Updated: Feb 10, 2022
The heart wants what the heart wants. For many, this is the truth of all truths. But life experience tells us it can be the doom of all dooms.
About a week ago we wrote a post called “The story of your life is the story of desire in your life.” It was all about honoring our true desires but also being wise about what we desire. At one point we said:
Are you giving in to desires that you know aren’t good for you? None of us are alone in that, that’s for sure!
Having a good relationship with your desires is crucial. It’ll save you from despair, self-hatred, contempt for the world, and a host of other miseries. What it’ll give you is a sense of having had a life worth living, and a hopeful feeling about the future.
We went on to say:
But what if you’re a Desire Disaster Fatalist? What’s that? It’s someone who typically says, “Hey, you want what you want. There’s nothing you can do about it. And if things turn out badly, you can’t do anything about that either.”
Whether you mean for that to happen or not, if that’s been the story of your life, then stay tuned. We’ll look deeper into it next time. You deserve better than a life of wanting the wrong things.
If you want what you want, is that IT? End of story?
No. Thank God!
We should be able to look at the things we want and are pursuing and ask ourselves if the whole thing is working for us. And if not, why not.
We’ve written two books—Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay and Is He Mr. Right?—for people who may stuck in go-nowhere relationships. The Supremes had a song for this: Nothing but Heartaches, and we wrote those two books for the millions of people stuck in exactly this situation:
Nothing but heartaches, woo, nothing but heartaches
He brings nothing but heartaches
Woo, I can't break away from his arms (I can't break away)
I can't break away from his charms (I can't break away)
I can't break away from his kiss (I can't break away)
'Cause his kiss I surely miss
All my life I needed someone to need me
So I do my very best to please him
But the more and more I care
The more of him other girls share
When I need a hand to hold
That's the time he leaves me all alone
But she can’t break free “’cause his kiss I’ll surely miss.” Like there are no other kisses out there for Miss Diana Ross or you or me!
Now in the real world, the girlfriends huddle around and get her to come to her senses. He’s not worth it AND there are plenty of other fish in the sea. Right?
A sane person wakes up to that reality and dumps this loser. Even though she’ll surely miss his kiss.
That’s what it is to use your head to save your heart.
And you can do this when it comes to your acting career, your struggling restaurant business, your unhappiness with your job, the way you eat, whatever.
Just ask yourself,
Is this working for me?
Am I consistently putting more into it than I’m getting back?
Do I have any clear, solid reason to think things will get very much better?
A no answer to all three questions means it’s time to save your heart from a desire that’s not working out. I think about my old dog Davy barking his heart out at a squirrel who’d just run up a tree in our yard. With countless other trees to jump onto. Poor Davy. But even Davy figured it out and moved on. “His kiss I’ll surely miss,” but it’s time to move on.
The therapy of desire is easy—a dog can do it—except when it’s impossible.
A woman I was working with told this story about herself. She’d once been a pretty good tennis player but had stopped playing for a number of years. Recently she started taking tennis lessons. After they hit the ball around for a while, the tennis pro said it was time for a few pointers. First, she’d have to change her grip. She’d developed a bad grip and it was getting in her way.
No, she told her teacher. Not gonna do it. Any other grip wouldn’t be me.
What just happened here?
She wants to be a better tennis player. Fine. A pro tells her—as so many pros have told folks—you gotta fix your grip. But this woman says, in effect, I’d rather be me than be the better player I’ve been saying I want to be.
“I’d rather be me.”
I’ll be blunt. In all my long, long career, nothing is more chilling to me than hearing words like these from a patient. It’s what makes a patient a patient! I can be anxious, for example. To the point where I need help coping with it. Fine. So far, that’s just a problem. But if, like some people struggling with anxiety I were to go on to say in response to something my therapist offered me, “But I’d rather be me. If I did what you suggest I wouldn’t be me,” well, now I’m a real patient. Someone who suffers and who’s in for a lot more suffering.
I’ve come to see this as people feeling that their self is their agenda. The Popeye Syndrome. “I yam what I yam, and that’s all what I yam.” “I just gotta be me.” Okay, then, but then you’re stuck with all the suffering that comes with that, and unlike Popeye all the spinach in the world won’t help you.
Healthy people identify the self with change. “I am someone who adapts, who’s flexible, who responds to circumstances, who focuses on what works to help me achieve my goals, and I willing to be flexible about my goals themselves if they don’t work for me.”
I beg you to look inside yourself for the ways you’ve resisted this. You’ll probably find all the ways you’ve been unhappy.