The Vulnerability and Power of Asking for Exactly What You Want

communication wheel of consent Nov 14, 2023

Last year I was standing outside a pub in the afternoon sunshine with a friend in Hackney when we were approached by someone down on their luck asking for money.

“Have you got £2?”, we were asked.

My friend replied he didn’t have £2, (I was cashless), and the man left.

My friend then said to me, “I have £10 and would have given it to him if he asked for £10. There’s something powerful about asking for exactly what you want.”

A moment later, another man approached asking for money. “Can you spare £2, I’m trying to raise money for a hostel tonight that costs £35…”.

“Sorry, how much do you want?” said my friend.

“I’d be grateful if you can spare £2 though if you are generous enough to give me £10 that would be amazing,” the homeless man said.

“I have £10” said my friend, and pulled it out and gave it to him.

The air was tingling.

Not just from the happily surprised man walking away with what he wanted but also from the serendipity of it all. We will come back to this in a moment.

We have a twisted relationship with desire in our culture. It is too often synonymous with greed and selfishness. Why would we choose something for ourself if it puts out other people?

We can be seen as selfish, narcissistic, and even unkind to notice what we ourselves would like. It’s much more socially acceptable to spend our energy considering everyone else and catering to them.

And whilst it is important to be able to relate to the needs and wants of others, when it becomes so alien to consider our own needs, wants and desires, when we so often push them down and diminish them, we loose touch with an essential part of ourselves.

We need to be in touch with our desires in order to orient ourselves in the world. We need them to be good at our jobs, to have healthy relationships, to find purpose, meaning and self-actualisation.

So learning to be polite and consider others is important and healthy but it goes too far when, around the dinner table as children, my generation were taught to offer the last roast potato to everyone else before being allowed to eat it ourselves.

Because our desires can be so alien to us, when we get in touch what we really want, it can bring about a palpable and powerful state shift. It can create a sparkling sense of aliveness, passion and clarity.

It can help us burst back into life riding a puma, full of fire, love and vitality.

However, to access this, you have to go all in. This kind of energy only comes when the vulnerable and truthful nature of the desire is exposed.

Owning our desires like this allows us to become more intimate with ourselves and the world around us, regardless of whether they are fulfilled or not.

Being in touch with our desires enables us to meet the world with solidity and wholeness in our expression. It allows us to relate authentically with others and enjoy richer, deeper relationships.

One way to cultivate our relationships with our needs and desires is to ask for exactly the thing we want. Not the watered down version, not something vaguely adjacent but to ask for the very thing itself.

It was my birthday a few weeks ago and looking back through my life, I’ve found it hard to be honest about my desire and often asked for the most modest version of it.

Whether it was becoming unhappily vegan to stay in a relationship or not owning my value and settling for way less than I deserved in business partnerships, I had suppressed my desires for so long that it felt normal to go along with what was happening.

When we don’t actively notice and honour our desires, our sensitivity to them decreases. Our sense of self fades.

For me, building back up from the last kernel of desire has taken time and is an ongoing project. Yet like the man who received £10 I am often happily surprised when I lean fully into it.

When my partner asked me what kind of cake I would like for my birthday, I asked for the Jubillee trifle. It has lemon curd swiss roll, mandarin coulis, orange and lemon jelly, amaretto biscuits and whipped cream. It was very much hard to make and over the top and an ‘inconveniance’ to make. I decided to ask for it none-the-less.

Asking for it gave me a warm feeling in my cheeks, I had a sense of joy, playfulness and contentment. It was like a loving feeling of daring and bigness.

These feelings were not dependent on her agreeing to make the trifle. They came just from noticing and asking for it.

Requesting a packet of out of date Tunnocks tea cakes would not have produced the same effect for me.

On socials, I requested friends to share if they saw a quality in me that they appreciated, rather than the standard birthday greeting.

I enjoyed the audacity of asking. Any responses were a bonus. It did get responses, though, and I was deeply touched by some of them.

Our desires are sacred. They make us who we are. They help us orient ourselves to the world.

We have a responsibility to own our desires so they transform into fuel for our aliveness. I stand for the desire of every individual on the planet.

Desires are signposts welcoming us to discover who we really are.

The more intimate we become with them the more intimate we become with the world. The more we notice and own them, the harder it becomes for us to tolerate unhealthy situations or behaviour from others. And the easier it becomes for us to form deeply nourishing and meaningful relationships.

Here’s an invitation: try the experiment of noticing and asking for exactly what you want when you are given the chance. See what happens.

If you would like to discover more about fostering a healthy relationship with your desires, you may enjoy my Wheel of Consent and Embodied Sovereignty training. Find out more here.