Tuesday, 20 August 2013
A Thorny Issue
I'm feeling a little tipsy, for I have been for a drink with a girl friend. It is great to able to be wonderfully honest. You know those moments when you are able to just admit to being human? Able to take off the cloak of wondering if you are good enough, if you will be accepted, and simply say ‘This is how I feel: what’ya think?’
So this was one of the (many) issues:
I have discovered recently that I do not express my needs, and therefore they are not met. Let me be totally candid about it: it is not his fault. It is the other person’s fault in the relationship, who would be, actually, and quite exactly, me.
“But…..” I say extending the u of my northern accent and stretching my neck to look into the skies, while multitasking with a deep breath to be able to say many words in a torrent, “if you tell a man to buy you a box of chocolates and he does, is it the same?”
The issue has actually come up from my friend’s story, about her life. That’s the beauty of these girl chats, you can never really tell who you are talking about…so I launch into advice mustering up my bestest woman-of-the-world wisdom wondering if I’m talking to my friend or myself, or both?
“My mum and I have this silly tendency to hide within our psychic shells. Then if a man comes along and ‘finds’ us, then we have ‘proof’ of his love.”
“Ohh I think lots of women do that, don’t they?”
“Yes, but we aren’t 7 years old any longer. Hide and seek went out long ago as a regular pastime for me.”
“So you think we have to tell of our needs?”
“Well…” I say breathing in deeply again with the sheer joy of communicating “I’ll use an example, because you’ll be able to see that I’m talking parallel - being a woman.”
We laugh voraciously with the idea that we can talk in many-tongued similes and chat about several things at once, without having to actually ever finish anything we are saying. But this time we don’t go off on a tangent. What we both know right now is that have already discussed that you cannot ‘tell’ the man what you want by expressing your need in parallels or analogies, they don’t hear. They think you are actually talking about a bike.
I look around for an object as an example, “Take a bike,” I say, she nods, “lets say I really want one. So I don’t say anything, I hide myself and my need inside, and then if someone, by sheer stroke of a miracle gives me a bike, it is ‘evidence’ that he is THE ONE.”
“But,” she says mimicking my accent “the chances are that you will never get one.”
“That’s right. So we have to say “I would like a bike.” And then he goes off dutifully and buys you a bike. Does that mean that he loves you?”
We both ponder the situation, it is a bit sticky.
“Well, yes, to a degree. He wants everything to be good for you.”
“I guess. But it is all rather perfunctory don’t you think?”
And then I get this flash of brilliancy and pretend that I have known it all along, “The deal is, that we don’t actually want the ‘bike’, what we want is to be recognised within.”
“Ah ha!” says my friend “Wow, yeah, wooo.”
“I just made that up.”
“Sounds right to me.”
And so, given this encouragement I feel the permission to launch into a myth with total freedom to ad-lib to my heart's content.
Sleeping Beauty is dealt her destiny by the fairies who say she will be fair and gentle and good and intelligent and great at cooking and creative and a wonderful friend and intrepid traveller, until the bitch fairy says ‘She’ll die on a prick.’
Everyone gasps, there is no way out. Or so it would seem, until the littlest fairy, who everyone seems to have forgotten about, pipes up, ‘My wish is that she doesn’t die but falls asleep.’
So the court, the family, keep all pricks away from their precious little baby. All men are vetted and none are allowed in through the back door. But as the story would have it, she is in some dark dusty old place and finds a prick and it is a really nasty situation (each and every one of us has a story where we were hurt to some degree, we are talking about any kind of abuse from any kind of person). Blood falls to the floor and she falls asleep. Of course she doesn’t fall asleep really, that would be silly, but part of her, the part that has been damaged, becomes closed off, that bit falls asleep. In its moment it is a good defense mechanism…but if it goes on too long without resolution the area becomes unconscious.
The whole court falls asleep. The family refuses to talk about it, the psychic energy gets frozen, nothing is flowing. Everyone is trapped in the horrible situation and no-one is prepared to talk about it, afraid to open the can of worms.
Thorns start to grow outside the castle into a veritable forest. She becomes so sensitive to anyone approaching the area of damage that she has thorny words to say. She becomes adept at putting people off, leading them astray, creating smoke screens: anything to keep people at a distance.
Until, that is, there is a man, within her or without, who with his sword of understanding, can swipe through the thorns and get to the other side. He gets in through her defense mechanisms, and once inside, (if he isn’t a dick so that she throws him out and puts up 24/7 surveillance mines, barbed wire and mantraps just for measure), if this guy who got through her thorns by understanding her is also actually loving…wooowww that can be so, so, so healing. The prince kisses the princess with a good dose of love, and she awakens. She begins to live a full life again.
And, unless I am the only one, I think many of us women are operating on this fairy tale.
Fairy tales are actually, though it make shock, pre-Disney. Sleeping Beauty was first published 1697, and who knows how many times it was told before then. There is a reason why it keeps going and why people like telling it, passing it from generation to generation: it has psychic content that somehow comforts us.
But can we keep living like that?
Can we keep wanting men to come and recognise us, to fill in our gaps. Or has it got the point, where we, god-damn-it, have to find the prince within, and do it for ourselves?
One of the ways we can become our own prince is to speak out our needs, instead of expecting a guy who we’ve met for 3 days to magically know what we want. We can wake ourselves up out of own unconscious state, by giving up the fantasies and deciding what we need for ourselves.
Last night, in despair, I practiced it. I was feeling ignored and unloved and wondered if everything was going wrong between me and my love-bird. Weeks ago he had told me to state my needs, but I had found myself so unpracticed in actually understanding my needs that I was unable to until it was too late, like weeks too late…until last night, sat on a terrace restaurant, both of us in silence after me declaring my hurt emotions, I suddenly realised I needed reassurance. Through the silence I launched my words “I really need reassurance. Like right now. It’s a state of emergency.” The silence melted like butter under the sun, and after his wonderful words, which the thorny silence was preventing, we ended up snogging in front of our king prawns.
Back with the conversation today with my girlfriend, she says “You see this guy, the one I went on three dates with and who hasn’t even tried to kiss me yet…?” I nod in a recognising fashion, “all I want for him to do is to claim me. To come up to me as a Man and say something like “I want you. I desire you,” without me having to feed him his lines. I want to feel myself as an attractive woman. I want to feel recognised that I have opened the door to him and my body and that at least he sees me, there in my psychic negligee, panting slightly. I’m not even sure if I want sex with him, but…I just want the situation recognised….or,” she says in a grave tone “are we just friends?”
We both know that this cannot, surely be the case. She asks even though we both know he is calling every day and taking her out for meals. Which friends do not do. Friends meet on the park benches, cos it’s cheaper.
“Tell him what you want maybe. Tell him how you feel. Ask him how he feels.”
“He would freak out!”
“Do you want him?”
“I don’t know.”
My wise woman comes to the surface again, probably talking to myself more than to my friend “You want him to make the decision, you want him to be the instigator. You want him to be “the man”. But maybe before asking him if he wants a relationship with you, you should decide if you want a relationship with him?”
She darts a murderous look at me, as if pained that a friend could be so cruel, “Yes,” she says “yes, maybe you are right.”
The thing is that if we don’t become our own princes we’ll keep asking men to validate us, to heal our pains that manifest in unworthiness, in needing constant confirmation of deserving to exist, or in feeling unloveable etc. We could be putting ourselves in a position where we aren’t actually seeing the man as he is, but a potential magical prince who is going to make us feel good about being ourselves and live happily ever after. If we ask him, stating our needs, to fight through our complicated defense mechanisms and tell us that he wants us, that he desires us, that he is willing to run barefoot to the end of the world for us just because we want a banana straight from the jungle, once he actually does it, (and it is really no mean feat), if we have not done our homework beforehand, we might just find out, once he is within our inner sanctum, on the other side of the thorns, once he has validated us and calmed our fears, that he is a complete knob.
If we only ask him because we want to feel accepted and to be seen by someone, we’d better be ready for a surprise once he gets manly. He might not be the prince we were waiting for.
If we can validate ourselves, while looking at the man, as a man, and decide for ourselves if we would REALLY like to have a relationship with this guy using our logic swords of our animus princes within, then there is a good chance, while we are dreaming and throwing the I Ching every second day to find out if he actually likes us, that he is actually a decent catch. Then it really is worth stating your needs risking rejection and recognition (that we are also now providing wholesale to ourselves) and asking him to get his electrical chainsaw out to cut through our thorny fears of intimacy.
So my girl friend and I, two girls talking with beers between us, in a balmy afternoon sun, didn’t exactly talk in a direct logical fashion, but instead came to conflicting conclusions quite happily:
The other can never fill the void that is in us. No one can but our own selves. That’s it. We may all be addicted to oxytocin, the ‘love hormone’ that regulates orgasms, social recognition, pair bonding and anxiety…we may all be addicted to the bliss of being intimate with someone…but at the end of the day we have to deal with our own relationship to ourselves. For as much oxytocin that you create together, he is not going to sort you out, fill your (psychic) hole and turn you into the pretty woman princess you know you can be: beautiful, sexy, daring, adventurous and successful in ways that people never thought possible. We have to do that ourselves.
“But,” says my friend “we do need relationships to be able to grow personally.”
And then we had to leave. Of course we were twenty minutes late, and had to go to the toilet, and continued talking rapid fire through the cubicles despite the obvious noise interference. Waterfalls aside, as we got outside and as we were unlocking our bikes I said “I feel a bit high.”
“You don’t get oxytocin just from men you know! You get it from doing what you love.”
Which is maybe the actual answer. Just to make life into what you love. Because no one else is going to do it for you.