Sometimes what we want and need is going to conflict.
This is especially true if our history includes complicated or painful relationships.
We may want the closeness and stimulation that comes from a relationship…but our history may have convinced us that letting ourselves be close to and stimulated by another person is dangerous.
We may want to be recognized for what we can do and what we’ve achieved…but our history may have convinced us that sticking our head up is asking for mockery or scorn.
We may want to live and thrive…but our history may have convinced us that we have nothing to live for and it’s impossible to thrive.
As we heal from the pain of our past and recover from our emotional and behavioral struggles, we very often become acutely aware of how contradictory some of our wants and needs are.
This very often leads us feeling paralyzed.
It’s hard to even explain to someone why we might be ambivalent about something most people would consider “good,” like a relationship or a promotion.
They don’t understand that for many of us, “good” things always came with a catch.
For many of us, our complicated history makes it difficult or impossible to set straightforward goals.
We may want to give up a substance or behavior that is hurting us…but that substance or behavior may also be our only source of pleasure or consistency in our world right now.
We may want to regain our functionality…but we might be incredibly intimidated by what would be expected or asked of us if we weren’t too depressed to function.
We may want to do something as simple as leave the house…but we may be literally terrified to the point of dissociation about what we might encounter out there in the world.
All of this makes therapy and recovery complicated.
Many of us are very exhausted by the tug of war that is CONSTANTLY going on in our head and heart between our desires and our fears.
It’s almost easier to stay numb— to stay depressed, hopeless, stuck— than to try to navigate the anxiety and pressure that comes with feeling and functioning better.
Easy does it.
We’re never going to be wholly WITHOUT these conflicting feelings, desires, and needs.
Different parts of us are going to perceive, feel, want, and need different, and sometimes conflicting, things.
It’s up to us to listen to the various parts of ourselves, and make sure the various versions of “us” are respected— no matter what course of action we actually end up taking.
The truth is, NOBODY is wholly consistent with what they want and need EVERY minute of EVERY day.
We make certain choices based on what’s best for our safety and stability— but we can stay flexible in how we approach life.
We can listen to BOTH the part of us that wants to feel and function better— and the part of us that might be anxious about it.
We can listen to BOTH the part of us that wants to be out in the world— and the part of us that is genuinely afraid of what we might encounter out there.
The really important thing is that we don’t deny, disown, ignore, or neglect anything we’re aware of thinking or feeling.
The various “parts” of us need to know that they WILL be listened to and respected— that they don’t need to “hijack” our focus or consciousness in order to get our attention.
If we try to deny or disown “parts” of us when they try to tell us something, those “parts” WILL make their “voices” heard— often in the form of overwhelming feelings, psychological symptoms, or even physical sensations.
Yes, the tug of war is always going to be there. Our job is not necessarily to stop that back and forth between what we want and what we fear.
Our job is to realistically, compassionately deal with the various “parts” of ourselves, such that ANY decisions we end up making, ANY actions we end up taking, are consistent with our safety and stability— today.