WANTING VS. HAVING OR THE PLEASURE OF DESIRE
It’s the beginning of January, which means you may find yourself wanting a LOT of things.
You may even have a whole list of things you want in the new year.
We tend to experience wanting something as negative if we don’t have it immediately within reach.
But without the experience of wanting or desiring something, we wouldn’t get to experience the pleasure of having it.
Good food tastes amazing when you’re hungry.
If you’re full, that same food doesn’t taste so great, does it?
That’s because desire and pleasure go together. Desire is what allows you to appreciate the things you get. To enjoy them. To savor them.
So far so good.
But what about enjoying the experience of wanting or desiring something you can’t have right away.
Or maybe can’t have at all?
That’s a bigger ask, I know.
But learning how to make peace with wanting or desiring something you can’t have (or can’t have yet) will change your world.
As a first step, take a moment to think about one thing you want right now.
It could be anything from a slice of pie to a million dollars, but whatever you choose, get specific.
Imagine it clearly and check in with your body.
What does wanting feel like?
Where is it in your body?
You may find that your experience of wanting varies based on what you desire.
When I think about a food that I crave, I may salivate or locate my physical sensations in my stomach.
When I desire an object, I feel that in my throat.
And when I want to be around a person, I feel that in my chest.
It’s just a set of physical sensations. And it doesn’t hurt.
The feeling of wanting isn’t inherently painful.
In fact, if you desire something or someone, it can feel delicious…as long as you think you’re going to get what you want pretty soon.
But when you know you can’t have that thing, ever, it can feel excruciating.
What’s the difference?
YOUR THOUGHTS about the sensation.
You can change your thoughts about the thing you want.
But you can also change your thoughts about the experience of wanting something you don’t have.
What if we could learn to enjoy the feeling of wanting, not just the having?
What if wanting something could be pleasurable, in the moment you want it, whether or not your desire ever gets satisfied?
It seems obvious to most of us that desire is only pleasurable when you know you will get to satisfy it. Preferably in the next twenty minutes!
Human beings evolved to seek pleasure and focus on the future where we can get it. So we are predisposed to be in a constant state of wanting and desire.
That’s all very well when what we want is a snack we can get in the kitchen.
But how does that impact us when what we want takes a while to obtain – or can never be obtained at all?
If we don’t manage our minds, we end up in a state of dissatisfaction, feeling deprived of whatever we desire – whether it’s that one particular cookie from the bakery uptown or the family life we think we need to be happy.
What if there’s another way?
We don’t have to get rid of wanting or desire. That’s the goal of some spiritual traditions, but that’s not how I roll.
But what if we could learn to enjoy wanting itself? Learn to enjoy this metaphorical hunger (whether or not it will be satiated!)?
That would allow us to find pleasure in simply being who and where we are, at this exact moment in time.
If we could enjoy yearning, we wouldn’t have to spend our time imagining a future where every want and desire is fulfilled or jumping from pleasure to pleasure without resting between.
It would change everything, wouldn’t it?
It would mean reorienting our awareness and our emotional focus from the future, in which we imagine the desire being satisfied, back to the present.
And if you learned to accept feeling desire without rushing to satisfy it, you wouldn’t be so agitated about chasing the things you think you need in order to feel ok.
You could slow down and get to know your present moment, your present desire, your wanting, your hunger, your longing.
Imagine what you could discover if you were willing to see what could be pleasurable in those emotions? Sure, the tenor of your pleasure might be less intense than the dopamine overload you get from satisfying your desire – but what if that, too, is something to enjoy? Maybe it’s more gentle, or bittersweet, or another feeling entirely. How can you see the beauty in it?
The next time you experience a desire, the next time you mentally scan your list of New Year’s resolutions, I want you to slow down and sit with the feeling of wanting.
I want you to explore what you might be able to enjoy about the wanting.
In what way is this wanting delicious?
In what way can I savor it?
How can I find the beauty in this?
You may find that regardless of the outcome, slowing down to experience your wanting means you get what you wanted all along – to feel pleasure in your experience.