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by David Truman

Fear of wanting

The real source of powerful desire

The difference between healthy and unhealthy reservations

Cultural programming against desire

The five great hang-ups about desire, and how to beat them

Use the positive power of desire

Summary of the ways to beat the anti-desire hang-ups

Imagine a game show host asking a group of contestants: "If you could have more DESIRE or more CAUTION in life, which would you choose?" Probably you would not be surprised if many people replied, "More caution!" More CAUTION sounds safe at best, and dull at worst; more DESIRE sounds downright dangerous.

Desire is the accelerator of life; fear is the handbrake.

Of course, most of us would be far better off with more desire. Desire is the accelerator of life. Press on it, and you start to move; step on it, and you get places fast. On the other hand fear -- the root of caution -- is the handbrake. Pull on it and you stop moving toward what you desire; leave it on and you're stuck at a standstill.

Fear of wanting

Fears and judgments about desire and desiring can make it well-nigh impossible for us to be who we are, express what we want, get what we need, and let go of what gets in the way of all that.

Consider my case, for example: When I feel desire for something or someone, but I am afraid to want, one or more of my hang-ups will come up and my desire may be suppressed, reduced, or even squashed on the spot! As my friend, you'd probably feel sorry for me. You know that scaredy-cats, if they finish at all, finish last.

Why fear of loss leads to having nothing to lose.

You don't want me to live in fear -- or more to the point, fail to live because of fear. Fear creates reluctance, dilemma, weakness, resistance, discomfort, doubt, aversion -- all the things that make having and holding something not only difficult but, yes, UNDESIRABLE. Moreover, you know me! I can become so problematical when I am fearful that it makes me undesirable even to MYSELF. You would worry that no one will want ME if I am too scared to want THEM.

You know that my happiness depends upon healthy desiring. Desire provides the opening, the motivation, the conviction, the power and the persistence -- all the things that are required for success in anything. When it's strong enough, healthy desire can open the doors to the joys of loving, and even counteract fear and aversion.

The real source of powerful desire

Where do I GET this strong desire? Where am I to get the power to manifest my wants?

I might plan to get it from pain, for pain creates the desire to avoid pain. I might get it from good experiences, because they restore hope and awareness of the positive possibilities. But actually, I don't need to go anywhere or do anything to get strong desire, because I already have it. It's inside me already. I just have to learn to stop fearing and judging desire to death, and let it be.

Release the irrational fears and the fears that remain won't be crippling.

Sure, fear can be useful: there are plenty of rational reasons for hesitations and reservations in approaching the things we want. But not ALL our fears deserve the Sane Housekeeping Seal of Approval. The fact is, ninety percent of the difficulty we experience in getting what we want comes from irrational reservations, not from rational ones. So the good news is, by getting rid of our irrational fears and hang-ups around desiring, we can make it ninety percent easier to get the things we want and need in life.

The difference between healthy and unhealthy reservations

Healthy reservations weed out the baddies; unhealthy reservations weed out EVERYTHING.

To liberate our desires from suppression we must CLEARLY distinguish between healthy reservations and unhealthy hang-ups. Here's the difference: a healthy RESERVATION protects us from bad things only, whereas an unhealthy HANG-UP cuts us off from good things as well. Reservations smooth the way to getting what we truly need, whereas hang-ups block the way. For example, a person who has healthy reservations about sex may intelligently avoid promiscuity. On the other hand, someone who is hung-up about sex may have difficulty enjoying sex even in the context of a monogamous and committed love relationship.

Cultural programming against desire

In our culture guilt and misgivings about wanting -- any kind of wanting -- run deep. Even people who would never characterize themselves as "spiritual" have nevertheless been brought up with the puritanical view that desiring is a sin -- especially, of course, physical desire. All human beings have sexual feelings, desires for touching, desires for companionship, from time to time. It happens to the best of us, and it's no reason to rush off to do penance. Yet most of us interpret those feelings as signs of weakness and impurity.

It would be overly simplistic to suggest that all of our hang-ups around desiring were based on notions of sin and purity. Good old human desire gets bad press from all sides. The spiritual camp blasts desire for being too worldly and unspiritual, maintaining that desiring binds us to the temporal. At the same time, the mainstream crowd rejects desire as too vulnerable, too disorienting, too dangerous. Both criticisms exaggerate whatever truth they hold, making it harder for us to understand the true value and usefulness of desire in human life.

The only way to retrieve valuable desire-power: throw off anti-desire programming.

But desire is the cause of success, not just the cause of failure. The only way to retrieve desire-power is to overcome our anti-desire programming. That means beating the five great hang-ups about desire.

The five great hang-ups about desire, and how to beat them

There's nothing "great" about these five common hang-ups -- except the number of people who suffer them to one degree or another. They are:



The spiritual hang-up: the belief that desire is animalistic or unspiritual


The anti-vulnerability hang-up: the belief that desire is too emotionally risky


The loss of self hang-up: the belief that desire will cause us to lose our center, or even our very identity


The fear of intensity hang-up: the belief that desire will spiral upward into feelings which are too strong to handle


The reluctance to trust hang-up: the belief that desire will lead to unsafe/unwise dependency

How to beat the spiritual hang-up. As we said, the belief that desire is unspiritual is very prevalent in our society.

Example: Some people take the saying "'Tis better to give than to receive" so seriously that they feel uncomfortable pursuing personal goals, asking for help, getting attention, even accepting nurturance when they need it. These people, who have a classic case of the spiritual hang-up, feel guilty doing or wanting anything unless it is "for someone else."

To get around this hang-up, it helps to have a little perspective on the spiritual ideal at its root. All spiritual teachings suggest that all-embracing universal love (agape) is more mature than desire focused specifically in one human relationship. That point has validity, but the real relationship between agape and human love is not generally well-understood.

How does one learn to love universally? Many affirmations, meditations, and other techniques have been recommended in the spiritual traditions. But contemplation is only a preparation, not a replacement, for the actual practice of loving in real relationships of all kinds. It is appropriate to develop that lofty ability in the only way possible: by doing our best now to love all those we know.

Unloving withdrawal will never do -- not by any standard, worldly or spiritual. Perhaps, in general society we see more basic failures than the failure to love universally -- we see the failure of human relationships, and the collapse of social desire. The usual problem with human life is not too little love, but way too little. Thus it is most important, from a spiritual perspective, that we seize the opportunities we have to love on earth. To love in human terms is far more expansive and spiritual than to fail to love at all.

The real truth is, every child of God wants to love universally, and every child of God also wants to love personally. Ultimately, the two are not truly separate. So-called human love needs to be Divine, or else it is not really love. Surely, if love is something more like egotistical attachment, it falls FAR short of being truly loving. And universal love needs to be human, tender, loyal, and personal, in order to truly touch the human beings who need it.

When you find yourself feeling sinful in your human desiring, don't simply retreat. Instead, challenge yourself to bring the best of your universal love-ability into the specific relationship before you. In only the most egocentric lust-based relationships will you find yourself unable to do that.

So when hesitating on the brink of loving, ask yourself,

"Am I trying to save myself for universal love, or am I trying to avoid loving now?"

How to beat the anti-vulnerability hang-up. Sure, desire makes us feel vulnerable -- and pursuing our desires is risky business. But does that make desire a bigger risk than not desiring? When it comes to specific opportunities or relationships, it is foolish to gamble on a sure loser. Yet it's equally certain that the only sure way to fail is never to try.

Example: Fear of vulnerability is probably the most common anti-desire hang-up. A person with paralyzing shyness around the opposite sex suffers from this hang-up. So does anyone who is afraid to open up and say what he or she really thinks and feels. Fear of vulnerability also holds people back from fulfilling activities of all kinds, like learning a new skill, trying out for a place on a team or a seat in a musical group, or applying for a better job.

People who live life to the fullest know that eliminating the vulnerability eliminates the best of all that life has to offer. And so do you! Just take one minute to imagine life WITHOUT vulnerability. You can feel it: Vulnerability is what makes life lively. Life without vulnerability is life without feeling.

Remember the vulnerability-strength connection.

They also will testify that the willingness to be vulnerable shows strength, not weakness. A man who doubts his manliness would not allow himself to cry openly, but a man who is certain of his manhood is willing to show his emotions.

With that in mind, when you find yourself feeling vulnerable, and you're tempted to bail out, it may pay to ask yourself this soul-searching question:

"If I cut this desire off, am I refusing to be weak, or am I refusing to be strong?"

"If I cut this desire off, am I avoiding failure, or am I avoiding success?"

We fear getting "off-center" in love, but REAL love is our REAL center.

How to beat the loss of self hang-up. We almost all experience this hang-up around desire: If we desire someone, or express our needs and desires, somehow we are going to lose all self control and probably lose our entire selves to boot -- Poof! Just like that, we might just disappear. The insanity needle soars off the chart on that one!

Example: Women tend to fear that they will subordinate their own thoughts, feelings, and preferences, and become a "non-person" if they throw themselves wholeheartedly into a love relationship. Men tend to fear that their autonomy and manly identity will be threatened in love. Both of these fears exemplify the loss of self hang-up.

We must admit how crazy the fear of disappearance is. Otherwise, the kind of desiring it takes to really enjoy oneself (or even BE oneself, for that matter) will simply not be allowed. Real desirers live to tell about it. And they don't come out lacking anything in the existence department. In fact, super-desirers almost always seem far more solidly "selfed" than desire-avoiders.

When you fear disappearing in the act of loving, and think that if you go one step farther your self will be annihilated, try being more realistic. Consider the fact that seriously, no known individual has ever disappeared as a result of loving. Then, ask yourself this:

"Am I trying to keep from disappearing, or from expanding?"

"Am I struggling to survive, or am I just struggling to keep my walls up?"

Intensity is the miracle cure for the blahs.

How to beat the fear of intensity hang-up. Appreciate the real VALUE of intensity: The right kind of intensity -- like the intensity we feel about anything we strongly desire -- can rejuvenate a person, sometimes almost instantly. Intensity is the miracle cleanser that can open clogged passageways of the heart, mind and body. One strong gust of positive intensity, one blast of delicious feelingness, can blow away a host of common diseases: boredom, insecurity, skepticism, apathy, self-pity, and alienation, just to name a few.

Most of us -- even those of us who put great store by autonomy -- intuit the reality of that prodigious healing power of feeling. A single incident comprised of sharing intense feelings of love can put even the most committed skeptic on cloud nine. And when that former skeptic comes to work the next day with that special bouncing stride, everyone may notice the profound change in appearance and disposition. Such is the rejuvenating power of intensity.

But as you know, we don't always embrace things that are good for us, even if they make us feel great! Intensity is one of those things. We are unaccustomed to handling the force of our own intense feelings. Rather than rise to the challenge, we tone down our intensity by toning down our desiring.

To run from intensity is to eliminate the peaks and live on the flats. When you find yourself feeling a lot and shying away from the intensity of feeling, ask yourself:

"When I limit desiring, am I avoiding insufferable intensity, or am I avoiding enlivening, uplifting, healing energy?"

How to beat the reluctance to trust hang-up. The refusal to trust has become a terrible obstacle to human fulfillment. As social animals we need and depend upon relationships for emotional health and happiness; no man or woman is (or should try to be) an island.

Example: Many people fear that if they place trust in others they will be disappointed, or worse -- taken advantage of, hurt, abandoned. To avoid unhappy endings, they avoid beginning any close relationships. They trade the possibility of being left alone for the certainty of living alone!

In the light of all this, it is crucial that we distinguish neurotic-hyper-dependency from healthy trust and healthy inter-dependence. So when you are feeling like loving and want to let go, but are afraid to allow yourself to trust, ask yourself:

"Am I really avoiding hyper-dependency here, or am I avoiding healthy dependence and healthy trust?"

Use the positive power of desire

Desire has a powerful positive place in life. The rule, "Knock and it shall be opened," is valid everywhere. And desire alone knocks. So desire on, wholeheartedly, proud and honest about who you are. What you truly want will come.


Beating the Spiritual Hang-Up.
Ask yourself: "Am I trying to save myself for universal love or am I trying to avoid loving now?"

Beating the Anti-Vulnerability Hang-Up. Ask yourself: "If I cut this off, am I refusing to be weak, or am I refusing to be strong? If I cut this desire off, am I avoiding failure, or am I avoiding success?"

Beating the Loss of Self Hang-Up. Ask yourself: "Am I trying to keep from disappearing, or from expanding? Am I struggling to survive, or am I just struggling to keep my walls up?"

Beating the Fear of Intensity Hang-Up. Ask yourself: "When I limit desiring, am I avoiding insufferable intensity, or am I avoiding enlivening, uplifting, healing energy?"

Beating the Reluctance to Trust Hang-Up. Ask yourself: "Am I really avoiding hyper-dependency here, or am I avoiding healthy dependence and healthy trust?"

by David Truman

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