The following is an excerpt from my newest e-book, Everyday Joy: Or, How To Be Happier, And Healthier, And Party All The Time.
It’s currently available exclusively via Amazon.
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LAST NIGHT I met a woman I wanted very badly.
She was half-German and half-English, and despite being a product of two nations not known for their warmth, she exuded it in abundance. Her eyes were the brightest, most expressive shade of green I’ve ever seen, and she had a toothy, goofy smile which I found endearing. She had wide hips and cream coloured skin, and she didn’t take herself too seriously, a quality I routinely seek out in lovers. She had a good sense of humour and a severe, very-German hairstyle, and I thought she was damned fine.
It’s been a while since I responded to a woman like I responded to her, and so I woke up this morning feeling energized. I’m reminded of the power of wanting, and the value of wanting, and how much value desire can bring to our lives, if we take the time to think about it, and respond to it properly.
We can choose to interpret and experience our desire however we want. We can cling to what we want, thirst for it, and let it disrupt our happiness or we can observe it, understand it, and let it inspire and motivate us to greater things. We can get stressed out and angry when we don’t get what we want, or we can breathe and learn from our not getting, and get on with our day. We have that power.
I didn’t take the half-Anglo-half-Deutsch girl home last night, but that’s alright. My wanting of her is gift enough; I don’t need her body, not right now. I think I’ll see her again and I would like it, but for now I’m enjoying simply wanting.
Most of us associate “anticipation” with “good things to come,” but anticipation itself is exciting and rewarding regardless of whether or not we experience those “good things” in the future. Disappointment often follows anticipation, and that’s because anticipation is so enlivening. So, often when we get what we want a) it isn’t as good as we imagined it would be, and b) the feeling of anticipation was more fun than the payoff. (Anyone who has ever experienced an unsatisfying one night stand will understand what I’m talking about here.)
So how can we respond to the process of anticipation so it can boost, rather than hinder our happiness?
We can watch it.
We can step outside of ourselves and take a look at our desire and think “I want this thing, but I don’t need it, and the wanting is fun in and of itself, whether or not I get the thing I want. Because the wanting reminds me of my humanity, and all that I have yet to learn and experience. I am alive and I want and it’s wonderful.”
The distinction between wanting and needing is crucial here.
As humans, our actual “needs” are scant: food, water, shelter, and perhaps occasional companionship, though there are more than a few monks in the Himalayas who would quarrel with that argument. The point is this: we often think we need more than we actually do.
You don’t “need” anyone, and if you think you do you’ll spend the rest of your life in constant tension. When you believe you “need” someone your self-worth suffers, your freedom shrivels, and the person you think you need will eventually abandon both you and your neediness. It’s no secret that neediness is corrosive to attraction, and is responsible for the demise of many (perhaps most) romantic relationships.
People don’t often talk about “attraction” outside of romantic relationships, but it’s almost as important for friendships. We are “attracted” to our friends, and want to spend time with them because they provide value to our lives, and we to theirs. I want my friends in my life, but I don’t “need” them, and I don’t think they “need” me either. Any “neediness” in any one of my friendships would turn things sour. Friends are easy to be around; needy people are not.
Why are so many of us repulsed by neediness?
What makes neediness so detrimental to intimacy?
I think it’s because we want to spend time with people who are aware of their value with or without us. Confidence is sexy, sure, but value is even sexier. As non-needy individuals we value their complementary presence in our own lives, and feel moved to give something back. We like it when a friend or lover can stand strong by themselves, and our presence is a mere compliment to their already-rich lives.
Non-needy people demonstrate confidence and strength and a deep knowing of self; our soul or spirit or whatever you want to call it is drawn to know them as they know themselves. I think I speak for most people when I say that I’d rather be shipwrecked on a desert island with a man who knows himself, and his unique strengths and weaknesses, than one who doesn’t.
Furthermore, I’m drawn to non-needy people because I’m motivated to grow, learn, and change. I want to surround myself with people who will encourage and support my growth as I encourage and support theirs. When you don’t need anyone, you only want people around you who will bring value to your life, and inspire creative, boundless growth. Of course, we all “need” to grow as humans as we aspire toward our best potential selves, but when our growth comes from a place of genuine desire and curiosity—not survival—our growth becomes limitless.
Needy people look to others to inspire survival, not growth, and their growth is limited as a result.
Needy people look to someone to provide them with X and only X, whereas non-needy people are open to accepting whatever gifts will inspire them to the most growth.
When you think one person can give you what you need you spend the rest of your life chasing a peace that will never come; seeking a resolution that will be forever elusive. It is in our freeing ourselves from neediness, clinginess, and destructive desire that we begin to make peace with ourselves. We then start to seek out the things we instinctively want which encourage and support our growth as healthy, happy, creative beings.
The sad truth is this: most people are needy. Most people look to others for validation, recognition, love, respect. Most people look to others to provide a good time. Most people think they need others to inspire them to party. Most people think they need others to love them before they can love themselves.
What they don’t realize is that they have everything they need already. Of course, others have valuable lessons and gifts and value to bring to our lives, but needing or expecting others to fill those gaps will restrict our growth, and bring only pain and disappointment.
Perhaps this neediness is born out of the universal sense of loneliness I described earlier. Perhaps it’s low self-esteem. Perhaps it’s both. Whatever it is, I think at the core is the individual’s unwillingness to take ownership for their own growth, and their own experience of reality.
If you wait for good things to “happen” to you, they never will. If you neglect taking ownership of your personal development, and rely on others to push you, inspire you, and instruct, they will always let you down. If you wait for the party to come to you, it won’t.
Freedom is the most sacred, and enlivening aspect of being human. But we can never be truly free if we think we “need” others to complete us, love us, want us, or push us to grow. We have all the tools we need already; we have all the love and motivation we need already.
Our freedom, our growth, is our responsibility and no one else’s.
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