The situation we currently find ourselves in is begging for an exploration of the question of how we relate with our desires. Why? Suddenly, due to corona virus lockdowns, we are faced with lots of limitations. We have to stay at home, we can’t hang out with our favourite people, do activities we enjoy, eat out at the spots we love the most etc. Our routines are severely disrupted. As a result there’s lots of things we might be wanting and enjoying that we can’t have right now.
In my conversations with friends and clients, I am finding this is stirring up lots of difficult emotions. It can manifest as cravings, anxiety, loneliness which tend to drive our attention to whatever it is that we want and can’t have. All of those, however, are an invitation to explore our relationship with our desires as a whole, which allows us to gain perspective and begin healing the underlying cause. This has been a strong thread in my path over the last couple of years. So, in this article I want to share with you some tips that can help in reshaping and creating a more healthy relationship to your desires.
1. Welcoming and acknowledging our desires as parts of ourselves
This might seem quite straightforward and clear. After all, is there a way that we can be struggling with our desires if we don’t acknowledge them as part of ourselves? Turns out, there’s lots that can go south on this level. A couple of years ago, I realised how I felt guilty every time I’d acknowledge and express my desires. Digging a little deeper, I found that there was a deep belief that I’d carried from my childhood: “I am a bad girl when I want things”. This wasn’t an outcome of any ‘huge trauma’. It was just a peculiar way in which my fragile developing brain had interpreted my parents’ refusals to get me whatever I was wanting (because it was expensive, not good for my health or for another reason that made total sense).
It took me more than 20 years to discover that the way I was relating to my desires was ‘frozen’ in time. The rest of me had grown up, but in the way I felt when I’d ask for something, I felt like a little girl. What was needed to move forward from there was first and foremost — awareness. And a conscious decision to invite that part of me to mature and unfold into a more healthy form.
It helps go back to our early years and check with ourselves how did the child within us feel about wanting and asking for things. Although the process can be quite emotional, eventually we come to a space of ownership. In it, we can acknowledge our parents and other grown-ups did their best, even if it often doesn’t look like it. And that it’s our job to heal through whatever we’ve carried forward with us. As a result, we can move into a deeper acknowledgement and welcoming of our desires as a part of ourselves that has the full right to be there.
2. Not giving THAT much importance to our desires
The capitalist culture many of us have grown up and are currently marinating in has a way of exaggerating the importance of our desires. We are constantly being bombarded with messages about all these products, services and experiences we are supposed to be wanting. We are being shown success stories of people who had a big dream or desire and made it happen. That’s the most amazing thing a person can do.
None of us, in our right minds, will go around thinking to ourselves ‘I am a consumer’. This is exactly why it’s easy for this false identification to sneak in through the backdoor of our subconscious minds. We are constantly being approached and addressed as consumers defined by their desires or needs for something. What this leads to is an unconscious belief that states: “My happiness and fulfilment in life lies in me meeting my desires”. Which is actually not true. As any false belief, it’s going to keep giving us trouble emotionally until we reconnect with reality. In order to do that, we can look for evidence of when this is not true, by answering two questions:
- Do you remember a situation in which you had your desires fulfilled, but that didn’t lead to happiness?
- Do you remember a situation in which you experienced great happiness, joy, fulfilment in a way that came as a surprise? (i.e. without it being a result of you saying “I want this” and going after it and making it happen)
You can also use one of the mantras (daily statements to read through and feel into) that I’ve been using for this.
“Happiness keeps finding me in all kinds of surprising ways.”
3. Distinguishing between our needs and our desires
Another subtle aspect of the consumerist culture we live in is also the tendency to try and convince people they NEED things that are in fact, simply desires. Why? Because when you believe something is a need, rather than a desire, it gets stronger. You feel like you can’t live without it. Once we bring consciousness to it, some common sense can go a long way in putting things where they belong. Is facebook a need or a desire? How about beer? A new couch? How about food and shelter?
In the past, I used to work in IT as product manager. It was my job to lead the process of conceptualising a product or service to address ‘an actual need’ customers had. I had to make sure I distinguish it from a ‘nice to have’. The difference between the two — will they pay for it? When reflecting on this more recently, I realised this is quite practical for its purposes of making sure whatever you are making sells. However, it DOES NOT represent the truth of what’s different between a need and a desire on a more human level.
There’s huge benefit to be reaped in terms of wellbeing in moving the axis of what you identify as needs towards things like food, air, water, shelter, health, human connection. It might not help with someone’s business. However, it will help you as an individual to experience more abundance and appreciate how much you already have. It will also help you be more chill about things you CAN live without. And the way you can do it is quite simple — ask yourself what is the difference between a need and a desire for you? And based on that, are there things I mistakenly treat as needs whereas they are actually desires?
As we reflect and work with our desires on a deeper level, the feeling of being trapped and unsatisfied gently begins releasing. We discover there is actually lots of freedom, creative space and an invitation for amazing individual and collective growth that this whole weird situation is opening up. Let’s take advantage of it. It’s not like we have much else to do anyway
About Lessons in Paradise
I believe we already are in paradise, regardless of where we are and what’s going on in our lives. I believe life is a journey towards becoming aware of this and enjoying as much of it as we can in the limited amount of time we have here. The Lessons in Paradise vlog is the space where I share my process of shedding patterns and beliefs that obstruct our view in order to replace them with presence, joy and wonder. It’s also my invitation to you — an invitation to connect and journey together in creative ways, as we help each other see through to the greatest expression of ourselves.