It’s the Choosing

My first revelation about the magic of the Taking Quadrant came during a long, agonizing, sleepless night in a small B&B in 2013. It was the last night of a “Like a Pro” training with Betty. I wasn’t any kind of “pro” at the time, at least as I saw it (I was a university psychology professor). But I was interested in learning to make more satisfying choices in my life, and this workshop seemed like an ideal way to make that happen.

When I began learning about the four quadrants, they made perfect sense. Separating out Taking, Serving, Accepting, and Allowing seemed to be an excellent way for me to develop more awareness about what I was doing in any given moment. The Taking quadrant was of particular interest to me. Being able to verbalize what I want would seem to be core to eventually getting it!

What I didn’t realize was how complicated it would be to discern what I really wanted. The afternoon before my sleepless night I was talking with another member of the training about our excitement about the Three Minute Game. We decided to get together the next morning, before the workshop, and play the game in ten-minute turns for some extra practice. Then I went back to my room at the B&B.

That’s when the long night began. This was an amazing opportunity. I am a touch-oriented person. Yet I had spent my career in academia, where for all kinds of good reasons I never touched any of my colleagues or students. At home I was in a deeply satisfying monogamous relationship, and I had never considered the possibility of experiencing even non-sexual touch with others. But now I had the opportunity to play the Three Minute (ten-minute!) Game with another person, someone I found very attractive, in a context in which boundaries were clear, appropriate, and consensual. What an amazing opportunity! A chance of a lifetime! I didn’t want to waste one precious second of it.

I went to bed, and all night my mind churned in anticipation. Midnight: How did I want to touch her? Should I ask to stroke her hair? Or would that just be playing it safe? Maybe I should ask for what I really want, like touching her breasts. 2:00 a.m. Do I have enough courage to ask to touch her breasts? What will she think of me if I ask that? Am I willing to risk her thinking less of me? 3:00 a.m. Wait, do I even want to touch her breasts? Or am I just saying that because that’s what I think I should want? I don’t even know! 4:00 a.m. I can’t stand this. I need to get some sleep! But what if I don’t ask for the right thing? What if I miss this opportunity? Maybe I want something even better than touching her breasts? 5:00 a.m. How do I know the difference between what I think I should want and what I “really” want and what I’ve always thought I wanted? And so on and so on …

By 8:00 a.m., when I met my partner to start the game, the sheer futility of all my strategizing had pretty much hit me in the face. As a result, finally, a tiny bit of Betty’s wisdom sank in. The whole point of exploring the Taking Quadrant was to ask for what I really wanted, in that moment. Not what I’d always wanted, or thought I should want, or wanted at 2:00 a.m. or even 1 minute ago. It was about staying with my feelings in the moment long enough to know what I wanted right then. That was a revelation – where I learned to listen to my body and soul in the moment rather than some story I was telling myself.

When my turn came to answer my partner’s question “How would you like to touch me,” I am so grateful that I had the presence of mind to stop, look inside, and take the risk to speak what came up most authentically for me. I didn’t ask to touch her breasts. Instead, I asked for something much more alive and much riskier. It doesn’t even matter what it was. As Betty has said many times in my subsequent trainings with her, it’s the choosing, not the touching, that matters. I was able to make a choice and then see what happened. Doing so that day was a giant step towards the liberation that the Wheel of Consent has brought to my life.

  • Joshua Searle-White, Ph.D.

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