I’m almost finished reading “Undefended Love” by Jett Psaris and Marlena S. Lyons. It’s about learning how to love in relationships in a way that is not defensive (hence the title), but also about learning more about ourselves and being really happy, truly at peace, with all that we are.
One of the chapters I read yesterday talked about a continuum of emotional needs: needs–wants–desires–preferences–no preference. We often feel desperate to have our needs met; like a hungry baby, we are screaming inside for someone or something to feed us, and we feel the need is urgent, like we’ll die without it! While we all have needs like this, many people (the authors’ survey said one-third) don’t know how to identify or put words to these needs. If we take time to connect with our needs and acknowledge them, we’ll find they don’t take over our lives like we think they will. On the other hand, some people are chasing their needs so intently, they are actually in relationship with their needs, not their significant other or themselves. We can learn to accept that firstly, we have needs, and then to accept whatever the need is and that we’re not going to die without it. When we face that we have a need, and that the need may not be met, but don’t let ourselves get caught up in any fear or panic that surfaces, we develop strength and courage to face more things and learn more things about ourselves! We can learn to comfort ourselves when we feel fear or desperation. We are stronger for having faced our need and the possibility of it not being met, and all the uncomfortable feelings that go along with it. The next step is to move towards wants.
A lot of us have been raised not to think about our wants. We were told (directly or indirectly) it was selfish and improper to do so. Or, we shut down our awareness of wants because they were denied so many times and we just couldn’t handle any more rejection. Again, if we give ourselves permission to want things, we feel freer. The key is to focus on wanting, not to get caught up in daydreams about what we are wanting, “what if” we get it, and whatever negative feelings that come along when we think we won’t get what we want (jealousy, frustration, anger). Just want! Want something, but don’t obsess over it, get greedy for it, judge yourself or get unhappy because you don’t have it. It seems a bit counter-intuitive, but it’s a way of getting out of denial about who we truly are and what’s going on in our minds. And as with needs, we grow when we experience want-and-not-having, without getting caught up in the feeling–let it pass. Like a child learning what “no” means, it’s not comfortable, but we gain perspective on the world. Maybe we can’t have everything we want in life, but life goes on!
Next comes desire. The author’s use of the word “desire” is not as I would use it, so I had to get used to that. To me, a desire is something you want a lot, almost as much as a “need.” However, in this book, they mean desire as something you would like but are not quite as attached to as a regular want. It’s something that is generative; rather than being based from a lack of something (like a need or want), it comes from a desire for something new. That made sense to me, and it is interesting to think about. What new, pleasant, happy thing would I like to have in my life?
When we have even less emotional attachment, we have preferences. And farther along, we accept everything that life has to offer, fully happy with our situation and everything in it, and we have no preferences. We’ll take what comes, and we’re completely content with our physical surroundings and completely accepting of ourselves. While it seems passive in one way, it’s exciting in another! Imagine striving for nothing, being totally content. That doesn’t mean nothing ever changes and we are stuck in the mother-of-all ruts. (A rut implies we’re in a bad situation and unable to get out.) We are open to growth and change, improvement and betterment, but we are also open to struggles, difficulties, and hard times. We know that everything happens for us, not whining about why something is happening to us. We are more alive, and totally grateful for everything that life is, just as it is, right now!
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I feel like I’ve been doing book reviews lately! On that note, I should mention that the writing style of the book made it a bit of a slow read for me, and it’s so packed with new concepts, I certainly didn’t breeze through it. I found I often had to put it down and think, and I also found some parts hard to follow, simply because the terminology and ideas were so different from anything I’d ever heard of. But if you’re ready to delve into some deep personality discovery, go beyond personality-based relationships, and learn how to be totally non-defensive with others, it’s excellent! 🙂