For anyone that knows me, I am notoriously terrible at asking for the things that I want or need from other people. I’m so bad at it, people have created whole scenes for the express purpose of getting me to communicate desires.
Part of the reason for this is because I am also notoriously terrible at knowingwhat I want and need from the people around me. When it’s something I need for myself, I can usually identify it (those of you who are always trying to get me to drink water and eat vegetables, shhh. I know I need to do those things, even if I’m terrible at it- because it turns out, I’m terrible at a lot of things). But when trying to figure out what I need from other people, I draw a blank more often than not.
I’m not in the habit of wanting things from other people. I want things, sure. I have a whole list of wants in a notebook, in the hypothetical sense of, “these are things I’d like to do someday,” or “I fantasized about this thing and it’s kinda hot; would be into trying it.” But I’m not well-practiced in wanting specific things from specific people. It’s just… not something I’m particularly good at, especially when those things are intangible things- connection, intimacy, emotional support, etc.
That being said, learning to communicate what I want and/or need is an ongoing process, one that I’m slowly getting back into. And as I’m learning to communicate the things that I want and/or need, I’m also realizing that sometimes I might get what I asked for, which is not necessarily the same thing as getting what I need.
In order to get what I need, I have to ask for what I need. In order to ask for what I need, I have to be able to identify what I need. The problem comes when I associate an action with an intangible idea, and finally manage to choke out an ask for the action instead of expressing what’s really going on.
This comes up a lot with sex: asking for sex when the desire is for intimacy. Often times, for me, it comes up in asking for a specific physical thing (that thing varies, depending on my mood and the person and a whole bunch of other factors) when what I really want is emotional connection.
I might have gotten the thing I asked for. But if I’m not asking for what I actually need, then it’s kind of a moot point.
I’m thinking about all this as I continue to work toward having better communication and learning to, oh, I dunno, actually ask for and express things that I desire. Because it’s probably a good thing that I do that and not expect people to be mindreaders… but I also recognize that I have to be really careful with this. Because if I’m not identifying the actual things that I need, then I become disheartened by the process of asking and receiving. It gets really easy to go, “Well, I asked for X, but it didn’t do anything to assuage Y sensation, so why bother to ask for things? It doesn’t do any good anyway.”
If what I want is a specific physical sensation, or to try a thing, or whatever, then great. But if what I want is connection, or intimacy, or vulnerability, or whatever, then I need to learn to ask for that specifically. And in order to ask for it, I have the be able to identify it.
And that’s where things get tricky.
Because, ugh, acknowledging that I need something from someone else feels so loaded. I dislike needing anything that I can’t provide for myself (an unfortunate streak of stubbornness and desire for self-sufficiency). And usually the things I need from people are things I can’t do myself: if I need pain, I can hurt myself; if I need rope, I can tie myself; if I need sex, I can fuck myself; if I need…whatever… usually, I can find a way to give myself the “things” I need.
The energetic exchanges we are looking for can often also be found through these different kinds of physical exchanges… but it doesn’t mean that doing The Thing (whatever The Thing is) means that the energetic exchanges will automatically happen. We can fuck without intimacy, tie without connection, hurt without eroticiscm, suffer without purpose… so asking for the action when what I want is the exchange just sets me up to fail, and only acknowledges a portion of what I actually want.
It’s a gentle reminder to me that shortcuts don’t work. That we have tended to find X exchange through Y interaction doesn’t mean that asking for Y automatically implies X. It good to communicate, but the communication is only beneficial if we are able to identify what we actually need. It’s a learning process. I’m not sure how to get better at identifying what I need, but I’m beginning to notice patterns. Habits. Shortcuts that inevitably take me the long way ‘round to eventually understanding the emotional process behind the desire. So when I find myself in a position where I’m asking for something, maybe I can be a little more conscious of what I’m asking for, instead of inadvertently self-sabotaging and finding myself in the uncomfortable position of getting the things I ask for (which is hard enough), and realizing that those are not the things that I needed.