The "Special" Problem: Why Entitlement & Neediness *May* Help Your Relationships

"Sounds like you have a "Special" Problem", said my handsome therapist.

"Oooooh! What's that?! I feel special already!"

"Yea, that's the problem part", he chuckled as he rubbed his eyes for a moment, like he was about to break some earth-shattering news to me. My eyes widened and for a moment I felt excited about my new label, my brand-spankin-new neurosis, my next thing I'd get to blog about. (Good Lord, I really do need therapy.)

Over the past couple weeks I've come to terms with my resistance and my general distaste for sharing and being a "team player", for which I blame my parents, of course; instead of having more children and staying married, they got divorced, gave me my own bedroom and bathroom at both houses, where I had my own toys and never had to bang on a door to go pee or wait to use the computer, or negotiate the time I spent watching my Lifetime my own room...on my own t.v. If they had given me a sibling or a pet or a few house plants to take care of, I'm sure I'd enjoy a thing or two about being a team player. But they didn't. So, I don't.

However, despite not being a fan or a willing participant of sharing my stuff and working on a team, I've somehow built an entire career that is dependent upon my ability to do just that. First of all, I educate people how to use essential oils and a HUGE part of that business is sharing my oils with people, be that providing Lavender to a gaggle of high-strung Yoga Teachers, giving samples left & right, and putting Lemon oil in everyone's water while in India. As an Eating Psychology Counselor and Yoga teacher, I share my time and my resources in favor of helping people feel more alive, nurtured and comfortable in their body and their relationships. I love what I do, and I wouldn't choose to do anything else. But here's where my "Special" Problem lies...and yours, too, if this resonates with you, which is great, because I can help you...

While my job requires me to share my "toys", it doesn't usually require me to share the credit or the accolades with anyone, for a job well done. Somehow I've managed to stay just under the radar when it comes to collaborating with people on a project, where I'm not the only incredible genius behind the operation, until now...

My friend, Tracy, and I have been asked to run a "Creative Writing & Yoga" workshop next month, because we're both writers and we're both counselors and we both deeply care about the work we do. While I know the workshop is going to be an amazing one-of-a-kind adventure for our students, it will also require me to share the warm, gooey, fluffy praise and the You-Did-a-Heck-of-a-Job hugs with her, which is difficult for me, because there's a running story in my head that says, You know they're gonna like her more, right? You know they're gonna trust her more and look up to her more, and want to work with her more, right? It's a harsh and dangerous world in my head sometimes, my friends.

So where did this story come from? As my handsome Therapist puts it;

You always had all the stuff you wanted; the bedrooms, the toys, the time to watch Lifetime Movies...but that doesn't necessarily mean you were given what you needed; quality time, lots of praise, undivided attention, all the things a child in a typical narcissism stage really does need. So as you developed, you looked to other people's praise, feedback, attention etc. not just to make you feel good in general, but to actually fill you up, to validate you and prove your value and make you feel special. (And why would you ever want to share that with someone else?) But when you rely only on how other people value you and view you, for you sense of self-worth, it doesn't keep you full, because you can't or won't or don't do that for yourself. So, here you have a sense of entitlement...mixed with a specific kind of need to feel special...and that creates a -say it with me- "Special" Problem.

When I peeled my ego-bruised self off the couch after an entirely-too-short fifty minutes, the only solution to this problem I could think of, apart from getting the f*ck over it because I'm a 29 year-old grown ass woman who ought to know how to share and not be so greedy for accolades, was to tell my friend Tracy about my "Special" Problem; how I'm not as jazzed as I could and should be to teach a Creative Writing & Yoga Workshop together. I told her how I'm afraid that people are going to like her more than me, and how I'd look like a fool and that I'm not as helpful to people as I think I am. I told her I might feel jealous. That I do feel jealous already. I told her all those things and she replied:

"Well, that's funny, because I've been so worried that people are going to like you more than me because I'm no 'Erica Jacobs'".

"Oh, so we're afraid of the same things?"


"Okay, cool. So, do you just wanna know that the workshop is better off being done together? Do you wanna just do the thing?"


"Great. Good game." *High Five*

If there's one thing I've learned from walking through such intense grief when my Dad passed away, and the process of healing from an eating disorder, it is the importance of being direct and telling people how I feel. The more vulnerable I've made myself, the stronger my relationships have become...if they're the right relationships for me to begin with. So while I am not someone who has always been direct and outspoken about what I feel (ESPECIALLY to the person I have feelings toward), I've seen the benefit and the rewards of being blunt and sincere in my adult life.

So, the bottom line is this: It's fine to have feelings. As long as we're human, equip with an ego, we're going to have feelings of entitlement and neediness from time to time. We've all experienced that "Special" Problem and it can be used to our advantage when we're willing to recognize it and be honest about it. Being able to say what we truly feel, preferably to the actual people we feel them with/from/because of, no matter how embarrassing, how selfish, how what being "authentic" is all about. (We, in the Yoga world, are obsessed with "being authentic", so I had to throw that word in here.) And the truth is, while it is ideal for us to be able to fill our own Self-Worth Bucket, it's not "bad" if/when we need other people to fill us up. It's okay. It's normal.

So, speak up, my friends. Say the things. Stay humble. It's good for your friendships, it's good for your job's the best for your soul.

Isn't that Special? ;-)



Trying a New Couch


"You've done this before", he says, as I make it a priority to hand over the $150 check, first thing. "Yes, I know how this works", I say, as I slip my flip-flops off and plop onto the couch, knowing how to make myself comfortable. He's handsome; mid-forties, jeans, Navy Blue sweater, nice band. Here we go, I think to myself. He situates himself in his leather office chair and looks at me, ready to catch my first sentence on his clipboard. I feel the tears coming, I bury my face in my hands and struggle to get the words out:

I mutter, "I'm the angriest Yoga Teacher I know."  And with the click of his pen, he begins to take notes...

I've been "couch surfing" since I was seven years-old. In the last twenty-one years, I've seen fifteen female therapists. With the exception of the therapist I saw just after my dad passed away,--who saved my life and in many ways, set me up for adulthood--none of them could really see me or really know me. Therefore, none of them could really love me and deep down, I preferred it that way. Oh, and just a little tip: A therapist's advice can only be as current as their outfit. So, outdated wardrobe=outdated advice. Trust me. You're welcome.

Anyway, it has never occurred to me to see a male therapist, probably because I've never had healthy relationships with men, my dad included, even though we were very close. I'm very tense and anxious around men. I was molested when I was thirteen, fourteen and fifteen and I've had physical and emotional affairs with several married men, for which I have never forgiven myself. Because of this, I'm extremely uneasy around husbands, specifically. It was not my looks or even sex appeal, if I have any, that landed me in those situations, it was my loneliness, my vulnerability, and probably my wit. Chronologically, I was very young when these relationships affairs took place, and I subsequently learned in those moments that all men cheat, I am not to be trusted with them and I am not worthy of a good one. I also learned that men really just want one thing from me...although technically, I learned that in high school.

On the other side, when I am around husbands that clearly love their wives --my friends' husbands, especially-- I'm always reminded that THAT love is reserved for everyone else, except me. A shame washes over me each time I witness that love; a kiss on her head, a passing joke between the two of them. I'm both grateful and sad those husbands would never choose me. When I think of the wives whose husbands I had relations with, all I've ever wanted to say is, I'm good now, I promise. I was young and broken and I'm sorry. And I wish you knew. I wish you would have stopped it. And how did you not know? Would I know?

I feel my cheeks heat up and my head starts to spin, as I so desperately want to empty the contents of it onto the floor, only retrieving the thoughts, experiences and wisdom that can make my pain go away. "Are you sure you're angry?" he asks. I peer over my tear-soaked fingertips and squint my bloodshot eyes, confused. Is he seriously challenging my feelings right now? "I've known you for three minutes, Erica", he continued, "and what I'm really getting a sense of is not anger...but sadness." I register the word; Sad. My limbs loosen and my skin feels thin. I close my eyes and nod, fully embodying the saddest Yoga Teacher I know. "Yes", I whisper, my voice breaking. "I'm sad. I'm so deeply sad."...

I've always picked boys over men, when it comes to dating. They're easier, they're safe. I was in a relationship with a boy for two years; my first and only real relationship. And although he was "safe" in the way I needed him to be, I never felt whole or right. If there's one thing I've learned about myself, it is that I will except that which is easy and safe for a while, sometimes too long. But eventually, I'll trade it in for that which is difficult, scary and very necessary, because secretly, I want to be with a man; a true King, who's criteria it is to be with a Queen and understands that distinction. I yearn for a man who challenges me to be the most sovereign, the most strong, the most sexy, the most embodied woman I'm meant to be, because he deserves that and deep down, so do I. Boys don't require this of women, but men do, and that terrifies me. So, naturally, off I now skip to the nearest handsome, preferably married, confronting male therapist, in the hopes of figuring it all out.

He's writing a lot down, I'm giving him a lot of information. I know how to make myself understood. "Erica, how do you think I can help you?" "What do you need from me?" I know he knows the answer but he wants me to say the words myself. (They do this all the time.) I stare for a long moment at the carved wooden folding blinds behind him and take a breath. "I don't know. I don't know. Well, I know I need to try something new," I say. "I know I need a male therapist to help me understand my relationship TO and WITH men. I've been told by many therapists that I'm 'too good at therapy' and others have said I should be a Therapist. I don't need to be stroked. I don't want to be validated. I don't want to feel like I'm outsmarting my shrink. Also, you're wearing a wedding band and that makes me nervous and I don't want it to, anymore."

Before I know it, fifty minutes have passed. "Erica, this is a great place to start", he assures me. I breathe a sigh of relief, as I'm afraid he'd reject me. We decide Fridays at 12:30 will be my slot. I thank him and yes, I hug him. As I head for the door, a tiny smile, unrecognizable to anyone but me, swims across my mouth, and a small glimmer of hope fills my chest as I send a silent prayer to my future husband: This is all for us. And I'll be ready for you, soon. 

Because I'm a counselor, a writer, a teacher and a truth-teller, by vocation, it is literally my calling AND my job to heal and speak my truth so I can help others heal and speak their truth. I think of the Tony Robbins and the Brene Browns of our world, whose job it is to do their part in their life; to explore the dark and hidden truth of themselves and fully embrace who they are. It's their job to keep growing and overcome what keeps them awake at night, because if they don't, the world suffers. So I realize I can't not do this. I can't not take action and responsibility for myself. Life hurts for me right now and some days I really just want to throw in the towel, pull up the covers and not participate. But I have no choice but to do the work like it's my job, because, frankly, it is. And I'm not quitting any time soon.