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I Can Finally Ask For What I Need Without Feeling Ashamed

Duncan Riach
7 min readJan 31, 2022

This morning, Cindy and I went to a Korean spa. We each got scrubbed vigorously with salt and then deeply massaged. After that, we began our relaxing cycles of hot, dry sauna followed by immersion in ice cold water. Upon leaving the spa, we both felt invigorated, relaxed, and calmly focused. My voice was deeper and richer, a sign than I have softened a little more from the inside. At the farmer’s market we visited next, my heart was more open than usual; I seemed to behave in more friendly way. I was more sociable, less introverted, and more at-ease with other people.

Over the past week, I seem to have been focused on an early childhood memory that I wrote about last Sunday, a memory of being a baby and crying for help, a memory of escalating the volume and intensity of my request, a memory of finally giving up hope and capitulating to the emotional vacuum, allowing my natural sense of entitlement-to-care to be extinguished, replaced with a compensatory blanket of shame. That little one decided that he did not deserve what he was asking for: reflection and connection with a caregiver.

I’ve been told that I was always a happy baby, always smiling, always content. This past week I have been shocked to retrospectively discover the probable source of that mantle, a cloak that I often found too awkward to shoulder. I appeared to be a happy and self-sufficient baby only because that’s how I survived: I suppressed my needs because I was ashamed of them.

I seem to have changed a lot in the past week. After writing that story, I had some interactions with my mother that deepened my understanding of my internal configuration. Every day, I also took the associated thoughts and feelings into my twice-daily Vipassana meditation practice and let them go, focusing instead on the sensations in my body. On Wednesday, while hiking a local trail, I engaged fully with this issue in a psychotherapy session over the telephone. Talking things through helps me to get clarity, especially when the person I’m talking with is skillful at deeply hearing and reflecting back to me what I’m communicating.

One day last week, I found myself wondering why Cindy and I had stopped having regular floatation (sensory deprivation) tank sessions. We both agreed that they had been so good for…

Duncan Riach

Top Writer. Self-Revealing. Mental Health. Success. Fulfillment. Flow. MS Engineering/Technology. PhD Psychology.