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Specific Desires

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We sometimes get fixated on one thing. We think that we have to have this one thing or life won’t be worth living. If we’re dying of thirst and it is a drink of water this is true, but usually it is not this kind of thing.

Usually we want a particular kind of car or carpet, drink or dress, a qualification or trophy. If we don’t get them our lives really won’t be that different.

Usually we are confusing the object with a desired state for ourselves. We think that the object or achievement means happiness. We can get the object or manage the achievement and discover we’re not much happier after all.

This has lead me to think that our desires can usually be achieved in a variety of ways. That the car (or carpet or trophy or whatever) represents something for us, and so we can find other ways to meet this need.

Recently I have come to question this belief of mine. It is because I have been sharing a house with an eight year old and a five year old. At times they just want their Mum, and however much they like me, my attention and presence won’t substitute for their mother. Their need is quite specific.

Likewise when we’re in love, we are in love with this specific person. Our desire is quite specific. As our perception gets more refined then our desires get more specific: a painter needs the one particular colour that will work, a musician needs to find the right note (no other will do).

Is this too romantic? There may be lots of colours that would work nearly as well; there may be other notes almost as good. But in some way this is not the point. For full satisfaction it is the exactness that is at issue.

I’m still thinking this through. My tentative conclusion is that sometimes we do identify an internal state with an external object (say happiness with being in line with a particular authority). In this case I think we can substitute different objects and experiences. Other times perhaps a substitution just doesn’t cut it. I’m not sure how to sort out the difference yet.

Let me know what you think? Do you think that we can satisfy all our desires in diverse ways? Are there times when only one specific thing will do? I look forward to hearing from you in the comments.


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{ 5 comments… add one }
  • Daphne 2009/03/09, 4:15 pm

    Hmm…interesting question. Some people are totally in love with one specific person, yet when that person sadly dies, they eventually learn to love someone else.

    I think maybe if it’s a physical need then substitutes are fine eg if I’m cold, a shawl works as well as a sweater. But if it’s an emotional need then substitutes don’t really work?

  • Evan 2009/03/09, 6:33 pm

    Hi Daphne. You may be right about the distinction between physical and psychological. Thanks for your comment.

  • Jean Browman--Cheerful Monk 2009/03/10, 7:08 am

    When I have unfulfilled desires I try to look deeply at what is going on. I usually find if I look deeply enough I can find a creative solution.

  • Jean Browman--Cheerful Monk 2009/03/10, 7:18 am

    Actually what I do is call the desire “creative discontent”…I welcome the energy and try to use it wisely.

  • Evan 2009/03/10, 7:25 am

    Thanks for your comments Jean. This works for me too – looking deep enough and finding a creative solution. I like calling it “creative discontent” too.

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