Thursday, May 25, 2017
To have a need
Many I speak with have come to the conclusion that it is not okay for them to have a need. Or that it is certainly not very “spiritual.” As little ones in our families of origin, expressing a need wasn’t always very safe and often met with dysregulating empathic failure. We learned that having a need was the fast path to hopelessness, disappointment, and shame, watching as attunement, contact, and affection was removed from the field around us.
Because it was too anxiety-provoking to allow for the reality of any sort of limitation in our caregivers, we defaulted to the conclusion that there must something wrong with us and that we are not worthy of having a need. While that realization was painful, we could temporarily rest knowing that someone was there to protect us … all the while shifting the blame to ourselves, laying the foundation for the deep shame that so many experience later on, especially in intimate relationship.
As adults, often this core belief gets validated by teachings which confirm that having a need is a sign of lack of progress on the path, evidence of not enough faith or trust, too much attachment, failure to “stay in the now,” to understand the teachings on “no-self,” or that we are lost in the “ego.” The shame and blame continue, but with flowery spiritual language replacing the voices of the original bad other.
Let us stand on the rooftop and shout out together, with the sun, the moon, and the stars as our witnesses: There is nothing wrong with having a need. It’s so human, to have some yearning in the heart, some longing for connection, to be met in presence, to be seen, to be heard, to be touched, to be held. We are relational mammals. We will not be overriding millions of years of evolution anytime soon, in the wake of learning some new teachings.
While having a need is perfectly natural, the reality is that it is unlikely your needs are ever going to be fully met, especially by another. With your heart open, make requests to your lovers, your friends, and your family. Know that they will sometimes be able to meet you, to see you as you are, and provide what you are asking for. When they do, you can rejoice and give thanks. And when they do not, you can likewise rejoice and give thanks, for the opportunity to tend to yourself in a radically new way.
At times we will feel complete, resting in the wholeness that we are, and not in contact with any particular need or desire. At other times we will be drawn to assert a need, to ask for help, to enact a firm boundary, to honor a longing in the body or heart, to state very clearly what we want. We can stay committed to both of these experiences as perfectly valid and authentic expressions of our true nature, willing to be utterly chaotically gloriously human, without apology.
Please continue to make requests of your lovers and friends, in all of their forms, while simultaneously remaining committed to the empowered, alive realm of self-care, no longer willing to abandon yourself, even if you are abandoned by another. To dare to be your own best friend, to attend to your body and your heart and your soul in wild and wise ways, even when the other is nowhere to be found.
The Way of Rest summer retreat – registration open now
New book – The Path is Everywhere: Uncovering the Jewels Hidden Within You – to be released in June