When people ask you what you want, you might feel like there is nothing in particular that you want. You might associate that not-wanting with having achieved the buddhist ideal of non-attachment. Perhaps you have, perhaps it is. Yet, consider this: do you feel truly content, satisfied and -dare I say- happy?
If you don’t, chances are that the desires are still very much there, and they very much need to to heard, yet they have been forced underground.
As human beings we really are a mix, a complex of various drives and tendencies. Our inner tendency to move towards that which we enjoy, and move away from that which we don’t enjoy, is a prime moving force in our life. Yet, what happens when we were somehow chronically denied what we needed and wanted most? What happened when we spent considerable time in situations where having our deepest needs be met was impossible?
Somehow, feeling how much we want something and then knowing that we are not going to have it in the foreseeable future, is incredibly painful. It can be so painful, that we actually suffer deeply in feeling what we truly desire. This is when we may decide to disconnect from our own desires altogether.
Doing this can greatly soften the pain of conflict between what we want versus what seems possible (and what others want from us). Yet in the long run, it can lead to a belief that we are content to not want anything for ourselves. If you are a woman, then not wanting anything for yourself will be applauded. You will be held up as an example of a very good woman. So now, there are two incentives to keep your own desires tucked away: 1. bringing them up opens a deep wound 2. keeping them hidden gains you social approval.
Chances are, this lack of inner desire will go unnoticed for a long time. It’s only when you decide to go in a new direction in your life, or when you find yourself deeply unhappy with how things are that you start to ask yourself what you want. Then, the answer may come up empty.
At that point, you can go two ways: 1. you can avoid that void by going back to spending all your time serving others and doing what they think you should do with your time and energy. Or 2. You can do the hard inner work and confront that inner emptiness.
When you do, when you confront that lack of knowing what you want, it helps to know that the emptiness is an illusion. It’s the image of a bottomless pit, painted on top of a double bottom. You know, where smugglers stuff their stash. It takes considerable skill to find it, yet, it’s there.
The biggest thing that will keep you from finding that double bottom is holding on to the belief that you ‘don’t want anything for yourself.’ You’ll find this going through your head: “I don’t want anything” or “I don’t need anything for myself” or “I am perfectly content with helping others” or “I’m not a selfish person, I’m all right and couldn’t wish for more”. Notice there is a fear there. Perhaps it shows up as a numbness or a lack of emotion. Either way, you probably won’t feel very inspired or enthusiastic while thinking these things. If it’s something you’ve told yourself that you need to make do with, then you won’t even question it anymore.
Why does connecting to our own needs matter?
Without that connection, you won’t feel as inspired or passionate about life. You’ll have problems with over-giving, under-receiving and general malaise and exhaustion. You’ll be surrounded by “takers” because you are unable to let potential “givers” know what you’d like to have from them.
Whatever the reason for the initial disconnect, it’s essential to know that there are ways to start changing the way your life is set-up. Once you start to believe that it is possible for anyone to have what they want most it will become easier to let your own suppressed needs surface. There will be hope for things to change, and this hope will provide fuel and motivation for creating change. This hope will help you navigate the pain that comes from not having your own needs being met and knowing it.
As HSPs, our needs are often different from what most people tell us we should want. So for many reasons, we may not have any role-models who lived the life we dreamed of. Without that kind of proof, we may have come to believe that the life we want is impossible.
In many ways, it may seem easier to feel good in a “second-hand way”. When we can help others live their dream, then at least we can feel good about that. For many of us, this kind of over-serving becomes a surrogate for living our own dreams. At one point, we forget that we even have dreams of our own.
So I urge you. Allow yourself to dream. Start wondering. Assume for a minute that whatever you may desire will pose no impediment to others getting their needs met. Start from there, even if you believe it’s impossible. Initially, a big thing that stops us HSPs from dreaming for ourselves is that we don’t want to disappoint others. Others’ dreams have become our dreams.
So, it’s important to allow for an inner transition period. During this period, first allow yourself to experiment with what you’d like to have. Start looking for real-life examples. When you’re ready to start changing stuff, there are ways to bring all those dreams down from the clouds and make them work somehow. First, you need to know what they are. Give yourself permission to dream:
“Even though I think I don’t need anything and even though I don’t want to sabotage anyone else’s dreams, if I truly could have anything I liked, and it came with a guarantee that this would not create problems for anyone else, then I do suppose that I would enjoy having…. ”
Don’t get too bogged down in the details. Here’s an example. I recently talked to a client about the house she wanted to live in. She had a very clear idea of what she wanted. In fact, she knew the exact neigborhood where she wanted to live. Only problem was, her partner didn’t want to live there for various reasons. So, we broke it down. We deconstructed her ideal home into its essential characteristics. We also added the characteristics her partner wanted most in a house. That became her dream-home blueprint. A few weeks later, she’d found the perfect place.
So, don’t let whatever you think you can or can’t have stop you. Start with identifying what you want somehow. Then, when you’re ready to go and make it happen, there are ways to bring it down from the clouds.
For starters, write, sing, daydream, cut&paste or doodle about it.
Don’t want to go it alone? Check out the Happy Sensitive Community
(mouse over the poster to see the interactive links!)