What's in the way of expressing your needs and desires?Aug 16, 2022
Have you ever found yourself lying in bed at night thinking about a conversation you had earlier that day? While you couldn’t find the right words to express yourself at the moment—the perfect response appears hours or days after the moment has passed?
It can be frustrating to feel like you don’t know how to express yourself. It might make you feel like people don’t understand you or know the truth of who you are because you aren’t able to speak with confidence.
You might be aware that part of the reason you struggle to express yourself is your tendency to overthink—but why do you overthink what you want to say and how can you express yourself with more confidence and clarity?
For one thing, introverted and/or highly sensitive people tend to need more time to process information. Of course it’s easy for you to come up with the perfect response to something when you’re alone in a quiet environment and have had plenty of time to reflect on what you want to say. The more stimulating the environment you find yourself in, the harder it will be for an introverted or highly sensitive person to access the information they need to express themselves. This can lead to feeling like you don’t know what to say, or even worse, like you are unintelligent or a fraud.
But there’s more to your communication challenges than introverted deep thinking or even social anxiety. As humans, we’re hardwired to seek safety and connection with other people in order to survive. We all want to be accepted and liked. Overthinking what we say is one way we protect ourselves from social rejection.
Your brain truly believes that overthinking is a way to keep you safe. If you’ve experienced social rejection in your life (more on that later), you’re even more likely to overestimate the survival threat of saying the “wrong” thing. You might overthink what to say because you’re anticipating negative reactions from others. If speaking up feels dangerous, you might remain silent or say less in order to maintain a sense of control and safety.
The defensiveness that comes with overthinking is exhausting, but even more than that, it can make intimate connection and receiving love and care feel almost impossible at times. We might spend so much time worrying about saying that right thing and what the response from others will be that we miss opportunities to share our truth and express our feelings. This can lead to a feedback cycle: obsessing over what to say, not saying anything, feeling passed over or not respected because we didn’t express ourselves, followed by obsessing over what we should have said differently.
In my own life, I’ve seen how not knowing what to say can even lead to dangerous consequences. There have been many times when I wasn’t able to find the right words to express my discomfort and as a result had my boundaries crossed in traumatic ways.
I noticed that part of the reason I couldn’t express myself was my fear of hurting another person’s feelings or losing their admiration and affection. Keeping the other person comfortable and happy was more important to me than communicating my own boundaries, needs, and desires.
It took me many years to learn that this style of communication is common in people with codependent tendencies. One of the reasons I struggled to express myself and assert my boundaries was that I didn’t have a strong sense of self. I didn’t know what I actually needed or wanted because I’d spent most of my life being told that what I was naturally drawn to was incorrect. Because of this, I was more comfortable doing what I thought people wanted me to do than stating what I preferred. I usually assumed that what I wanted was wrong because I fundamentally believed that I was wrong.
But you can’t go on this way forever, and eventually I became resentful and angry in my relationships. At first, I might use sarcasm or disapproval to get my point across. I might use passive aggressive techniques like saying, “I always have to be the one to do this but that’s okay.” I would do things I didn’t want to do and make it clear that I was being inconvenienced. If I felt like I wasn’t being heard, I might eventually erupt into a monstrous volcano to show that I was tough and wouldn't be walked over anymore. While this allowed my inner wounded part to be expressed, it often left me feeling full of guilt and shame.
By allowing my resentment to build to a peak, I created a situation where I was only able to respond with detached anger. Rather than getting curious about my own emotions, I made it the responsibility of my partners and friends to maintain their own emotions so that they wouldn’t spark anger in me. While this might have made my day-to-day life "easier," it made me feel disconnected from the people around me and prevented me from receiving love.
Attachment Styles and Communication
As a human, I’m hard-wired to seek connection and safety in relationships, so why was I unconsciously pushing people away with my passive-aggressive, resentful communication style?
For many reasons, I expected that others would not validate my true feelings and felt that my role was to validate their feelings rather than express myself.
When we look to the four adult attachment styles, we commonly see these beliefs in people with anxious-preoccupied attachment styles. This attachment style has a tendency to have low self-worth, which feeds into their anxiety about being rejected or abandoned as a result of expressing themselves.
While I saw my communication style as toxic and used it as an example of why I didn't deserve love, I was actually trying to get my needs met but didn't know the best strategy to get results.
The four adult attachment styles that are based on the works of Bartholomew and Horowitz, etc are: Secure, Anxious-Preoccupied, Dimissive-Avoidant and Fearful-Avoidant. Your attachment style will ebb and flow throughout your life, but your early childhood experiences have a strong influence on your attachment style.
Secure Attachment Style
People with a secure attachment style find it easier to convey their emotions appropriately and constructively. They are able to give AND receive love and draw healthy, appropriate and reasonable boundaries. They have a secure Self image that is less influenced by the opinions of others. They know how to regulate their own nervous systems. People with a naturally secure attachment style had early relationship experiences that felt safe and predictable. However, people with naturally secure attachment might become more anxious or avoidant as a result of later in life experiences, just as people who are naturally anxious or avoidant can experience secure attachment as a result of healing later in life.
Anxious-Preoccupied Attachment Style
Anxious-preoccupied people tend to feel less secure about relationships, which are influenced by their real and imagined beliefs about relationships. People with this attachment style might feel or be accused of neediness, possessiveness, jealousy, control, mood swings, oversensitivity, obsessiveness, etc. They are more likely to seek external validation to feel secure and accepted, and tend to assume negative intentions from other people. They might feel uncomfortable alone.
Having an anxious-preoccupied attachment style doesn’t automatically mean you had a “bad” childhood. This attachment style results from feeling like your environment growing up was unpredictable or inconsistent. For whatever reason, your caregivers weren't capable of providing a reliable source of care. You might have felt abandoned at different points. In my case, I’m also healing ancestral wounds related to mothers abandoning their children. While this didn’t directly happen to me in my own life, the inherited wound is very much present. I talk more about this inside The Cosmic Mother.
Dismissive-Avoidant Attachment Style
This attachment style tends to prefer independence and self-sufficiency. They see intimacy as a threat that makes them vulnerable. They tend to avoid emotional vulnerability, which might result in commitment issues or focusing solely on their own needs and desires. People with this attachment style were often raised in environments where parents were not responsive. Rather than feeling like their caregivers were unpredictable or unreliable, they learned at an early age that they could only rely on themselves. This might have led to early experiences of numbing or checking out emotionally. They learned that their own needs were a burden to other people and also see other people’s needs as a burden to them. In Western culture, independence and a "do it yourself" mentality is often rewarded, which can result in pushing people further away.
Fearful-Avoidant Attachment Style
Like the dismissive-avoidant, the fearful-avoidant also has a tendency to resist intimacy. However, they might desire to experience greater intimacy but similarly to the anxious-preoccupied, be suspicious of other people’s intentions. This can lead to extreme inner conflict. The hallmark of this attachment style is the presence of fear that doesn’t allow them to receive love. They tend to expect abandonment or rejection and don’t feel confident in relationships.
Your attachment style will probably be a combination of the four styles, but you might notice that you tend to be more anxious or avoidant. Anxiously attached people must learn to communicate directly often, rather than allowing the resentment to build to a point where they can only express themselves from their fearful and angry parts. Avoidantly attached people must learn to become more comfortable with the vulnerability that is required to listen to and meet other people’s needs.
Expressing Desires, Needs and Feelings
What both anxious and avoidant attachment styles have in common is discomfort around communicating and listening to desires, needs and feelings. What I love about the Nonviolent Communication model created by Marshall Rosenberg, is that it teaches that every action we take is an attempt to meet a need.
Rather than seeing my angry outbursts as a reason I am an unlovable, bad person, I can change my perspective to become curious about the unmet needs my anger is masking. This model can help us slow down and get curious about emotions so that we can use them to express our needs with clarity. Ultimately, it is the strategies we are using to get our needs met that cause internal and external conflict—not the reality that we have needs to begin with.
There are four steps to the nonviolent communication model:
- Observe what is happening.
- Connect what you observe to how you are feeling. These lists of feelings we experience when our needs are being met and are not being met can be a helpful as you relearn how to name our feelings.
- Identify what you need, which is informed by how you are feeling. This list of needs can be helpful as you relearn how to identify your needs.
- Make a request for what you need. Understand that a true request means that someone else has the right to deny your request. If they are unable to deny your request, then you are making a demand.
This video provides great examples of the nonviolent communication model in action.
The Influence of Mercury and Venus on Attachment Styles and Communication
As an astrologer, I see at least two important planets to consider when we’re talking about how to express our feelings, needs, and desires with clarity and confidence: Mercury and Venus.
Mercury and Venus make up the two inferior planets, meaning they are closer to the Earth than the Sun. It is common for your Mercury or Venus sign to be the same as your Sun sign, but they can also be in the signs that come before or after your Sun sign.
You can look to Mercury in astrology to understand how you communicate and process information. Understanding your Venus sign can help you understand what your values are, which ultimately influences your needs and desires.
It could be easier for you to communicate your desires if your Mercury and Venus are in the same sign. If they are in different signs, it can sometimes feel like the way you express yourself doesn’t match with your genuine desires. If your Mercury and Venus are in different signs than your Sun sign, you might feel like there are three different parts of you using totally different strategies to get their needs met. Part of the reason for this is that each sign in the Zodiac has one element and one mode associated with it. The elements and modes influence how a planet acts in a sign. If you have your Sun, Venus and Mercury in three different signs, you have three different modes and three different elements (essentially, three different ways of moving) trying to get on the same page. You can learn more about the elements and modes here.
Not sure which signs your Venus and Mercury are in? Learn how to get a free copy of your natal chart here.
Learn How to Use Tarot to Express Your Needs with Clarity
Learning how to read your natal chart can be incredibly useful, but also time-consuming and complex. I recommend combing my Tarot Spread for Internal Conflict with the Nonviolent Communication techniques to jumpstart your journey of confidently expressing your needs.
Inside Reading Your Inner Family—a free guided tarot journey, I will help you learn to use tarot to listen to yourself so you can express your needs with clarity.
In this free guided journey, I will not only talk about ways to work with tarot cards inspired by “parts work,” I will guide you to meeting a part of yourself that wants to be heard right now. I have found guided journeys to be so essential to my inner work and they are a huge part of the work I do with clients inside of the Ancestral Transformation Guided Journey.
Use astrology to break cycles and align with your calling.
In the Cycle Breaking Astrology Masterclass I will show you
how to identify inherited family patterns in your natal chart to determine the patterns you are here to integrate.
- How to identify inherited family patterns in your natal chart
- Determine the patterns you are here to integrate
- Find the gifts you are here to bring forward
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