We have an innate drive to ‘get’ in life and it starts very early. We see what others have and want an experience of that because it seems to generate good feelings. It starts with toys and scooters and progresses to cars and houses. This becomes a default pattern all our life and the true drive behind it usually remains unconscious. Susan Jeffers, in her 1987 self-help classic entitled Feel the fear and do it anyway,(Penguin) provided a beautiful explanation of how this may transpire. When we arrive in the world as babies, we are completely dependent on our parents giving, for our survival. We cry and we get picked up. Our potential needs are assessed; do we require feeding, nappy changing, comforting from colic, loving touch? We learn that crying rouses attention and we get what we want. Our earliest life experiences are having our needs met by another.
As we become toddlers and develop more awareness the dynamic shifts. We are encouraged to share with other children or siblings. The subliminal talk of a toddler may be as follows…….You have to be joking, right? These toys are mine! This room in mine and this parent is mine. Get your hands off! (Suddenly the game has changed and it’s a bitter reality.) I will just wait till Mum turns away and I will push Billy over. Yeah!..….hey….how come I am in trouble???? It’s all about me, right? We start to learn to manipulate situations to get what we want.
As adults, we may closely monitor that our getting is in line with our giving. Like an unconscious ledger. It’s not confined to physical things either; we feel that we invest in relationships emotionally and seek particular behaviours in return for our ‘input.’ See if you can recognise any of the following words as being yours or your friends.
“After all I have done for my daughter, how could she treat me like that?”
“I spent hours donating my time to that cause and they just don’t recognise me.”
“I have given my life to that job and they gave my colleague the promotion!”
“My husband wouldn’t buy me the ring I wanted after all I have done for him over the years.”
In these examples, there is a sense of, “you OWE me.” I want to get what is owing.
We run on an expectation that people close to us must know what these wants/needs are. I am not getting what I want and I may throw an adult version of a three year old tantrum. We withdraw our giving and turn to blaming, accusing, threatening, yelling, sulking, name calling. If we experience the above scenarios, we may feel justified in being angry or upset. After all I GAVE and this happens to me. Suffering and anxiety move in. It’s a guaranteed merry-go-round of suffering. Please give me what I want? We attempt to manipulate and control others to get our wants met.
If you were really honest with yourself, what do you want to get from others? A particular type of love or affection? Respect? Adulation or status? Power? Money? Praise? When you are with your partner, colleagues, children, friends, see if you can catch snippets of what you are wanting to get. The wants will be there. What is so darned important about getting this? Do you even know? Can you start to recognise that you are expecting others to behave in a particular manner that suits your wants.
Make a list this week of each time you felt like you didn’t get what you wanted and see if there are themes? Maybe you want to get respect? Praise? You are attempting to hand the responsibility of getting your preferred inner feelings to another person. Can you see that and own it?
Learn to take responsibility to build these feelings within yourself if they are lacking.
Start building your own inner respect. Your own self love. This will free you from demanding that others fulfil a particular role for you. The result is liberating beyond measure. Powerful. Can you feel that? Step 1 is to learn about yourself. Like a detective on a mission. Now what do I want to get from others? Write it down. What experience am I seeking through them? Can I let it go when I have identified it? Look out, you are on the way to an empowered self-love.