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Reprinted from Prescriptions for Happiness
by Ken Keyes, Jr.
Love Line Books
Coos Bay, OR 97420
Ask for what you want – but don’t demand it.
You stand a better chance of getting what you want when you ask for it than when you don’t. That’s obvious. Why do you often fail to ask for what you want? Sometimes you’re afraid that people will be mad at you if you do. Sometimes you hesitate to assert yourself. Perhaps you expect people to read your mind. Maybe you are practicing up to become a martyr.
It’s very simple – just to learn ask for what you want. You don’t have to pussyfoot or play nicey-nicey. You don’t have to scream or yell. You don’t have to fire up your mind and make people terribly wrong if they don’t do what you ask. You don’t have to clam up. You don’t have to retreat into a deafening silence that puts your relationship into a deep freeze.
Just simply ask for what you want – without playing deceptive games, without loading down with separating emotions or implied threats, without a heavy tone of voice. Simply but definitely and specifically, ask for what you want!
Practice asking for what you want by noticing how simply and directly you can make requests such as, “Please pass the pepper,” or “Will you lock the door when you leave?” You’ll be getting the hang of it when you can ask ANYTHING in the same tone of voice and with the same ease as when you ask someone to pass the pepper or lock the door.
You will have to practice a bit – lots of bits! You won’t always find it easy to ask for money, love, sex, or no sex, assistance of various kinds in a simple yet specific no-big-deal way. Being simple, direct and specific, without making a pressure-cooker situation out of asking for what you want is a skill you will have to develop if you want to live a happier life.
Now let’s look at the second part of the prescription: “but don’t demand it.” Look at the separating feelings, your attitude and mental positions. And then see how you act out your demands: by playing “poor me” by playing “you hurt me” and by playing “if you really loved me…” and on and on. This will take a lot of practice because we’re all so used to demanding so many things. Remember, you can demand with a forceful tone or with silent pursed lips. It’s your vibrations that count!
Why do you automatically demand so much? You’re afraid people won’t treat you right if you’re not demanding. You’re afraid people will run all over you. So you make yourself very cactusy. You’re sure you’re right – and you want your rights even if you make yourself unhappy getting your rights! You feel that when you spend lots of time with someone, you’d better shape up the person so he or she will fit your models! But are you making yourself happier with all this demanding? Do you really get what you most want in your life through your demanding? Are you really ready to look at how you are addictively demanding so many things of yourself, of other people and the world?
If you look closely at the result you’ve had from all the demanding you’ve done recently, I think you’ll conclude that even though you’re right, the results you get from demanding are not all that good. In other words, most of the demanding you do doesn’t add to your happiness. You lose more happiness than you gain.
You may discover a lot of what you get does not come because of demanding it. Why does it come? It comes because it comes. You’re a part of it all. You have a right to be here. Sometimes you get what you want from demanding. But it’s like losing a dollar and gaining a quarter! When you loudly or softly demand (instead of prefer) you will lose: insight, humor, enjoyment, a feeling of love (for yourself and others) and your peace of mind. You’ve cheated yourself. You never deserve to be cheated by yourself.
How do you stop demanding? It will mean loosening the tight grip YOU FEEL INSIDE YOU. It will mean softening the tones of your voice. It will mean letting go of that rock-like stance you put on when you ask for something. It will mean that you stop frowning and feeling so serious about the soap opera we call life. You’ll probably find it scary at first. But with practice it will be very relaxing when you learn to ask for what you want without demanding.
It will mean taking the this-is-such-a-heavy-problem tone out of your requests – along with all the threatening and worried overtones. It will mean sometimes asking for things with a smile and a feeling of fun showing that you’re tuned-in to the way life is just a cosmic joke after all! Non-demanding means that you learn to ask lightly – often humorously. It’s like you’re playing the game of trying to get what you want – but you’re well aware that you win some and you lose some. And it’s O.K. to lose. You can be a good sport about the game of life.
Asking for what you want without demanding means that you stop hinting about what you want. It means that you don’t put things so obliquely that people have to figure out what you want. It means you stop going around with a heavy disposition hoping someone will ask you what’s the matter. It means you quit drowning yourself by deciding in advance that people won’t want to give it to you or that you don’t deserve to get what you want. It means that you learn to ask again for what you want TODAY – even though you asked yesterday without results.
Each day is a new day. You don’t let your memories of the past hang over and cloud up the beautiful day YOU CAN CREATE TODAY. Now you’re getting the hang of Prescription No. 1: “Ask for what you want – but don’t demand it.” That’s the first of the three Prescriptions for Happiness. Here’s the second Prescription for Happiness:
Prescription #2 – with music by: Three Dog Night