This is for anyone that needs it, similar to my Open Letters. Apply it to whatever area of your life you need to. Or don’t. If this doesn’t fit for you, then you don’t need it. And the message is simply not for you.
I posted this idea to my Instagram feed earlier this week and had a very split response to it. Apparently, this idea in particular is one that needs to be expanded on. And I get why. (I wish I could anticipate these things better.)
We all have needs. Real needs. Unmet needs. Like to be heard. To be cared for. To be validated, understood. Space to create, to move freely, to eat healthy. The opportunity to own something and feel pride in ourselves. Or to have a job that brings us a sense of self worth, safety in relationships, have adequate healthcare and you can just go ahead and fill in the blank for yourself.
What is the need you have? Pick one that really speaks to you. It may have popped into your mind already. What I would invite you to do is ask yourself - “Is this something that I can do myself? Is it something that I can do for myself? Is it something that I need some support or assistance with but I can do it?”
Now before I go on, of course it’s okay to ask for help! Of course of course of course.
I think where I personally get very very very worried is when I see people who are in an emotionally desperate place turn to others to get their emotional needs met. And not just turn to others, but rely on others. Become dependent on others for those emotional needs. And that’s a pretty hazy line and super individualized, so I am talking pretty generally. But there’s a lot of desperation living inside of people.
And when that desperation combines with a lack of belief in the potential of the self, that gets downright terrifying for me. That’s a recipe for dependence. And with dependence could potentially come exploitation. And whether you’re asking for help or demanding it, the person doing the exploiting couldn’t give a s**t less. As long as you’re dependent.
So we all have needs. We all want some kind of change. But we can’t wait for others to provide for these needs. We might need to do it ourselves.
You might need to do it yourself.
Notice what comes up for you when I say this. That you might need to do it yourself. And again - this might not apply to you. And it’s okay to ask for help. But notice what came up for you when I said you might need to do it yourself.
Did you feel some level of sympathetic charge? If you felt like you wanted to attack me, there’s probably some level of fight energy in you. If you felt like turning this off and moving on, there might be some level of flight energy. And if you felt like it’s not worth the effort or like you won’t be able to make the change you want, then you might be in more of a shutdown place.
So notice what came up for you. That might be reflective of the state of your autonomic nervous system and what need you have. Or maybe it’s because I’m full of s**t, I’ll give you that. But I’d like to take this in another direction if you’ll join me...
Maybe that underlying state shift you felt is kinda where you’re at or where you easily go to. And maybe the thoughts you have about the statement to “do it yourself” is a reflection of your state.
Like if you went to, “There’s no point in trying” or “I can’t do it myself,” then those thoughts might be reflective of your shutdown state. Maybe. And maybe just at least when it comes to this topic. Maybe you go to more of a shutdown place and the energy to “do it yourself” just isn’t there. And so the thoughts reflect that. And of course there might be things that you literally can’t do yourself. That’s different and not what I’m talking about.
Or if you went to thoughts of aggression, then maybe that’s reflective of your autonomic state that you exist in or go to easily. Maybe. Thoughts of aggression could be obviously aggressive like thinking of emailing me and telling me what an idiot I am. Or actually doing it. (Please don’t email me and tell me what an idiot I am.) And if you went to thoughts of dismissiveness that might be reflective of your flight energy. "There’s no problem here. Move along, move along." Or maybe flight thoughts sound like anxious avoidance.
When we feel these shifts in autonomic state, it’s important to notice them. And I want to focus on the sympathetic flight/fight energy. If you’ve got that within you, that’s your key. The issue is now where to point it. You can point it at me, at someone else, at some group of people or you can point it toward yourself.
Meaning, to take that sympathetic energy and direct it toward your need, toward the change you want in your life.
That’s the key to doing in yourself. Create it. Speak it. Own it. Invent it. Connect with others. Learn. Put the work in. Make sacrifices.
Or not. But don’t complain. Don’t demand that someone else do it for you. Don’t guilt trip them. Or shame them for not doing what you want. Or saying or doing what you have decided is the most important thing ever. Or speak on your behalf. All of these things come from sympathetic energy as I see them.
Do you really want to be reliant on someone else? Seriously though. I’m really encouraging you to reflect on that. Do you want to be dependent on someone else? And again, I’m specifically talking about the combination of desperation and not believing in yourself. Just sit with that for a second.
How does it feel to be dependent? How does it feel to ask more of someone? Of course this depends on what it is and who you’re asking. Again, I don’t know what your needs are. I’m speaking generally. So take these words and apply them to whatever it is that you need and you’re not doing yourself.
Do you feel comfortable with giving your spouse or your parent that much control over you? Are you okay with giving them your neediness? With asking them to make you feel whole or to fix whatever it is that you think needs fixing? The answer is of course no. That answer of “no” is within you. It might feel like some fight energy. Hold it. Hug it. Give it love and acceptance.
If your answer is yes, that you’re okay with that emotional desperation and not believing in yourself… I truly feel saddened. Because I believe you have more within you. And I don’t even doubt it for a second. I think you are capable of so much more. It’s within you. That sympathetic charge to get things done is inside of you.
Here’s the really beautiful thing - the more individuals that find that spark within them, the better our world becomes. But it starts on the individual level. One of the thoughts in the comments of the original Instagram post was around how individualistic the “do it yourself” mindset is. And I can acknowledge where those comments come from. But yeah, it’s pretty individualistic. So what?
This isn’t saying cut people out of your life. This isn’t saying stop asking for help. But yeah, this is pretty much saying to rely on the inner energy that you have within you. Ask for help when you need it. But also let that sympathetic energy do its work. Those two things can exist at the same time.
And you’ll find that the more you use your own sympathetic energy in the right direction, the greater your thoughts are going to be of yourself. The greater the belief in what you can do and also the willingness to try something new.
And I think you’ll also find that you’ll connect with people easier. Your social engagement system will become more active as you use your energy toward a positive direction and give yourself that boost. What’s wrong with that? Isn’t this a whole lot different than being dependent on someone?
In my opinion, being dependent is not the same as being connected. If you’d prefer to be dependent, do you. But someone who is dependent is probably not in their social engagement system. If they were, they would probably not be so desperate for help and not so reliant on another to fulfill that. Yes, people in their safety/social engagement state can seek help. But they’re okay when the answer is “no” and can rely on themselves to find another way. Someone in a defensive state is probably going to have a harder time with a “no.”
We’re talking about dependence here. Not cooperation. Cooperation happens between two individuals who are able to give and take. Who are able to empathize with each other enough to fulfill each other’s needs. And that only comes from two individuals who are not emotionally desperate and who believe in themselves enough to use their sympathetic energy to make change.
We all have needs. And we all have obstacles to getting those needs met. Those obstacles don’t mean the needs don’t need to get met. You might be at a point in your life where you can recognize that you have a need. And you also have obstacles to getting that need met. You have to first be able to hold both of those as true at the same time. You have a need in one hand. And you have the obstacle in the other.
Hold your need with some love and compassion. And hold your obstacle with some motivation for change. Let those two intermingle - your motivation for change is going to be the fuel to feed your needs. To do it yourself.
You’re creative. You can solve problems. I believe that. I hope you can join me in that belief.
If you liked this, I recommend taking a listen to my Open Letters audio album. It's $20 for over 90 minutes of themes that come up in therapy a lot. Written for anyone that needs it.