desire

Self-Care Saturdays: Living In Tune with Your Desire and Passion

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Welcome to Self-Care Saturdays, a series of bonus blog posts that will be released on the last Saturday of each month.  In a world where we are constantly faced with demands on our time and energy, it can feel impossible to slow down enough to pay attention to our own needs and take steps to care for them.  These articles are meant to get you thinking about one small step you can take today to practice kindness and care for yourself. 

What is the thing you desire most in the world?  What gets you out of bed in the morning?  What events or experiences lead to the most anticipation in you?  The most excitement?  What do you enjoy doing above all else?  What do you feel called to do?  What are you made for?

When we think about desire and passion, it can lead to happiness and daydreaming about what you want your future to look like.  Or it may stir up painful emotions.  You might not be able to answer the questions, or you feel that your current life does not reflect your desires and passions.

How do we define desire and passion?

Merriam Webster defines passion as ardent affection; a strong liking or desire or devotion to some activity, object or concept; sexual desire; or an object of desire or deep interest.  On a different vein, desire is defined as a conscious impulse toward something that promises enjoyment or satisfaction in its attainment; something longed or hoped for.

It is interesting that both desire and passion are connected to sexuality or intimacy.  Our sexuality is linked the core of who we are as human beings, to our identity.  Therefore, these passions and desires link into the core of our beings.  However, desire and passion often become warped when they involve constantly searching and striving for that which we desire, just to find that it is disappointing.  Desire and passion need to be tempered so that they do not transform into an addiction to the desired object.

We might respond to the awakening of desire in ourselves negatively, fearing the potential outcomes.  Avoidance and numbness soon follow, but the desires don’t disappear.  Instead, they demand to be expressed, often in the form of addictions.  This addiction numbs and gets rid of the longing, but is only a temporary fix, and the desires rear their heads again soon after.  When we truly get in touch with our desires, we actually protect ourselves from the ways in which that hunger can spill out sideways into addictive behaviors.

Developing desire will be a painful process.  Connecting with our desires and passion can lead to longing and grief as we realize areas where we haven’t been able to experience their fulfillment.  This is why we tend to avoid and numb out when we feel desire come up.  But ultimately, living into our desires gives us a deeper and more meaningful life.

How do I cultivate a life filled with passion and desire?

Identify the moments throughout your life when you’ve felt most alive.

Look for the moments of wonder or awe you’ve experienced in your life.  Pay attention to experiences at work or at play where you’ve felt the power of flow.  Imagine yourself stepping back into memories of feeling alive.  What happened?  How did you feel?  Who was there?  Reflect about moments in your memory of vivid happiness as a child: what images, experiences, or times do you remember most vividly?  Where have you felt an unexpected surge of emotion, maybe while watching a film or reading a novel?  Out in nature?  Sitting across from a friend over coffee?

Consider the moments in your life when you’ve felt the most numb.

Identifying the moments when our hearts have felt dead can actually provide a window into desire.  We avoid desire and dilute our passion by numbing because of the pain that comes with desires.  Where are the areas in which you have numbed yourself to what is good?  Where have you looked at a beautiful sunset or a mountainous landscape and felt nothing?  Answers to these questions can hint at the areas that are closest to your heart.  What is your go-to numbing strategy?  Where do you dissociate? Pay attention to moments when you’ve felt apathetic.

List the losses you’ve experienced that have been the most painful.

These losses could include the death of a loved one, the ending of a relationship or marriage, or the loss of a job or dream.  What did you desire to have happen in those times?  What do you regret, or wish you could go back and change?  Where have you felt disappointed?  Where has hope felt lost?  The people, experiences, or things that are valuable to us are often the most painful to lose.  As we pay attention to these losses, we can become more aware of areas of desire.

Listen to what you want.

Often, we weren’t given the freedom to be able to have what we want.  Maybe you grew up with strict parents or teachers, or had financial limitations that prevented you from attending the school you wanted.  When we experience disappointment of our desires and feel numb as a result, we can become comfortable in doing what is “right” or what is expected of us.  This can lead into the trap of perfectionism.  Instead, pay attention to the things you truly want to do.

Write about the live you wish you could live.

We often dream about a different career or become interested in a new skill or hobby that may or may not have anything to do with our present career or vocation.  What is your dream job?  Is it where you work, or elsewhere?  If you could have a do-over in life, what would look different?  What do you feel called to do?  What are you made for?  Write a story, a journal entry, or even just a list of what you wish your life could look like.  Are you able to take steps to make that dream a reality?

Step outside of the daily grind and into an area of passion.

The drudgery of day to day life drags us down and tells us that we can never truly have what we desire.  It is so easy for our passion to be dulled and numbed as face responsibilities.  To find the passion again, we have to be intentional about eliminating busy-ness and avoiding situations in which we feel we have to do something for performance’s sake or because it is “right.”  Maybe even things you enjoyed at one time have begun to feel like a burden or chore.  As you begin to say “no” or give up those areas more and more, you’ll be able to find the enjoyment anew in those activities.  As you release the control that comes with perfectionism, you’re able to trust.

Finally, cultivate patience.

Desire and passion stir up a longing for what is not yet here, and may or may not come.  No wonder it is scary to go there!  As you begin to become aware of these desires, step into what it might feel like to wait.  Yes, it is painful.  No, it is not easy.  But being aware of our desires and willing to walk into the potential pain of not yet receiving them brings us a sense of life and authentic joy.

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Are you consumed by desires that feel so big and powerful that you can’t control them?  Or are you caught in a pattern of avoidance and feeling numb?  Do you even know what you desire or are passionate about?  At Restored Hope, I offer counseling services in Ann Arbor to help you listen to your life in a way that allows you to recognize your desire and begin to create space for passion in your life.  Give me a call at 734.656.8191 or email me today to hear more about how I can help. 

Are You Living Like The Walking Dead?

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This Sunday, AMC premiered the 8th season of The Walking Dead with the series’ 100th episode.  It’s fascinating to see how much this show has maintained its popularity through the past 8 years.  Part of the draw in our culture toward TV and movies that focus on zombies is that on some level, we can relate.

Have you ever heard yourself or someone else utter the phrase, “I feel like a zombie”?  Whether it’s because we’re exhausted, stressed, or overwhelmed, we can find ourselves having a hard time functioning.  While feeling exhausted might be remedied by a good night’s sleep, sometimes we feel like zombies caught in the day-to-day of our lives.  We can be emotionless and struggle to make it through each day.  We lose sight of our hopes and dreams for the future, as the fog of everyday stress fills our mind.

One hallmark trait of zombies is their insatiable hunger.  That hunger is what makes them so dangerous.

At the same time, we can relate to the sense of being hungry for something more.

We desire for our lives to have meaning and purpose, to feel content and whole, but we often settle for filling our hunger with things that don’t satisfy.  We can become addicted to alcohol, drugs, sex, shopping, food, or gambling.  We can become entangled in dysfunctional or codependent relationships.  We might fill our lives with things that make us busy so we don’t have time to feel longing for more.  We might spend our money on bigger and better things as an attempt to make us feel happy.  But sadly, none of these satisfy us.

What are you hungry for?

What are the things that you desire?  If you’ve numbed out in any of the above ways, it’s likely that question hasn’t crossed your mind in some time.  Nothing may come to mind for you.  Here are a few questions that might help spark your curiosity:

  • If you could change one area in your life that would make it infinitely better, what would it be?

  • If you could wave a magic wand and have the life you want, what would it look like?

  • What do you daydream about? Why? What will that give you?

  • What were the things you loved to do as a child? What did you want to be when you grew up?

As you answer these questions, you may come across desires that aren’t practical or helpful.  For example, if you daydream about having an affair or quitting work to play video games all day, that likely isn’t a desire that will serve you well in life.  However, these daydreams provide clues to your desire.  For example, if you daydream about an affair because your marriage feels like you’re living parallel lives, it can point out a desire for more intimacy in your marriage.  If you desire to play video games all day because you hate your job, that’s a clue that you want something more out of your career.

Keep in mind that this may be a painful process.  Identifying desires breaks the pattern of numbing out and opens us up to feeling longing, sadness, loneliness, anger, and a whole host of other emotions.  But in order for you to feel joy and contentment with your life, you need to be able to move through these negative emotions as well.  I love the book Desire by John Eldredge that outlines how desire is both crucially important and so difficult to engage with.

How do I come back to life?

You’ve identified your desires: now what?  Just identifying desires can lead us back into numbing out if we don’t have a concrete idea on how to move forward into those desires. 

To start, choose one desire you’re feeling in your life.  Typically it’s best to identify the desire that has the most energy or emotion tied to it.   It could be related to your career, your relationships, your spiritual life, or your hobbies.  Next, what is one step you can take to move yourself closer to that desire?  Start with the end goal and trace each step back until you get to a manageable first step.

An example from my own life: I want to be a skilled home baker.  I’m obsessed with watching the Great British Baking Show and Food Network’s Holiday Baking Championship, and I dream about crafting beautiful and delicious desserts.  But the amount of knowledge these bakers have is beyond my competence.  How do I trace it back?.  In order to be a skilled home baker, I need to learn different recipes and methods of baking desserts.  I need understand the chemistry of baking.  I need to practice.  A next step might be to check out a book at the library about baking to read, to sample a new recipe, or to watch a YouTube video about cake decorating.

But what if I don’t know what to do?

Like the CDC developing a cure for the plague, or The Walking Dead’s Rick Grimes forging a new community, you need a guide who can give you direction on where to go and how to get there.  Often, the process of coming back to life is long and arduous.  Like a trek through a mountain, it can be easy to become discouraged when looking at the summit instead of the next step in front of you.  You might slip back into old patterns in that discouragement.

As a therapist, I function as a guide in areas of your life where you feel stuck.  My role is to help you identify and engage with your desires, break down desire into manageable goals, and walk with you as you make progress on your climb up the mountain.  When I see you slipping back into numbing out through addictive behaviors, it is my role to lead you back to the path to your desire.  In the process, I believe that you’ll see areas of your life slowly become more vibrant and in alignment with what you desire.  Hope will grow and flourish as you begin to see these dreams becoming a reality.

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Do you feel like you’re shuffling through your life instead of thriving in it?  Do you hunger for something more, but have a hard time figuring out what that is?  Maybe you know what you desire, but the path to getting there feels overwhelming and exhausting.  At Restored Hope, I want to help you along the path to embodying a vibrant and full life, rather than just surviving.  I offer counseling sessions at my therapy office in Ann Arbor to help you along the path to a more fulfilling life.  Give me a call at 734.656.8191 or fill out the form here today to hear more about how I can help.  

Pain, Joy, and Longing: What The Giver Can Teach Us About Desire

What comes to your mind when you think about the word desire?  Is desire a familiar friend to you?  Or something that you run from as soon as you feel even a hint of it? We all carry different desires in our lives: desire for food, desire for another person, desire for a promotion at work, desire for a house (or a bigger house, or more stuff for your house).  Or perhaps your desire is more abstract: desire for more peace and calm in your life, desire to be loved, desire to achieve a mission or purpose in life.

Merriam-Webster's Dictionary defines the verb desire as “to long or hope for;” “to express a wish for” or “to feel the loss of.”  Notice how desire is so closely tied to disappointment or anticipation: we’re looking forward to something, but we haven’t yet attained it.  Or on the flip side, the final definition intertwines desire with loss or grief, as when we desire something we once had but lost.

What are some of the desires you identify most strongly in your life?

A short time before the movie release a few years ago, I read the children’s book The Giver by Lois Lowry.  In this novel, the characters live in a dystopian future where everything exists in shades of gray.  The lack of visible color extends as a metaphor to the citizens’ emotions and longings.  The inhabitants of this community take a pill each day that suppresses desire and emotion.  The plot of the book begins when the main character, Jonas, is assigned to the role of Receiver of Memory.  This assignment requires him to receive all the painful memories that the society has wiped from its memory. 

I listened to a podcast discussing some of these themes in greater detail after reading the book.   This theme discussed in the podcast struck me: because the characters in the book do not experience emotion and have no memories, they don’t experience feelings of pain.

Wouldn’t we all like that?  Our world is full of pain: we have only to open up a newspaper, turn on the TV, or take a walk on the city streets to see suffering in our world.  We grieve the deaths of those we love, we feel pain at broken relationships, we are shocked by the violence around the world, and we weep at images of children who are starving.

As Jonas begins his process of receiving the memories the society chose to erase, he is wrecked by the intensity of the emotions he feels, ranging from joy to sadness.  In the process, something starts to change in him.  He begins to see in color.  He stops taking his pills and begins to experience desire, sadness, and joy in his daily life.  Emotions he didn’t even know existed are now rising to the surface.

Another theme that surprised me in this novel was the assertion that medicating pain through erasing memories doesn't just strip these people of suffering.  Because pain and longing do not exist, there is no opportunity for joy.

There are a multitude of ways that I attempt to make myself happy to feel a fragment of that joy in my day-to-day life.  I’ll obsess over how many Facebook likes I get on that photo, spend hours playing mindless games on my phone when work feels overwhelming, or stop and get my favorite fast food when I’ve had a bad day.   But it doesn’t take long for me to realize that these are all ways I’m simply medicating my pain and deadening my feelings through this false sense of happiness, while denying the deeper desire that bubbles just beneath the surface. 

We all have ways that we choose to escape from our pain and longings. These typically involve us numbing that pain or desire, driving it far away so we don't have to deal with it or feel it.  We can run to shopping, drugs or alcohol, sex, the approval of others, perfection, power…any number of things that quiet the voices inside of us that want something more.

How do you avoid pain and deaden your heart to your desires?

Pain is uncomfortable, that's true.  Longing typically leads to pain, because our longings likely won’t be perfectly fulfilled in this life.  But if I kill my desire and shove my pain into a deep dark corner of my heart where it will never be acknowledged, my life will be flat.  Maybe I won’t feel sadness or longing, but I also am robbed of my ability to experience joy.

I love that joy and pain are juxtaposed so clearly together.  They are two strong and seemingly opposing emotions, but you have to be able to experience one to find another.  As a Christian, I am grateful for the pain God has brought me through, because the deeply rooted joy I can now experience is so clearly an outflow of that.  I can rejoice and be thankful in God.

How can you choose to acknowledge your desire, knowing that it will be painful?

I need to choose to embrace desire every day.  (And to be honest, I’m not always successful.)  It is easy to find ways to medicate pain in our world, because we as a people don’t like to feel these difficult emotions.  But I must choose to sit in pain or sadness when I feel it, rather than running away from it.  I must choose to become alive to my desires, although that often hurts.  And in so doing, I’m opening myself up to experiencing joy and compassion toward others.

Have you been struggling to feel anything at all these days?  Maybe you’ve come to a point where you're not quite sure you can experience emotion.  Or maybe you’re in a spot where your emotions feel overwhelming, and you just want the pain to stop.  Restored Hope is an Ann Arbor based counseling office where I want to support you on your journey of understanding yourself, your emotions, and your desires in a way that embraces them rather than runs away from them.  Give me a call today at 734.656.8191 or fill out the form here to hear how I can help.  

For When We Wonder if We'll Ever Have Enough

Have you ever stopped to notice the multitude of desires you experience each day?  They can be as minor as for pizza for dinner that night, or as important as a desire for relationships or experiencing more joy in life.  Advertisers and marketers play on these desires of our hearts to influence us to want whatever product they’re selling.  They make promises that we’ll be happier, more attractive, or more successful when we purchase or use their product.

I recently listened to a sermon by Tim Keller of Redeemeer Presbyterian Church in New York City that spoke to this area: the feelings of desire or longing that overtake us, leaving us feeling unbalanced or as though we don’t have enough.  He shares a Bible passage from Numbers that takes place after God’s people, the Israelites, have just been released from slavery in Egypt.  In the course of the chapter, the Israelites complain about the lack of variety of food they are eating in the wilderness.  They desire to return to their slavery in Egypt because they had access to meat and rich food.  In their freedom, the Israelites lose sight of the harsh realities of their enslavement.

Many who fight against mental illness or addiction connect with this concept of forgetting past consequences and feeling enslaved to desire.  At the same time, all of us can understand experiences of desire and the hold they can have on us.  Think about the desires you have when you had a bad day at work.  Maybe you want to avoid talking to your coworkers, pick a fight with your spouse when you get home, or escape through eating, shopping, or endless hours of TV.

The First Step of Alcoholics Anonymous’ 12 Steps involves admitting powerlessness over our drug of choice, naming the fact that dependence on that substance led our lives to become unmanageable.  Whether that drug of choice looks like alcohol, sex, or escapism, it’s clear to see we are all powerless in some areas of our lives.  In fact, often when we believe we are powerful is when we are most powerless.

We are most powerless when we are unable to admit to our own powerlessness.

What are some of the desires you have in your life that come up again and again?  Maybe they are desires for good things, but they have overtaken your mind, emotions, and willpower and end up enslaving you.  Some of these desires might be for financial freedom, marriage and relationships, or a happier outlook on life.  Ask yourself how you would fill in this blank: “If only I had ________, my life would be better.”

What are your “if only”s?

But how many times have you seen people who give everything they have in search of this goal or desire, and when they finally receive the thing they want, they realize that it’s not enough?  Maybe you’ve noticed this in yourself: you thought marriage would make you happy, but now that you’re married, you feel more lonely than when you were single.  You thought having money would make life easier, but it feels like you’re constantly holding out for the next raise or promotion so you can achieve your next financial goal.  You can feel disappointment at constantly striving for the next thing and feeling as though you don’t have enough.

If you’ve ever had the thought, “If only I had _____________, my life would be better,” you’re able to catch a glimpse of the day-to-day world of addiction.

For an addict, the addictive substance or behavior is constantly demanding more and telling the person that they will be happy if they continue to chase the next high or thrill..  That constant refrain is what makes it so difficult for the addicts to stop their behavior: they are enslaved by the addictive behavior and are unable to see the effects it has on their mind, emotions, and will.

What then?  How do we cope with the craving and desire within us for more?  Start by connecting with your Higher Power.  Alcoholics Anonymous defines a Higher Power as “a power greater than ourselves” that restores sanity in our lives.  For the Christian, this Higher Power is God.  Building connection and trust with God involves acknowledging that all of our needs are met in Him, and seeking relationship with Him first and foremost because He meets our desires perfectly.

Use the knowledge you gain from connecting with your Higher Power to create a greater vision for your life.  Ask yourself: Who do I want to be known as?  What do I want people to say about me after I’ve gone?  What are the things I’d like to accomplish in my life?  What are the dreams that I have?

As you explore this vision further, spend some time with close friends or with a significant other brainstorming about what fulfilling those dreams would look like.  Have your friends hold you accountable for the priorities you’ve changed.  Talk about your dreams in which a way that you can begin to understand them further and make an attitude and action shift.

How might you begin to connect with God or with your vision for your life today? 

 

At Restored Hope, I understand how overwhelmed you can feel in your desire for more than what you are currently experiencing.  Maybe you’re someone who connects with the idea of addiction  as a form of running away from pain through chasing the next thrill.  I’d love to help you experience a life that is more full and wholehearted through meeting with you at my Ann Arbor counseling office.  Give me a call at 734.656.8191 or fill out the form here to hear more about how I can support you.