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Getting What You Need

by Ruth Gordon, LCSW

Knowing the “proper” procedure for communicating on an honest, yet respectful level can be quite a conundrum. How honest and how respectful need we be? Sometimes being phony can feel okay and can serve us relatively well, but, most of the time, at the very least, we suffer damage to our self-esteem. Any time we fail to honor our true selves and feel that we need to hide who we really are and how we really feel we commit some form of psychic self-mutilation.

So, how do we stay authentic without bringing a mountain of misery down on our own heads? It’s best to know that, every once and a while, the mountain will fall and that survival (ours and others’) is not only possible, it’s likely.

Our feelings are an integral part of who we are. My personal belief is that if we weren’t meant to have a large range of emotions in our repertoire, they wouldn’t exist. Do not punish yourself because you are hurt, angry, disappointed, etc. Do your best to understand what is triggering you; what interpretation you are putting on the events that surround the uncomfortable mood that has descended upon you.

As in all things in human life, the greater your self understanding, the better able you will be to know what you need and, where your strengths lie in the acquisition of the elements that are essential in the creation of your happy life (as opposed to what someone else “thinks” you should want and need).

For those of you who are thinking, “But I hate confrontation”, “I’m afraid to upset the apple cart”, “It’s a small thing, I’ll just let it ride”, or some variation thereof, I would like to suggest that if you are dealing with a situation or a person who evokes chronic unease in your life, your continuing discomfort will erupt in some way and you will experience some form of unhappiness as you try to avoid dealing with the components in your life that are hurting you or driving you crazy.

A common scenario that occurs when we try to communicate about a sensitive issue is that the other person becomes defensive and is, thus, unable to even hear what we have to say. Try some form of “I’m not attacking you and there is nothing for you to defend, I simply want for us to be able to have the best relationship possible — that is why I am discussing this with you”. By all means say this in a friendly tone — you want to be heard, after all.

It’s important to know that if we don’t express our needs, however obvious they may seem to us, “the other” may have no idea that we are having a problem with something they have said or done or neglected to say or do. We all look at the world through our own unique lens and what is evident to one of us may not be, as unlikely as it seems, as apparent to anyone else. If you don’t let the world know what exactly it is that you require, you may find yourself disappointed with the portion you have been served.

There is always a reason for our behavior and emotions — they don’t appear from thin air, like a genie from a bottle, . It is not useful to chastise ourselves for the way we feel. What is helpful is to understand what is going on with us, and, when fitting, to let the source of our discomfort know why we are upset. When we are on the receiving end of this, it behooves us to drop our own defenses and to listen to what another individual is trying to tell us. It is not shameful that we have been involved in a miscommunication. It is a shame when such communiqués result in hurt and/or loss.

When we are able to say, “Look, this is what is troubling me”, and to say it without feeling guilty, we are on the right track. Even if we are at an impasse, most of us feel better when we have been heard. A respectful decision to “agree to disagree” does not usually result in the demise of a relationship. It is not a personal insult or a hostile act to hold differing points of view. Couples, in particular, have a tendency to believe that it is disloyal to hold divergent opinions on matters of importance. A successful (which implies mature) relationship does not require that we be joined at the hip on all issues (how boring that would be!!).

Open your mind to diversity. Your life will be richer; you will afford yourself the opportunity to learn and grow. Above all, honor who you are. Rather than wrapping yourself in shame and self recrimination, continue to learn about what you need to live a life that makes your heart sing. That just may be the life you end up living.

You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometimes you might find\

You get what you need

The Rolling Stones

Ruth Gordon is licensed clinical social worker in both Massachusetts and Florida. For more information, please visit her listing on the Therapist Directory. This article may not be reprinted, reproduced, or retransmitted in whole or in part without the express written consent of the author.

2 Responses to “Getting What You Need”

  1. Says:

    interesting. i like this articles.

  2. Ellyn Warden Says:

    Hey thanks for your information, much appreciated!

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