I sign up?” And they’re together so many … They’re together now decades later, but that act of bravery where she said, “Screw the rules, this is who I am.” She occupied her truth and then from that place made this scary decision to share what she wanted to share and the results were wonderful.
She was met and it was a joyful and really great thing. Now, another thing that can happen when we suppress our needs, when we don’t occupy that space, is it’s kind of like pushing a beach ball underneath the water.
Sooner or later, it’s going to pop up and when it does, it’s going to pop up in a way that we might end up feeling embarrassed about because “need suppressed turns into neediness, need shamed turns into neediness.”
It doesn’t go away and until it’s honored, we can’t make decisions about what to do. So take a minute to think about this, to think about romantic relationships, any relationships, what it would be like the next time you have a need and we are need shamed in this culture, need shamed again and again and again.
So this is a claiming the value and the preciousness of our needs. So the next time, like you just picture being in a relationship with someone and feeling a kind of upswell of a need. A need to be held, a need to be touched, a need to talk about something important, a need to be reassured.
The Healing that Comes from Expressing Your Needs
A need to have a mutual “I love you” happen and just think about that for a moment. Think about the times that you have that and now, we’re realizing that the first step is to occupy that need and to honor it.
Not just accept it like, “Oh, I’m human. I have needs that are kind of weird.” But to honor it. To honor it as a real thing. Then we can decide how to move with it. Now, the other thing that can happen is that when we have a need and it feels authentic and real, but we’ve been shamed for it, we might have a different kind of impulse and that impulse is to prove that we have a right to have this need.
That’s another kind of off-balance that’s so human and so understandable, but that’s when we could get strident. That’s when we can get repetitive, that’s when we can have arguments that go on in our head with inner voices telling us again and again why our needs aren’t justified.
When you find that happening for you, that means that there is a way that you are not starting out with a basic honoring of that need and until we do that, nothing’s going to work, and this is where wiser dating actually heals our attachment issues because when you date and you think, you take your needs and you’re holding them, just hoping and praying that the other person won’t shame them or will let … That somehow, this part of you can be seen and expressed, but there’s a sense of fear around that and maybe a sense of shame or ambivalence about your needs.
That’s when you are more likely to be hurt. When you in your dating life actually say, “These are my needs. These are my perspectives, this is who I am. I’m going to honor that. I’m going to treasure that.”
When you do that, there is a healing that happens inside that actually shifts the kind of people you’re going to be attracted to. Shame your needs. You will be attracted to people who can’t meet your needs. Honor your needs. Your attractions will shift and your attractiveness will shift.
Just like an atom that has a certain amount of extra negative energy or positive energy needs its opposite. When you don’t honor whatever these parts of you are that we’re talking about that feel tender, that feel vulnerable, that you really want to express and live, but it’s scary and it’s hard.
When they’re honored inside, you’re attractiveness changes, your attractions change, and there is a central kind of self-love that happens that changes everything. So think about this for a moment.
When you’re on a date, imagine being with someone, maybe you’re dating someone now and you can ask yourself, and you can ask yourself this in every relationship because really, really, really in just about every single relationship, there is territory that’s authentically us that we’re a little ashamed of occupying.
Here’s an example for me, it’s a quality of exuberance. So I’m with my husband and my son, our daughters, and I am feeling this bubbling sense of kind of crazy exuberance because that’s like a way that I am, but I’ve been shamed for that.
The Art of Expressing Your Needs
So I don’t show the exuberance, that means I get a little flat, that means they notice that I’m not all the way there. There’s a sadness in me, but a safety. I’m practicing showing my exuberance so I might… I tickle people, I bother them, I annoy them, I tease them, I hug them, I grab them, I act silly.
These are just things that I do and I don’t do it when it’s an imposition on their being too often, but these are ways or I say I love you or I just expressed my joy at who they are. If I don’t do that, there’s a price to pay because all of that energy will go subterranean and turn against me.
Now, if I feel that, and it’s not the right time and space, but I’m honoring my exuberance, then I can hold it and I’ll be kind of happy and content and not necessarily act it out. If instead I feel a lifelong shame around this crazy quality in me, I will deflate my being.
I’ll just feel deflated and that’s going to create some kind of cycle of insecurity that happens for me and that is what happens. It’s like the conservation of energy. Every portion of your most authentic self that isn’t honored goes in a direction that ends up hurting us, moving us to sadness, moving us to self-sabotage, moving us to anger.
All of those parts of ourselves that are honored are really are genius. They’re our uniqueness. Honoring those parts is the act that every artist has to do when they’re looking at their art and facing the firing squad and then saying, “Yes, I am going to express this.”
The Act That Changes Everything
We live as artists in our relationship and this is just a rich and beautiful and ongoing question of, “What am I not expressing right now?” It’s concrete, you can ask yourself that question and you’ll almost always get interesting answers and if you can then in response, start by honoring those parts of yourself.
And then in safe environments, being able to actually share them, well, our life blossoms into a state of deeper passion, deeper wildness, deeper joy, deeper peace, deeper us. And that’s the intimacy journey and we can live it even when we’re dating as we get to know people, and especially if we experience them as safe.
We can begin to reveal these ultra human parts of ourselves and when they respond in a positive way Eros deepens, the relationship deepens, the connection deepens. So, a wonderful thought.
The thought of honoring the parts of ourselves that we’ve maybe been afraid to honor, and that act of honoring changes everything. So, thank you for listening to this episode. Please do subscribe and leave a review if you’re interested in what I’m speaking about and I will see you in the next episode of The Deeper Dating Podcast.