“You can’t always get what you want.
But if you try sometimes, well, you just might find.
You get what you need.”
We want people to be careful with our tender hearts. We long to be seen and valued for who we are, deep down under the act we perform in the world for approval and inclusion. Children need secure attachment to thrive as they grow into confident adults. We need people who are safe to be with – physically and emotionally.
We all know life doesn’t consistently give us what we want or need. Other people have their own thing going and they let us down in small or large ways. Their mission in life is not to fulfill our needs. Our mission in life is not to make someone else’s life work. When we trade authenticity for connection, which we all do to some extent, we end up with an empty relationship based on someone liking a projection of who we are. We end up living with a dread that if they find out who we really are, they would reject us. Pretending clearly isn’t the road to connection.
“Safety is an absence of threat AND a feeling of connection.” Dr Stephen Porges (Polyvagal theory)
Another strategy people use to get their needs met is to pressure others into being who they need them to be. We hate being on the receiving end of that! There is a pervasive sense of disappointing the other person, and it reinforces the belief that we aren’t good enough as we are. We might push ourselves to try harder or do better or be happier or we might reject their expectations and go into defiance. From a parent this might show up as “why can’t you be more like your sister?”, their embarrassment at our weight, or low grades in school. Our struggles are all about them and how it looks to others. They throw us under the bus unless we are making them look good and upholding the image they want to present.
Ghosting is a new thing on social media but it actually happens all the time on a subtle level. We ghost the parts of ourselves we can’t afford to see – the disconnect that is a result of trauma. A large part of healing trauma is bringing all our parts back into awareness and connecting authentically with ourselves.
We ghost friends or family when we use them to fill our needs. In a very real way, they don’t exist for us as independent humans. This is objectification. Someone is so wrapped up in their own concerns and getting their own needs met that they don’t see or consider us except as an object to fill their needs. This shows up in that relationship where they always talk and we always listen. We know them but they don’t know us. We plan something they will enjoy and it doesn’t occur to them to reciprocate. Or we take a risk and share a secret and they trade that for the glory of gossip. They use us as a way to be part of a social circle. They’ve ghosted our humanity. We don’t exist for them.
We come into romantic relationships with holes in our heart that we need filled. This is natural. It can be immensely healing to feel seen and loved as we let ourselves be known. We may also experience the devastation of being rejected after we’ve taken the risk of being authentic. We need strong validation from others when we are disconnected from our own sense of value, and we can’t afford to see what is not healthy in our relationships. As we heal emotionally and become on our own side, we become stronger and less vulnerable to manipulation.
It might seem kind of cold-hearted to analyze our relationships through this lens of what we want and need. My sense is that what we learn about ourselves in looking into this can help us to see where we are trading authenticity. We give ourselves away for so little in return. Getting to know and value ourselves is the foundation of connected relationships. It is the foundation of respect for ourselves and others. We take in and care for our tender hearts. As we get to know ourselves, we discover our own goodness. We all have experiences of feeling less than or not good enough, of being hurt or betrayed, of being ghosted. And that is not who we are. The damage is repairable.
Other people are not here to fill our needs. We are not here to serve others. Yet as we risk showing up as ourselves, we can enjoy our relationships without objectifying each other. That is true love and connection that we can count on.