Fear of Expressing Needs

Perhaps the most difficult thing for us, and we believe many others like us; is the ability to express our desires.  A most basic human need and function.  Without expressing our desires, we rarely are able to satisfy our existentiality.  One of the fundamentals of being human, is our individuality.  Our desires are not just whims, to be catered to only when others perceive it nesacarry, they are very critical needs that every person has. For us, expressing these desires is utterly terrifying.  This is a precursor to many psychosocial and societal issues.

Why is the seemingly easy and instinctive action, of expressing what we need so frightening?  We were taught that our needs, no matter what they were, came secondary to everyone else. Our wants, needs, were so secondary, that to express them was considered selfish and even rude.  This behavior, like many others in trauma survivors, is programmed in from the earliest of ages.  Abusers begin this programming even before personality is completely formed, in order to imprint this belief in the victim.  Forever changing the belief system of a child.  This is the very foundation of many of our problems today in Western society.  

For us, being taught our needs were “bad”, went hand in hand with being taught that we were to bear responsibility of our family’s problems.  This meant, no matter what issues were between our parents, their jobs, each other, even the neighbors, and other family members was all the fault of our desires and behaviors arising from them.  This may sound unreasonable; blaming a five-year-old child for the complex issues of adult relationships.  The fact is, when you take all of your personal baggage, and unload it on your child, the child will carry it.  The child, has an inherent need to be accepted, wanted and loved by their caregivers. The child has no way to gauge the austerity in which they dwell.  For the child, there is only the desire to please.  When the caregivers discard the basic needs for positive physical and emotional sustenance, the child does not realize this.  They only feel a longing for something they do not know.  An emptiness develops, and quickly turns into something darker and much more detrimental than death: hopelessness.  

As we began to grow, through the broken timeline we occupy, our feelings of hopelessness turned to self-loathing.  How are we supposed to feel otherwise?  For the abused child, we lose hope for the happiness we see in many of our peers.  We learn to be grateful for less pain and fear.  For the abused child, pain and suffering become the normal, and self-hate becomes the standard.  We see others living lives we do not understand.  We are taught that our life is picture perfect and not to desire anything else.  Our wants, on all levels, become sources of more pain and suffering.  We are only to desire what is good for our caregivers. We are taught to ignore, and even loathe our own desires, for they are selfish.  

In our adolescent and adult years, our role remained the same. However, we now had truly become the scapegoat.  You cannot beat a dog for years and expect it to stay housebroken.  The dog will find a way to become what you have made it to be. The same applies to children; treat them like bad kids, they will resemble one.  Are there really bad kids?  

Progressing through the years where we are supposed to learn intimacy in relationships, our only reference was that of the caregivers we had. Still believing, because we were the problem, that the model we had been raised in was an ideal one.  Every relationship we had was inappropriate on many levels.  From the school teachers, peers, neighbors, and even law enforcement, we were the problem. We had successfully transmuted every ounce of negativity presented to us.  We again were victimized, this time by society.  The light at the end of the tunnel for which we always desired just a glimpse, was never to be found.  We were taken further away in to the darkness.  We had to transform our own self-image.  The part of that believed we were “good” and decent.   We had to accept the role we were meant to play.  We had to quit desiring more.  We were “bad”.

As an adult, we have needs and desires that transcend consciousness. These again are the same desires and needs we had as that small child, longing for love, acceptance and safety. These as it seems, would always be present, even if tucked away in our private place.  This is the foundation for all that is bad in our world.  We have experienced the wants and needs for many things:  Food, shelter, love, and too many others too.  This is a normal part of existence and survival, to WANT.  Why then is the simple and basic action of communicating these needs so frightening to us?  Our needs were never second to those of our caregivers; our needs were sins.  Our needs were only as they deemed them to be. The punishments for expressing our wants were severe and enduring.  Our desires were used against us as weapons.  Things we cherished and loved were destroyed, before our very eyes, and we were made to believe this was our own design.  Our wants were the reason for the agony not only in our lives but in the lives of others. Guilt is used to compound the effect of misery, reinforcing the lesson being taught.  To complete the lesson full circle, shame and humiliation are utilized to insure maximum suffering.  We were taught that there is no learning without suffering.  Fear and suffering are not only acceptable, but desired.  

Today, we find ourselves again, in a myriad of circumstances, all with very unique, and the same time, common threads.  Our interpersonal relationships are still based initially on the desire to love and be accepted.  We love, to be accepted and safe. We feel that our only purpose on life is to serve others.  If we serve selflessly, we will then be accepted and “loved”.  Thus, our relationships are never successful.  For any human to feel satisfied, his or her needs to be expressed. We cannot always meet our desires, and yes, desires and needs many times are the same.  The need to safely express our desires far outweighs the need to always have them fulfilled.  We gain have to learn that our lives are not those of our parents.  Our parents fulfilled all of their needs by using an emotional waste-bin.  For the adult child, we merely deposit our mental garbage back into ourselves.  The failure to express our needs turns again into self-loathing, and resentment.  We fail to understand, as we always have, how others are able to get what they need and desire without the punishment, guilt and humiliation that we have always associated with it. 

As this process continues well into middle age, many turn to substances, both prescription and otherwise, to fill the void, even if temporarily.  We are not living in a conscious self-pity; we are merely trying to tread water in an emotional typhoon.  We are seeking an understanding we ourselves do not believe in.  Many of us seek understanding in faith, friends, or even pain.  Most of us only find more disappointment in the first two.  We jump in fast into relationships, with all we can muster in the hopes of finding safety. We latch on to second hand disappointments, believing we are unworthy of first hand successes.  We endure, as misery is better than being alone.  Misery is accepted as an improvement over fear, nevertheless our fears still permeate.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s