At the community mental health center where I worked for nearly ten years, which provided psychotherapy to children and their families as well as providing emergency evaluations for people in crisis, I used to say facetiously to my supervisor, “I need a Just Say No workshop.” I had a caseload of over two hundred children, which included their immediate family members at any given time. This workload was way more than any one human could manage by herself. Realize that these were some of the most complicated cases in East St. Tammany Parish. There were children at risk in the school setting, at home and/or with legal authorities. This meant that I needed to attend meetings with many collateral organizations. There were meetings with child protective services, individualized educational planning meetings in schools, as well as staffing at the Youth Service Bureau and the state psychiatric hospital, all of which needed to be kept current.

I’m not sure if this is where I began to feel like Edith Bunker running from room to room when I was summoned, but run I did. This is where the phrase, “your wish is my command,” became operant. I felt a deep calling to this work and wanted to provide the most holistic, comprehensive and compassionate service possible. However, there was very little consideration of my own needs. This was a recurring theme throughout my life. Having been bred, raised and indoctrinated into the Jewish culture, I probably had MARTYR ingrained in my DNA. A true sign of a martyr is that one’s own needs are rarely considered and consequently the people around them always feel guilty. Whether my professional persona bled into my personal life or vice versa, I ran from room to room in all areas when summoned.

Fortunately, I entered intensive therapy concurrent to the early development of my career. Some of the most problematic patterns that I have seen in faltering relationships is the inability to even acknowledge one’s own needs. At nearly sixty years of age, when identifying my own needs, there are times when I have to consult a needs list. Realizing this leads me to question whether there is a relationship between this underdeveloped part of the personality and the hatred and violence in the world.

In working with couples who were in a great deal of pain, I often presented the metaphor of two people drowning; they didn’t wish ill will on the other, however, in their own struggle to breathe (sustain life), they were pulling the other underwater. This is a graphic representation of what actually happens when one’s needs are chronically neglected. The struggle in the body is experienced as life-threatening. This is also what makes relationship yoga such an accelerated path to transformation. When conflicts are experienced as life-threatening, internal resources are rallied more readily.

What would’ve happened if the deferential Edith Bunker was able to identify, acknowledge and meet her own needs in her adult life? What would’ve happened to Gloria and “Meathead’s” relationship? Gloria would still be Gloria having been raised by Edith, but she would also have the imprint of Edith’s empowerment. After all the few times this sweet, naïve woman actually spoke her mind, she was the wisest in the family.

Without the drama and the tension between the characters, there would have been no one drowning and consequently no iconic sitcom in the 70s. What would relationships be like with less drama? What would life be like if we attended to our own needs? What if Edith plopped herself down in Archie’s chair and said, “not right now Awchie, I’m resting.”  Would the ceiling have fallen in? And what if Edith tended to the ceiling once and only once she was rested?!

Right now I am resting.

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