Friday, March 6, 2009

Asking for Help

From COURAGE to CHANGE, page 66:

"Al-Anon has helped me realise that no one readily knows what is in my heart, mind, and soul. I can't expect my needs to be met, unless I first explain what those needs are."

Our culture does not support this viewpoint. On the contrary, we grow up expecting other people to know what we want, to somehow be able to reach into our minds and lift out just exactly what it is we are wishing for in our relationships, and then proceed to provide that for us. How many times have we said ourselves, or heard someone else say: "If she/he really loved me, they'd know what I want?" This is nonsense of the highest order, but its nonsense presented to us at every turn in those vehicles of culture; music, literature, movies.

This expectation, that other people should know what our wants and needs are, is, I believe, responsible for an endless amount of suffering in relationships. We feel as if a spoken need is somehow not as meaningful as one magically divined. If we have to tell the other person, we may feel aggrieved, or resentful.

Would we sit at the breakfast table, and expect the other people sitting with us, to know that we'd like to be passed the butter? Would we state to our closest friends: "He should know that I want the butter, without me having to ask; if I have to ask, it's not the same!" Would we sit there, with our toast growing cold, pouting and becoming livid with rage and resentment because the other person continued eating, and even smiled affectionately at us, all without passing the butter?

Yet this is precisely what so many of us do when it comes to our emotional needs - walk around with expectations that our partners/friends/family should know what we want, and rush to provide it, without us ever having to speak a word. It should all roll out at our feet like a magic carpet in a Disney film.

Al-Anon presents us with a novel approach - if we want something, ask for it! I still find this troublesome at times, I still have to fight that deeply ingrained belief that I shouldn't have to ask. But if I don't ask, I have zero hope of receiving. If I don't ask, I don't get.

And sometimes when I do ask, I don't get, because the answer is "No." But that's another subject entirely.

And now I'm off to a friend's luncheon celebration, which I am going to attend, because he asked me if I would.
See? It's easy, when you get the hang of it.

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