Wouldn’t it be lovely if the key people in our lives could intuit what we need and want when we need and want it? Unfortunately, with few exceptions, that doesn’t happen. Perhaps after knowing someone well and long we may be able to recognize certain cues and respond to them. However, for the most part, it is our responsibility to ask, for example, for that cup of tea or that shoulder massage or that hug when we’ve had a really difficult day.
So the question remains if you accept the premise that for the most part we must ask, why is it so difficult?
What comes to mind are several reasons:
- fear that we will be refused
- vulnerability as a result of needing/wanting something from another person
- anger because we feel “entitled” to have our needs/wants met without asking
- a basic lack of trust in the ability of others to meet our needs/wants
- insecurity in that we don’t feel we deserve to have those needs/wants met
Although there are probably many more reasons, these seem to be the most basic. Not surprisingly, this reluctance is primarily based on our infant and childhood experiences with our primary caregivers.
Although a certain amount of what is called “frustration tolerance” is a good thing and can be built up gradually in the infant and child, too much frustration if needs/wants are not satisfied is damaging. At its extreme with babies who are not adequately nurtured, it can result in a “failure thrive”, when babies fail to grow and develop appropriately. In children who later grow into adulthood, frustration tolerance (or rather intolerance) can lead to a demanding attitude that has fear at its base. It is unacceptable to adults such as this to have to “beg” to have their needs/wants met, which is how they perceive having to ask. When their needs/wants are not met, they can become enraged and/or detached.
One way of overcoming this reluctance to ask others to meet ones needs/wants is to first become aware that this is an issue. It is then important to first start with oneself to meet those needs/wants. And finally, to take small steps towards asking others and monitoring the reaction to the request. Family Therapy can be a great way to learn these skills, and it’s always helpful to have an experienced counselor to talk to.