Vallarta Tribune, Jun 25-Jul 1, 2006, issue  # 481, pg 17

How many of you are still waiting for certain people in your life to treat you differently? The answer is most of us. You may be waiting for your husband to stop insulting and criticizing you, or for your wife to be more thoughtful and less demanding, or for your mother to be more understanding, or for your father to be more open and loving. We all have unmet needs from our parents, siblings, friends, boss and co-workers. They don’t respond the way we wish they would or they don’t give praise and compliments that we deserve and really need/want to hear.

Some of you went your entire childhood without receiving what you expected, deserved, and desperately hoped for. You may have grown up with parents who weren’t capable of unconditional love, or who criticized but never praised you, or who were abusive and/or neglectful. Maybe you have a brother or sister who received all of the attention, who was the star athlete or brilliant student, or the one who never got into trouble. You may have adapted/responded by becoming invisible; unnoticed one way or the other, or maybe you found that you could receive attention for negative troublemaker behavior. Now, you want to be recognized differently for who you are and what you have become (but everyone seems to be locked into an old image of which they are unwilling to let go).

Still waiting well into adulthood

We find ourselves well into our adulthood waiting and hoping for recognition and praise from our parents. We need to hear the words “I am proud of you,” or to receive affection and hugs and to hear the words “I love you.” Are you still desperately trying to please or impress them to no end and no matter what, it’s never enough?!!

A man in his fiftiestold me the story of how his father has never recognized his accomplishments and that to this day he would love to hear his father say “how proud he is.” He cried as he told me how his father never attended a single high school football game of his even though he was the star quarterback and his team went on to win the state championships his senior year. He was also an excellent student who earned a full scholarship to Princeton, which was another great accomplishment that was never praised or recognized by his father.

Another man in his fiftieshas spent a lifetime trying to “measure up” to his father’s success which began with a Harvard law degree. This man currently has 3 PhD’s and still has not found what makes him happy, and in his opinion, has never received the recognition and praise that he has always hoped for.

The empty refrigerator

My analogy of the “empty refrigerator” may be helpful. If you are hungry and you go to the refrigerator and find it is empty, you close it, unsatisfied and frustrated, and still hungry. No food! A few hours later you return to the refrigerator, even more hungry, and again you find it empty, you close it feeling even more frustrated and angry. You feel desperate, you don’t know what you are going to do and are growing impatient and very annoyed. You march back to the refrigerator, throw the door open, and it is still empty! You can not believe it, how can it still be empty? You are hungry. You need there to be food inside. You slam the door shut and wait some more. Even though you know there isn’t any food, you still hope that some how, magically, food will finally appear. You convince yourself that this time will be different. You go back again just in case, and of course it is still empty.

How many times will it take until you get it?

How many times have you gone back to that same empty refrigerator? Are you familiar with the frustration, anger, disappointment, and despair of not having your needs met? How many times will it take until you accept that it is empty, before you stop going back to it looking for food? When will you surrender the expectation and find other ways and resources to satisfy your hunger?

The fact is: That particular refrigerator is empty and if you are hungry you are going to have to go to another refrigerator. Of course, the refrigerator represents people. Think of a significant person in your life who has not been able to meet your needs or expectations. What if you were to consider that they were or are not able, that they do not have the capacity to give praise or say “I love you”. They may not be completely empty or emotionless, but the “hunger” you have, the thing you need them to provide, is not possibleThey do not know how. So, you must look elsewhere.

Look somewhere else

The solution: It is necessary for you to look for somewhere else to turn, to find someone else to provide what’s missing. The important thing is to get your needs met; not stay angry at the one who is unable to meet them. It is a waste of time and energy and will always be disappointing and never be satisfying. Letting go of the anger also frees you and allows you to forgive them. Knowing that it is okay to look elsewhere opens up a whole new world that is rich and abundant with what you need and have desperately been seeking. Go ahead fulfill your needs! Find joy and satisfaction! Stop looking where “it” is not available and remain open to the endless possibilities for where, what, and who you may find elsewhere.

Written by: Giselle Belanger, RN, LCSW, CADC