To boldly go...somewhere very familiar
Needs. We all have them, whether we like it or not and whether we want to admit it or not. However we also equate being ‘needy’ with negative connotations. No one wants to be seen as ‘needy’ but why, when we all have needs? On some level we possibly want to be self-sufficient and hide our vulnerability because having needs is vulnerable. Our needs aren’t allowed so we avoid looking at them and pretend they don’t exist then we can keep going, keep surviving day to day. Avoidance is a great defence mechanism and very effective and often very needed because facing something can be harder. What if we don’t like what we see?
So do we ever really take time out of life to proactively think about our needs. They play a part in defining who we are; they are a part of our identity and shape us moment to moment. As a counsellor, exploring needs with clients can be a huge part of the work – identifying them can be hard and even if we pin point them for ourselves, can we allow those needs and maybe even try to fulfil them? Acknowledging them can be a first and vital step, even if that is all we can do.
Whether life is busy and hectic or quiet and boring, stopping to reflect on what we need can be like pressing a ‘pause’ button - it gives us some breathing space,. So how can we explore what we need? Just asking “What do I need?” sometimes isn’t enough - it’s not easy to answer - so finding other ways to enter into that discussion with ourselves can be useful and effective. Thinking about what we are drawn to in life can be a first step because it is easier to think of things outside ourselves.
I love sci-fi and fantasy- I am drawn to exciting other worlds and am quite happy to lose myself in them .I can happily talk about Tolkein or Game of Thrones or Doctor Who without any hesitation and at length. Easy. But ask me what I really and honestly need for myself and I might dodge that one. So can we use those things we can easily talk about to find a path through to what really matters?
Science fiction and fantasy is known for creating deeply loved worlds that people can immerse themselves in - as anyone who has been to a Comic Con can attest to. It is serious and dedicated business. We are constantly and unconsciously searching for how we define ourselves and our needs. Science fiction and fantasy, possibly because of its lack of boundaries – any world, any being and anything can exist – can offer us ways in which we can see ourselves and understand who we are and what we need.
So who are we drawn to? What world do we love? Who is our favourite character?
As a child I loved Sherlock Holmes and still do. He is an extreme character but if I think about his qualities then suddenly there is familiarity. He is smart and difficult to get to know, he doesn’t feel like everyone else, he is arrogant and doesn’t understand how to fit in with others. Suddenly the clever only child who starts a new school and doesn’t know how to make friends seems very familiar. He is also rude and doesn’t care what people think about him. Perhaps I need to live a little through him because I care too much what people think about me. I need to know what it might feel like to not care about others’ judgement. And what about Watson? If we are drawn to him what does that say about what we are looking for in life and finding in the good Doctor? Do we need some loyalty, and dependability? Someone we can always rely on?
Exploring the characters we love is a way to be curious about ourselves and what we are looking for.
In the Star Trek universe, there are characters that many feel drawn to. Kirk is ridiculously brave so perhaps we are drawn to that quality because we need some bravery, and Spock is a logical man trying to make peace with himself and his place in the universe, so perhaps we recognise a need for logic and order because we feel in chaos. Maybe we’d like to not be so emotional or maybe we just feel a bit alien to everyone else.
The world of Star Trek itself is one that offers a united planet where humans work together as one species and one nation, exploring the universe with curiosity rather than fear. It is a world where difference is accepted and diversity the norm. When we see on the news that some lives don’t seem to matter in our world, our need to feel safer and more secure might be satiated in that other world if only for an hour or two.
If we need empathy and compassion perhaps Deanna Troi from Star Trek Next Generation speaks to us deeply, or maybe Data’s childlike curiosity feels familiar or we see the survivor in Seven of Nine. In Star Wars, Luke Skywalker is a dissatisfied teen who wants to escape the life he has and find himself, so what might that say about our own secret desires and drives? Rey is alone in the universe and finds her own version of family – perhaps we need to know that can happen when we feel we have no one, and Han Solo … well he’s just cool so we’ll leave him there.
With Doctor Who, what on earth could a Gallifreyan Timelord have to tell us about ourselves? Maybe his loneliness feels only too familiar, perhaps we need to have hope that there are people (aliens?) who will help a stranger just because they can because hope is something we crave, or maybe we just wish we had that special friend to have life adventures with.
Maybe we know the feeling that Frodo Baggins has when the ring weighs so heavily on him and he feels like he can’t go on and yet he somehow finds a way to keep going through his friendship with Sam. Perhaps we see the brotherhood that Rick and Darryl create together to survive the unimaginable in the moments when they aren’t killing zombies. Or possibly we walk between worlds with Lyra Belaqua because she’s the brave little girl who rides bears that we wish we could have been and we need to know she is still there inside us.
If we can’t allow that focus on ourselves and find it hard to really and honestly look inwardly, then thinking about something else, something we love or find comfort in or are drawn to, can be a way to explore our experience, our identity and our emotions in a more gentle and curious way.
Defining, acknowledging and allowing our needs are bold steps indeed, and however we get to them, we might be surprised but it might also feel very familiar. On some level, we do know ourselves and we know what we need, we just have to find the right travel companions to walk that yellow brick road with us.