So if, as explored last time, we suspend expectations, where does that leave us in our relationships? Does this mean we should expect nothing from our partners, our friends, our family? If they are ‘doing their thing’ and I am doing mine, how will we meet each other?
For me as a therapist, this is where in depth personal processing comes in. As a starting point, it is useful to think, ‘bottom line, what do I want in this relationship?’. Sometimes I liken this to writing a job description, with desirable and essential qualities – essential for me is non-violence, desirable is the other person owns a yacht, for example! I can have a friend or partner who doesn’t own a yacht, but not one who is violent. Thus, I build a clear picture of what I want and desire and also what I need, my bottom line.
Deeper within this idea of what I ‘need’ is further processing of what that actually means. For example, if I said I needed to be seen as beautiful by my partner, or appreciated by my children, or for others to do a fair share of the work – what is this need really? Separating out needs and wants and the deeper needs underneath is a further important step. Deeper and deeper into ourselves we can discover what our core needs are. Psychotherapy is a very useful way of refining and defining our unique self and our needs.
As we discover our needs we don’t need to feel bad or ashamed that we as individuals want and need these things, even if others think we shouldn’t need them. We don’t need to blame others for not meeting our needs – the very act of exploring our needs show us enough that we ourselves don’t really know our needs and can’t always separate our needs from our wants, our essentials from our desirables.
Others are not to blame for not being who we want them to be. We have to first ask, what do we want, and what is that want about, and is it a real need? And then we have to ask, is this compatible with who the other person is? Once we have a greater understanding of our needs and wants it is then time to honestly communicate these as best we can. We may find it is time to walk away, to stop fighting who the other is, or to stop being ashamed of who we are. We may, however, find deeper and more fulfilling relationships.
Many have re-written the Gestalt Prayer (myself included) . Here is a different version which hints at what is possible with communication of our deeper selves, “I do not find you by chance, I find you by an active life of reaching out”:
Beyond Perls Walter Tubbs
If I just do my thing and you do yours,
We stand in danger of losing each other
I am not in this world to live up to your expectations;
But I am in this world to confirm you
As a unique human being,
And to be confirmed by you.
We are fully ourselves only in relation to each other;
The I detached from a Thou
I do not find you by chance;
I find you by an active life
Of reaching out.
Rather than passively letting things happen to me,
I can act intentionally to make them happen.
I must begin with myself, true;
But I must not end with myself:
The truth begins with two.