Desire doesn’t have to be specific or passionate to be real.
It’s okay to want something from a place or simplicity and generality. Just because we don’t check the boxes of white hot longing and obsession doesn’t mean our feelings aren’t legitimate and shouldn’t be honored.
The challenge is, we buy into these culturally sanctioned stories about what our desires should look like. Unwritten rules about what’s okay to want, or not want, and to what degree.
And we think that if we don’t feel a particular type or level of desire about a certain thing, then something must be wrong with us.
Donaghue wrote an inspirational and provocative book about authentic sexuality in our dysfunctional culture. It’s been helpful in my own development, and not only in the realm of sex, but many areas of life. Here’s one passage the doctor writes.
Inconsistency, changing needs, and shifting desires are all signs of functionality. But our cultural templates for do not honor these healthy traits, and, in fact, actively work against them.
This lesson can have profound implications beyond the bedroom. Because there are certain cases when we don’t desire a particular thing or experience, and yet, we’re still willing to do it. And it is that exertion of will that becomes the more important feature.
If we’re willing to trust ourselves, trust the process, trust each other, take a risk and open our hearts to the infinite possibilities of life, will supersedes want. Desire is neither here nor there.
Personally, it helps me to think about these two ideas from a language perspective.
Desire derives from the root word that means craving or yearning. It’s an emotion directed toward attainment or possession of an object.
Will derives from the root word that means capable of doing something. It’s the determination to take action, despite difficulties or opposition.
Notice the difference? Allow me to share a case study from my life.
Many years ago, my wife, then girlfriend, asked me on our six month anniversary to move in with her. Across the country. Her request completely blindsided me, and it took an entire day to contemplate her massive question.
But the discovery that showed up in my heart was, wow, my desire to relocate isn’t really there. At least, not like it is for her. I don’t have this burning, lifelong craving to live in the biggest city in the world like she does. Noted.
But will, on the other hand, that’s a different animal.
Do I feel capable of taking that life changing action? Is moving something worth committing to, despite the risks? Definitely.
You can probably guess my answer. Relocating turned out to be among the most important decisions of my life. For numerous reasons, but mostly as a reminder of the balance between desire and will.
See, sometimes after willing ourselves to do something, desire sometimes shows up. We might not have been burning hot with passion at the start of the journey, but now that we’re on our way and used to having this thing in our life, it can blossom into what we actually do want. Desire follows will.
Now, it doesn’t always work like that. There are as many stories of people moving to a big city and never looking back, as there are stories about people who showed up, hated it and left after six months feeling angry, bruised, bitter and broke.
Desire doesn’t always follow will. Sometimes we lead with will and end up trapping ourselves into an experience we never wanted, in the hopes that our emotions might change once we got there.
All the more reason to be very careful about the language we use.
Ultimately, there’s no rule book on what our desires should look like. Nobody can tell us what it’s okay to want, or not want, and how fiercely or casually we experience either.
Our feelings aren’t facts, but they’re still ours.
Especially the ones that don’t exist.
LET ME ASK YA THIS…
Do you really desire this, or are you simply willing to do it?