Of all the reasons why people don’t ask for what they want, #1 is definitely fear. Our fears consume us, and make it next to impossible to say our desires out loud.
Fear of rejection, fear of it not being what we hoped, fear of not getting what we want despite our partner’s efforts, fear of being laughed at, fear of being judged… The fears, it seems, never end.
But “fear” as an answer alone isn’t enough to be useful. If you want to start getting what you want in your relationships, in the bedroom, and in life, it helps to notice why you don’t ask in the first place.
In other words, what is that fear, and where does it come from?
When you notice a fear come up, pay attention to your emotions, then step into the “fear shower.” Are you afraid? If so, of what? Turn the faucet of your concerns, worries, apprehension and nervousness on as far as it will go. What do you think might happen? What will happen after that? Ask yourself these questions and write down as many of the answers as you can.
Put as many of your fears into words as you can. Then…
Don’t judge yourself for the answers that come up. Many times the fears are irrational given the current situation. For instance, you might be afraid that your partner might reject you if you ask for some change to your sexual repertoire. Your mind might go straight to “That’s ridiculous! They’re always open to conversations like this!” It’s important, however, not to dismiss your fear. Take a step back. Imagine what it might be like to ask for this change you want. Sit with it and be patient, because whatever comes up for you is trying to tell you something. Feel it all the way through. Let the answers wash over you.
Then, take a deep breath. This can feel really scary sometimes, but you won’t drown by standing in the shower, and you won’t get hurt by simply feeling through your fears.
Now, think back. Does this situation feel similar to something else in your life? Was there a time when someone did reject you for making a sexual request? Perhaps it was a past partner? Or maybe someone in your past dismissed you when you asked for something that felt vulnerable to you?
By noticing where the fear comes from, you may be able to see what it’s trying to protect you from. Sometimes the protection is unrelated to the situation at hand. Sometimes there might be something to it. Regardless, knowing what your fear wants from you is an important step to being able to speak about your needs.
Finally, do some comparisons. Look at: how is this situation similar to the past? How is this situation different? It may be the case that your partner ignored you or dismissed you in the past. Is that likely to still be true? If it was someone else who dismissed you, why are you expecting the same from this partner? How up-to-date and true are your beliefs about this current situation? How are you different than you were before? Is it possible that you have more skills and awareness than you did before?
Sometimes our fears are based in an accurate assessment of current reality. But more often, they have to do with things that happened years ago, with someone else, or to someone else. By getting intimate with your fear, and distinguishing it from what’s happening now, you have an opportunity to choose how to interact with your fears, instead of just assuming that the worst will happen.