4th Trap: I Need From You
Another attempt to solve a problem
Jeff: “You have gained weight!”
Annabel: “Darling, when I hear you say I have gained weight, I feel down, because I would to be loved the way I am. Would you be willing to never again mention my weight unless I ask you for your opinion?”
Where is the catch here? Isn’t Annabel’s reply a lovely, correct way of applying NVC? She has given an observation, expressed her feeling, identified her need and made a concrete request. Still I dare to say that Annabel’s request to Jeff to never again comment on her weight will not fulfill her need, even if he goes along with it. Apart from the false assumptions we have already discussed, the reason for this is to be found in another one, which is: “You are able to fulfill my need!”
I am the key factor
Let’s briefly revisit the conclusion from the last chapter. My interpretation of a situation or incident decides whether I see a certain need as met or not. And if I see something lacking, the best remedy is to see where I can already find that something in my life and let it touch me, and also give it.
So in whose hands is it to determine how I feel? In my hands!
Can another person influence how I see a certain situation? Let’s check.
Let’s assume that Jeff is absolutely willing to follow Annabel’s request and he really does never mention it again. Does that solve Annabel’s problem? Does she feel loved now? What if Jeff says: “You look great today!” Will she believe him? Maybe she will have thoughts like “He doesn’t mean it anyway!”, “He is just trying to be nice because I asked him to” or “What does he really think about me?”
Was Jeff’s comment ever the problem to start with? Obviously Annabel has interpreted that Jeff finds her less attractive than before. But that needn’t be the case. Maybe Jeff is totally into some feminine curves and he wanted to make a compliment. In other parts of the world, for example in Gambia, Africa, it is just the other way around than in our culture. The more curves a woman has to offer, the more attractive.
The problem again lies in the interpretation, the meaning that Annabel gives to what Jeff says. This words don’t give any hint that he finds Annabel unattractive, so the conclusion must be: Projection. The thought “I am no longer attractive!”, wherever it might have come from, has already been in Annabel’s mind before Jeff’s comment. We all know that plenty of messages about how a woman is supposed to look are all around us. What happens is that Annabel imposes her belief about herself on Jeff’s words. Which of the both therefore claims she is not attractive?
Only I can change my self-image
The worry about no longer being attractive comes directly from Annabel’s thinking. Consequently, Jeff is not the cause for it and cannot provide the remedy. If Annabel thought of herself as attractive, she might have replied “Yes, suits me wonderfully, doesn’t it?”
Only Annabel can fulfill her need to be loved the way she is, by loving herself. Because who is it who doesn’t love her like she is right now? She or her partner? So who can change it? Whom does she need to persuade from her attractiveness, Jeff oder maybe rather herself?
How can she accomplish that?
To learn to love oneself is a process that needs time. In chapter V you will find some ideas how to start. I already mentioned writing a list every night with things we like about ourselves. Another thing is to give ourselves the necessary time to move into love and be patient. It is ok to be unloving here and there (I don’t mean to justify it! I assume you are doing your best to be a loving presence in this world, and all I’m saying is have compassion with yourself when you slip.) A first-grader won’t excel in geometry. We are still learning, we are still on the way. And this dedication and willingness to learn how to love alone is so precious and lovable.
If you find yourself in a situation like between Annabel and Jeff, become aware of what is going on and make a new decision about it: “I am trying to assign someone a task that is not his and that he can’t ever possibly fulfill. I realize that this must lead to frustration, anger and disappointment on both sides, therefore I decide now to take the responsibility for my perceived problem myself. This is about my river, and it is my job to keep it flowing. From now on I am going to love myself!”
If appropriate, I can tell the other person what is going on inside of me, and in case I have already reproached him for something or have made demands, I can let him know I am sorry and willing to take the responsibility for myself now.
Ways out of the trap “I Need From You”:
¤ Awareness: What am I trying to get from the other person?
¤ Is he able to give me that at all?
¤ Take responsibility for the problem, e.g.:
“To love me, is my job, not the job of another person.”
¤ Take concrete steps to nurture, appreciate and love yourself (chapter V)
¤ If appropriate, share