Outgrowing Old Habits, Learning New Superpowers
It appears I have a new superpower – being able to get my needs met. How? By asking.
That sounds ridiculously simple, but for me it’s been a long and complex journey.
Like many people, I used to find it tricky (to say the least) even to express my needs, never mind to get them met!
Many years of meditation and awareness practice have helped me discover some interesting emotional patterns of mine that can lie hidden in everyday interactions.
Like that acknowledging the existence of my own needs can activate feelings of guilt and shame. Which in turn can switch on some anger and frustration. And then that can express itself via a certain defensiveness when I need to ask for help or compromise. As you can imagine, that isn’t often conducive to someone else wanting to help me!
Or rather, that used to be the way it often went.
Something very interesting is emerging. Having worked closely with those parts of myself in self-kindness meditation – the part that feels shame, the angry part and the scared, defensive part – I’ve been able to soothe these bits of me so that they don’t need to ‘act out’ so much. When these parts need emotional security, I’ve begun to learn how to meet that need myself, instead of project that onto other situations where emotional security can’t actually be found.
As my awareness has deepened through meditation practice, I’ve also taken advantage of therapeutic support to help me integrate what’s been discovered. My therapy of choice recently was Somatic Experiencing, which significantly deepened my body-based mindfulness. Through this process my nervous system has calmed even further and begun to feel much safer.
It’s important to be aware, I think, that mindfulness isn’t all about the brain, that our whole body nervous system is involved when we begin to grow our awareness, and out-grow old habits.
As a result of this process, I’m learning that the world isn’t as hostile as the younger me had experienced. From a place of deeper trust, I can take a chance on expressing my needs openly and gently, and seeing what happens.
This doesn’t mean I always get what I want. But it does mean that I more consistently ask for what I’d really like. The defensiveness has reduced, because my nervous system feels safer. I’m also less attached to any particular outcome: I’d like to get my needs met, but I know that if that’s not possible, it’s not a personal attack. So how I’m asking has changed a lot. And more often than not, I do get what I need. In fact, people will often go out of their way to help me, even when they could easily say no.
To quote one of my favourite Rolling Stones songs, ‘You can’t always get what you want. But if you try sometimes, you might find you get what you need’.