Some days back I carried out an exercise in explicit self-communication that was very satisfying.
What do I mean by explicit self-communication?
I write down an explicit (life) question in a notebook and then write the first answer that comes to me. If the answer does not seem to be coming from my authentic self, I just write exactly the same question again. Somewhat like The Little Prince who would not let go until you answered his question. Such an exercise has proven to be very very helpful to me a few times in the past too. Helpful in bringing clarity and comfort to my mind.
For example, the first time I think I communicated with myself in this manner was when I asked myself (and answered), explicitly in writing: “What is my deepest intent?” I do not remember exactly what I wrote first, but for the first few times I kept writing things that did not ring true to me. “To be happy” or “To contribute to society” quite possibly might have been some of them. So I kept repeating the question again and again to myself [in writing]. Finally what came out, as I pushed myself more and more, rang true. I knew completely that it was the true and complete answer (at least at that moment).
The answer that came out was this:
now i am in the middle of the forest
i want to call out to me
i don’t want to use the name the world has assigned to me
yet, i want to call out to me.
here in this forest
i am there somewhere
i can sense myself
yes, that is my deepest intent
to meet me
to embrace myself
I do not perform such an exercise very often (though I do tend to be in the need for mental clarity much more often! ). I do it only when it comes naturally to me to do so. If I do it deliberately, because it is a wise, sensible and effective thing to do and maybe it will help, it invariably fizzles out in no time.
The actual physical writing of the question and answer, in a notebook – I suppose I find it so helpful because:
– there is just so much we can hold in the RAM of our brains, in trying to fix our life problems only by thinking
– a physical act is very helpful, rather than just gallivanting inside the mind only. It gives the feeling that the answer is flowing from somewhere through me, through my arms, fingers and pen onto the paper.
– it gives a sense of conversation which is very satisfying in the end. It feels one has been heard, understood and guided. Heard, understood and guided by one’s own self! How wonderful is that!
While in the example that I cited above, I kept repeating the question to myself, often it is also a matter of accepting the first answer that comes. What is the best choice? We alone are the best judge. This is an exercise that is totally personal. There is no one else involved to say what is right or wrong. I suppose the best indicator of such an exercise is if ultimately it leaves one feeling comparatively much more peaceful and settled than before starting the exercise.
Such an exercise is invariably very friendly, filled with an environment of trust and support. It is almost always carried out due to some frustration, struggle etc., so those feelings are there in the environment of the exercise. But someone [me] is accepting those feelings. In general, it is not easy to accept my frustrations and struggles in a friendly, trusting, supporting manner, when I am trying to just deal with them in my mind. But turning to the notebook, for a conversation with myself, somehow changes the dynamics and atmosphere.
So that was about explicit self communication. A life tool which I have found to be immensely helpful many a times.
But the title of the article starts with:
What are your needs?
Some days back I carried out an exercise in explicit self-communication, where I asked myself, in writing, in a notebook: What are your needs?
The motivation for asking myself this question was because I was at a particular stage of life, at career crossroads. It brought its own generous share of the unknown. The second motivation was a wonderful interview I read. I quote the relevant passage of the interview below:
Pancho: … it’s finding out what is enough? Once you find what is enough in your life, then the rest is abundance. …
AC: … you have to set limits to have a surplus. Our culture does everything it can do to prevent us from defining what enough is in our lives. Because if we don’t set limits, then we always feel like we need more.
AC: Actually abundance is created by limits. Most people don’t understand that. If you don’t have limits, you’ll never have abundance, because you’ll always need more. Whereas if you take time to actually sit down and think about, okay for me, personally—and for my family—what is “enough?” Once you can be clear about that, then anything you get beyond that, you don’t need. At that point, right then and there, it becomes more than enough—by definition. And when you have more than enough, it’s a surplus—and you can share that, which is wonderful. Right? It actually makes it quite clear.
RW: I’m guessing that “enough” isn’t some stringent kind of austerity, but includes, let’s say, happiness, some kind of meaningful feeling.
AC: Well, yes. I would say “enough” is some way to meet our fundamental human needs. And our fundamental human needs include community and belonging and beauty and spaces that bring us to life—and an engagement with the world that is responsible and healthy. All these things are fundamental human needs, not just “did I eat something today?”
So I explicitly asked myself in a notebook:
What Are Your Needs?
And this is the answer that flowed out –
- a comfortable pleasing place to live
- good food to eat
- decent clothes to wear
- a sense of belonging
- fulfilling work to occupy my hands and mind
- companionship. connection and interaction with people.
- a feeling of having made some satisfying contribution
- color – means to travel and do things that bring color and music to my heart and life
- security – an assurance that my needs will be fulfilled – that what i need will come to me
- freedom – to do what my heart says, freedom to be myself
- freedom – from resentment, self-doubt, what-will-he-say/think and other mindsets that prevent me from moving
- a fulfilling exchange of love and respect with the people in my life
- connection to nature
- connection to an internal ठहराव
For the curious reader who does not know Hindi, the best way I can translate “connection to an internal ठहराव” is: a connection to an internal place of stability / an internal home.
Well so my intention is not really to share what my needs are with the world. I just shared this actual list here (and all the other examples here), because I feel authentic examples are important to this article. It is about a true communication from me to you. But they are merely examples, the actual content of which are merely incidentally relevant for the purposes of this article. Your needs dear reader, how you answer this or any other question to yourself, may be somewhat similar and may be in many ways very different. Explicit self-communication is totally about our own self.
My intention is to share this exercise that I did and the experience of it with you, because I found it very worthwhile. Kind of like, I ate a tasty nourishing mango – maybe you would like to eat one too? Or, there is this nice place I visited. Here is the travelogue. 🙂
It sure felt very good and satisfying when I finished writing, when I finished answering: “What are your needs?”. It felt full and complete. There is nothing that I wished to change. Over the course of my life, 2 weeks 2 months later, it might change, but at that moment it was full and complete. At that moment, it just made me feel so “ok” to have said out all my needs explicitly. Rather than live with that constant fuzzy grating sense of not-having and neediness, to know clearly, explicitly, what are my needs.
Here itself in a way was a completion of the exercise. A sense of satisfaction filled my chest as I looked at my writing in the book. The reward was received.
I think explicit self-communication in this manner gives this satisfaction because one expresses oneself freely to someone in a trusting environment and feels the assurance of having been understood. That is something we all seek. The specialty is, one expresses herself to her own self and feels understood by her own self. Now that sure is a nice place to be!
With this particular “What are your needs” exercise, I continued with three more stages, which were also very interesting, revealing and satisfying. I share those with you too.
Where Do I Stand?
After feeling nice and happy and satisfied with myself for some time, I got curious. So where do I stand with respect to each of these needs right now? So I typed it all in Excel, and marked out where I stand with each one of my needs. This is what I came up with.
Green indicates that I feel I do have that “thing”. The length of green indicates the extent to which I felt the need has been fulfilled, with a maximum length defined indicating 100% fulfillment. For example, at the time of exercise, I felt my need for decent clothes to wear had been completely fulfilled. Red indicates that I feel I do not have that “thing” in my life. The length of red indicates the extent of scarcity that I feel. How critical the scarcity is.
Once again, the benefit of marking out where I stand with respect to my needs, was clarity. Right here, in front of me, I could see clearly where my “problem points”, or actually, “scarcity points” were. The red lines and the very short green lines, but specially the red lines. It helped to have articulated it clearly, to get a clear picture for myself – what exactly needed to be addressed. Somehow just a clear awareness of a “problem” many a times sets the ball rolling and the solution seems to happen by itself.
Where Did I Stand?
Then I became curious again. I wanted to see where I felt I was, with respect to these needs, at a particular painful time in my past. A time that still troubled me.
I re-marked the list as per my present perception of where I was at that time in the past.
Now, that is really really nice! Look at the difference, then and now (now meaning the time when I carried out this exercise).
I did feel that I have come much further ahead in life (not just in years, but in self-growth) since that time of painful past, but to see it like this sure was a ratification for my own self and my journey. Something to keep on one’s work board as a reminder of one’s strengths and the gifts received from life. Like graduate students are suggested that they keep a copy of their acceptance letter on their work board for times when they are sinking in self-doubt and feelings of inadequacy.
It helps to remind our self that we have made progress.
What can I conceive? What can I receive?
This part was interesting because it revealed the subtle thoughts inside me linked with the fulfillment of my needs.
So of course I want all my needs to be fulfilled. I wanted to see everything in green. However, everything in green of the 100% length conceptually seemed too unreal and plastic. I started marking out each item – to what extent did I consider them to be possible, feasible.
As I did it, this stage held other meanings: What can I imagine/conceptualize is possible for me? What am I comfortable to receive and hold in me?
This was the result. I have marked out the length indicating 100% complete fulfillment for your clarity.
These questions – “What can I imagine/conceptualize is possible for me? What am I comfortable to receive and hold in me?” are significant. They are equivalent to the questions: “Are your doors open?” or in Hindi: “आंचल कितना फैला है?”
If I cannot even imagine something is possible for me, or if I do so with a lot of trepidation, chances are that that itself contributes tremendously from keeping it away. Like, if I cannot imagine coming 1st in class is at all possible for me, chances are almost 100% that I will not, even if I harbor wishful desires for it. So maybe the first thing about the fulfillment of a need – do you think it is at all possible for you? If so, to what extent?
The second: What am I comfortable to receive and hold in me? Our needs or desires being fulfilled has a lot to do with whether our heart and mind is open enough to receive it. When I think of receiving appreciation, if my heart sinks back with sadness, that is an indicator. It is a pointer to something that is there in my heart/mind which likely comes and stands in the way, so that even if appreciation is coming to me, I do not receive it fully. Maybe I feel almost embarrassed and uneasy about it, if someone appreciates me. That indicates something to be looked into a bit deeper.
That is what I felt was the value of this part of the exercise – to mark out what I could conceive was possible for each of my self-professed needs. While I negotiated the length of green against each item that “felt” correct, I became keenly aware of thoughts and feelings inside me which were determining the “correct” length.
Some of the thoughts were almost comical or ironic in a way. Some very revealing to me of my own personality and knots in my heart/mind. For example, I was unable to make the “sense of belonging” any longer because it seemed marking it any longer would mean I am agreeing to merge and sacrifice my individuality. A greater fulfillment of having a sense of belonging seemed to demand that I would have to sacrifice something that I strongly value and have worked hard to freely express. Whether one indeed has to make such a sacrifice for feeling a sense of belonging as a fact or not, is not the point here. That it is an avenue into one’s own thinking pattern, that is the point. The sense of a give and take with an underlying tension that arose while arriving at the extent of fulfillment that I was comfortable with, was interesting, revealing and of value.
This part of the exercise I feel is also valuable as an explicit declaration for one’s self – what can I realistically aim for, as per where I am right now. Later of course, one may update one’s aims. For example, if you earn Rs. 2000 per month right now, conceiving earning Rs. 10,000 may seem more feasible, and something that can be realistically worked towards, than straight-away conceiving earning Rs. 100,000 per month. From that perspective, a diagrammatic representation of seeing all one’s needs fulfilled, to the extent that one is comfortable with, makes for a nice pin-up for one’s vision board.
So I happened to eat a tasty nourishing mango dear reader. Maybe you would like to eat one too? Maybe you would like to ask yourself explicity: “What are my needs?” Or use this manner of explicit self-communication some time, to ask yourself whatever you need to.
With love …