How do I express my wants?

By Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP

I have a very large problem with telling people, more specifically, my loved ones my wants and desires. Although this hasn’t caused much of a dilemma in my family because of their ideology of “if you ignore it, it will go away,” it has been tormenting me in my relationship with my significant other. I find myself unconsciously saying things that aren’t bothering me but in turn making the situation worse. By the end of a discussion or argument I feel alone and hurt and tight but even more the simplicity that I still haven’t said my true want. Sometimes I don’t even know what it is but I know I have them and they’re not being said. How can I express myself without feeling like a ‘masochist’?

A: Thank you for taking the time to write us. Your question is an important one about empowerment.

Rather than speculate on the origin of this issue in your life I would like to focus on three ways of bringing about a change.

First, I would start a journal specifically for identifying your needs and wants. I would encourage you to make it a daily journal and date each entry.

When you identify an unexpressed desire and want, give as much detail about the scene you feel inhibited in as you can, then identify what wasn’t expressed. Following this, write down what you think is the reason for the inhibition.

Then I would pick one or two of these a week and role-play them out with yourself. Place an empty chair across from you and express the need directly, reverse roles and respond from the person that you felt inhibited by, then come back into you chair and say what you need to say. Rehearse this as many times as you like until you are back in your chair and feeling the role-play has ended adequately. If it doesn’t end in a place you are satisfied, then return to role-play and try it again until you feel comfortable. Only end it in your role, and only end it in a way that allows you to feel okay.

If the whole role reversal thing sounds like too much, just say what you weren’t able to say to the empty chair. This alone will allow you to begin expressing what you need.

Finally, while these are things I would recommend for you to do on your own, I strongly recommend some therapy to gain support in your empowerment. The find help tab at the top of the page will help you locate someone in your area.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan
Proof Positive Blog @ PsychCentral

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 15 May 2011

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2011). How do I express my wants?. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 21, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2011/05/15/how-do-i-express-my-wants/