Having the Courage to Desire
In the days when travelling vacuum cleaner salesmen roamed the land, one came to my home when I was a little girl and offered to demonstrate the miraculous qualities of the new Hoover.
“Mrs. Cooper”, he said, “this vacuum cleaner is world class! The very best money can buy. It’s got attachments for carpets, drapes, stairs, heating vents, hardwood floors, you name it and it will clean it.
“Wow!” said my mom, clearly impressed. “Is there anything that it can’t do?”
“Well… yes”, the salesman said. There is one thing it can’t do. It can’t make you want to vacuum.”
I love this story because it reminds me how many techniques there are that promise to help you to improve your relationship, many more than any vacuum cleaner has attachments, but even the best of these methods won’t help you unless you have the motivation to use them. Desire alone isn’t ever enough to get the job done. The crucial element that forms the link between desire and outcome is motivation or “mojo” the drive to do whatever is required to bring about the desired change.
We typically begin a new project with a strong mojo and find that after a while it begins to diminish and weaken. We can get as infatuated with the excitement of a new desire as we can a new lover. In both cases, there tends to be a fading effect. The same thing can happen in relationships themselves. At first our desire so strong that it’s unimaginable that we would ever feel any less enthusiastic about doing whatever it took to keep things going strong. But then the glow wears off and with it the intensity of desire. Maybe it’s just nature’s way of helping us to avoid burn out.
We may find our initial excitement gradually replaced by rationalizations as to why we can’t or don’t really want to get what we said we really wanted. That’s the point at which things can begin to deteriorate. We hear ourselves saying things like, “There’s really no good available men out there anyway.” Or “or Women are looking for the perfect guy and that ain’t me.” Or “this marriage just isn’t worth working that hard to save.” These comments often are a defense against the anticipation of future losses, but that ‘protection’ does not come without prices, and the loss of mojo is one of them.
These generalizations and others like them provide us with a convenient means of avoiding the work of commitment to our original purpose. Underneath the complaint is a not-so-well hidden unacknowledged longing for something that we desire but fear we can’t ever have. Complaints and rationalizations minimize the risk of disappointment. The cost of our desire to avoid loss and disappointment is that we create self-fulfilling prophecies in which we actually increase the likelihood that our desired outcome will not come about.
The quality of presence is perhaps one of the most significant factors in the kind of attention that we get from others, or whether we get it at all. This isn’t just new age philosophy, which insists that all you need to do is to visualize who or what you want in your life and that’s enough. There is a crucial distinction here. It’s not a matter of simply “attracting“ your soul mate through visualizations and affirmations. Taking responsibility for making connections, outreaching in various ways, being willing to risk rejections and continuing to make the effort anyway, being willing to practice greater vulnerability and authenticity in our lives, these are a few examples of what this work entails. And it is work, but it is made easier through practice and the inevitable successes large and small, that come through our efforts and support from those who are similarly not disinclined to give up on their dreams.
Honestly expressing the truth of our deepest longings makes us vulnerable to the experience of failure, loss, and disappointment When we deny the depth of our longing we lose access to the power of desire, the very energies that have the potential to fulfill those longings. When there is no confidence in the strength of our motivation it feels like there is no fuel in the tank. There is fuel; but the fuel line is blocked.
Here are some questions that can help us to unblock the fuel-lines.
1. Do I trust that my desire is actually attainable? The question isn’t whether or not it’s likely or easy, but actually possible? More often than not the answer will probably be ‘yes’?
2. Do I really feel worthy of having this in my life or is there some part of me that questions whether I am really deserving of it?
3. Might there be a possible danger to succeeding in fulfilling my dream that I may be not want to risk?
4. Are there people in my life who might be upset, hurt, angry or threatened if I were to fulfill my dream and if so who are they? Am I willing to risk jeopardizing their approval?
5. Am I willing to declare to my friends that this is an important intention in my life and to solicit their support?
6. Have I really stepped into this process with both feet or is one still holding the door open, just in case?
7. Am I an equal match for the person who I wish to be with?
8. Can I practice being the person of my dreams in the meantime?
When we engage in this kind of self-reflection it’s not that the fear of failure disappears altogether, but rather that it gets pushed into the background by the intensity of the longing that is being awakened. Being in touch with our yearning, and anchoring our desire, is not an event, but an ongoing process. In taking it on we strengthen our motivation. And for whatever our heart desires, that’s always a good thing.
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