Magical Thinking vs Actual Empowerment

Magical Thinking. It’s one of those things that can make you feel so special when you’re a kid. When the universe seems to revolve around you and even the moon will follow wherever you go. I like to think it’s the stuff that empowers us at a time in life when we don’t have a lot of power; when the bigger decisions are made by others and we don’t really have much say in things.

It’s interesting though isn’t it that we can grow older and cognitively understand the fallacy in this way of thinking and yet so many of us continue to do it in subtle ways. I can clearly remember how in my twenties I would expect my boyfriend at the time to know just the right thing to say or not say, to know when I was happy or upset, when I wanted his company or when to give me space, what gifts to give me, what friends to bring around and when, etc. etc. And all of this was expected with no effort on my part. He would read me. He would know simply because…I willed him to? Because that would mean he was the perfect boyfriend and we were truly meant to be? And of course if he didn’t live up to this then it meant… that he didn’t care about me? I wasn’t worthy? That the relationship was bunk? It was too much effort? Slowly over time I came to learn that it was likely the latter excuse that got me stuck. The story I seemed to tell myself was that if I actually had to put in effort to get my needs met then the relationship was somehow clearly not worthwhile, which is something that I suspect most anyone with a fulfilling, long-lasting relationship will tell you is load of garbage. As it turned out, my boyfriend couldn’t read my mind after all. But I want to give myself a break here (because that’s what self-compassion looks like 🙂 ). Where did I learn that it takes too much effort to speak up in the first place? Hmmm, I can think of a few possibilities, especially as a woman. Children should be seen and not heard. A long history of gender biases by teachers in the classroom. Mansplaining. We have to acknowledge that these messages have been around forever. Often we don’t speak up because we’ve been taught not to! In our society it takes a lot of intention to be heard. It takes effort and persistence to get your needs met, to be seen and understood. And over time I’ve learned that in the long run putting in effort is waaaayy more satisfying than sitting around wishing for things to change on their own.

It’s surprising how much energy it can take to use one’s voice once you begin to initiate change. Admitting that you even need anything in the first place can be hard, especially if you’ve had the experience of being rejected in the past. I can assure you though, that it gets easier with practice. And although it’s true that just because you ask for something, it doesn’t mean that you will get it, what I think you’ll find is that knowing yourself and letting others in to know you too, will only benefit any relationship that truly matters – be it a romantic one, a family relationship, a work relationship or a friendship. When it comes to getting your needs met, it’s about being a co-conspirator as opposed to merely tagging along for the ride. While the practice of assertive (not aggressive) communication is beyond the scope of this post, maybe the first place to start is to acknowledge that you have needs in the first place. Try journaling or making a collage and share it with someone safe, someone who matters.

There are definitely still things in this world that I continue to find magical. Birth, sunsets, shooting stars, synchronicity, the creative process. But when it comes to true power, I’ve learned that the cost of sitting around and wishing it into existence, is just too high. #NeverthelessShePersisted.

Copyright 2018 ©  Rachel Braun, All rights reserved.

Rachel Braun, ATR-BC  Art Therapist Philadelphia, PA

Specializing in art therapy groups for women who experience depression, anxiety and eating disorders.