Awareness that Heals

Distinguishing Unrealistic Desires from Essential Needs – Episode 54

Distinguishing Unrealistic Desires from Essential Needs - Episode 54Desire can take many forms.  There are frivolous desires that can be fun. We all have these, and in fact, are quite a natural part of the human experience. The focus of the podcast this week is not those desires,  but those that are not realistic at all or in some cases destructive, and therefore can warp our feelings. These desires will leave us with deep challenges. Robert discusses that healing here almost always comes through the recognition that the desire is unrealistic or harmful and then being able to make the deep distinction between what results in simple enjoyment and what will create harm to ourselves or others. 

Robert sees examples of this often in his practice. The desire is often a substitute for needs because we are not accurately in touch with our needs or how to fulfill them. We are raised in a  culture that idealizes youth, sex, success, wealth, and power. These desires when they are in excess are a false substitute because they are not connected to our simple pleasures or our deeper needs. If they were, they would never create harm. 

This is an invitation to practice making the distinction between need and desire and how to intervene to find our needs is crucial, not because you should but because it will make your life more naturally enjoyable and fulfilling.

Resources related to this episode
Robert Strock Website
Robert’s Book, Awareness that Heals
Free Downloadable Introspective Guides

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Announcer: (00:00)
Awareness That Heals, Episode 54.

Robert Strock: (00:04)
Remember to ask, how can I best take care of myself, especially when I don’t feel good.

Announcer: (00:12)
The Awareness That Heals podcast helps its listeners learn to develop the capacity, to have a more healing response to emotions and situations rather than becoming stuck. Your host, Robert Strock has practiced psychotherapy for more than 45 years. He wrote the book, “Awareness That Heals: Bringing Heart and Wisdom to Life’s Challenges,” to help develop self-caring and the capacity to respond in an effective way to life’s challenges. Especially at times when we are most prone to be critical or to withdraw together, we will explore how to become aware of our challenging feelings and at the same time find alternative ways to live a more fulfilling and inspiring life.

Robert Strock: (00:53)
So, thanks again for joining us at Awareness That Heals where we give it our very best effort to focus on bringing heart and wisdom to our life challenges. And as I’ve shared many times before this, please apply this to your life because you and the many you’s are what really matters. And this is not an intellectual exercise. This is something that is an invitation to practice in your life. Hopefully many, many, many times a day. So, we start again and again, because it’s so vital and so counter conditioning, with honoring being aware of what is most difficult for us and realizing that these difficulties are completely universal for all of us, whether we recognize them or not. And frankly, if we look at history, there’s no indication from the leaderships that I’ve seen, that there was any trend towards really valuing our challenges by the leaders in the history throughout.

Robert Strock: (02:34)
And as I’ve mentioned before, I believe this is a key, not only for us individually, but when you look at that multiply it times the amount of people in whatever country you’re in and you see that the suppression of these challenges are a setup for alienation and war, because we’re going to project it on other countries. And we’re going to do our best in this episode and beyond to not only identify these challenges quite specifically, but also look at how we can care for ourselves at these very crucial times when we have this intuitive set and therefore we’re no longer afraid of our challenging feelings as much, this sets up the ideal conditions for us to be fulfilled in our individual lives and to give us the best chance to contribute to the world by being closer and closer to our hearts or our best selves. And today we’re going to continue to dive more deeply into what I would really call the key practice that has helped innumerable amount of people to make a simple link. And when I say a simple link, I don’t mean that it’s easy for most people at first to make the link, but it is easy to understand for most people between our most challenging feelings and situations we face every day and how to move toward healing and well-being.

Robert Strock: (04:32)
From my vantage point, this is a grounded inspirational way to live. It starts with authentically facing what’s difficult. And then as we persevere, it naturally leads us to inquire, how do we take best care of ourselves and those around us? How do we take best care of ourselves and these questions when we remember to have them, and I’m really doing my best to give you a hypnotic suggestion, remember to ask how can I best take care of myself, especially when I don’t feel good. This is truly what I wish for. And I wish it was taught from the very, very earliest inception of all of our lives in school and at home, in friendships, by our leaders, but in lieu of that, given that as you’ll see later in this episode, we’re distinguishing between desires and needs. That’s a desire. That’s something that I want, but I’m not going to have a chance of making be retroactive. So, we’re going to dive in here as much as we can. So, I’d like to start off by introducing Dave and he can tell you who he is, or maybe he won’t tell you who he is.

Dave: (06:08)
Robert, great to be here. Great to be with my 50-year friend as you’re speaking. And as I’m reflecting on not only the book, but the series of podcasts, uh, that relate to awareness that heals. I, it struck me how similar it is, but as such another and more practical level to the very, very first episodes and chapter, which is finding that awareness first and then having the intention to heal. And it’s very similar, but, but, but one is a, an initial rudimentary level of it, important, can’t get any further without it. And this is really the implementation and I, and I welcome, uh, these discussions and explorations. Thank you.

Robert Strock: (07:14)
Thanks for that and I naturally want to amplify that when the word that came to me was foundational that the intention to heal when we’re challenged is the beginning. It’s like two sticks, you’re rubbing two sticks together, and you finally get a spark when you really are able to realize at a time of suffering that I want to feel better. I want, I want to do what I can to be better. I want to do, whatever’s possible to care for myself, maybe others too, when those two coexist that does create a spark and in a certain way, because none of us are going to just be given a roller coaster ride, an e-ticket to Disneyland for our life. It’s so crucial that we recognize we need to have some resourcefulness. And unfortunately our leaders, in general, see it as being seemingly either a sign of weakness or a sign of unpopularity.

Robert Strock: (08:30)
And so it’s not popular, but hopefully with your help and your help with your friends, hopefully there’ll be a really, truly, an archetypal change where the idea or more actually the reality of being challenged and then having something like I want to care for myself or the intention to heal or whatever way you want to verbalize that the words aren’t important, the meaning is crucial that you have this holding of opposites where you truly are suffering, and you truly recognize you want to do your best to cope with it, as we’ve talked about before barely tolerated. So, you have access to other avenues to really move toward well-being and healing. So, I’d like to start today’s episode with making a important distinction between needs and desires. And when I say desires, I’m talking mostly about ones that are realistically impossible to fulfill, and yet when they’re thwarted, it can lead to the same kind of feeling.

Robert Strock: (10:05)
That’s so vital that we learn the same kind of challenging feeling as when our needs are afforded. And yet how we respond to that. When we see that it’s a desire and not a need is quite crucial. Now there is another part of desires, which we’ll also cover, which is just something that are not essential, but are just what we might call a frivolous fun or whatever we fancy. And those are fine. Those are harmless. There’s nothing, nothing really wrong with those. It’s just not quite as interconnected in a universal way. So, I’d like to give some examples of what desire is in the ways that I’m talking about it now, where it’s not realistic at all, but yet it can warp our feelings. It can leave us in such deep challenges, especially if we aren’t able to identify them as desires, and can’t see that in most situations. When we have these kinds of desires, the healing is almost always going to be seeing that it’s unrealistic and coming to a deep acceptance or at least tolerance. And in this area, I think we can get to acceptance because we can see the absurdity. Oftentimes even though they can rip us apart inside our whole life, you know, the clients that I see. A solid third of their suffering is coming from desires and not essential needs. And so, it really is a different set of qualities, again focused more on tolerance and really acceptance, sometimes with humor,

Dave: (12:12)
I’d like to ask a question and I suspect I know the answer, but I’m not sure, um, desires as you’re describing them to me, the key, and this is the question, are they really a reflection somewhere deeper down of a need or an an, uh, let’s say a need that may or may not be, uh, fulfillable or, you know, something that’s more conditioned, something, something else going on underneath.

Robert Strock: (12:48)
I think that in most cases, the desire is a substitute for needs, and because we’re not in touch with needs or more accurately, we aren’t in touch with how to fulfill needs. Desires becomes a more dominant focus in our lives. So for example, when we’re raised in a culture that is idealizing youth and sex and success and wealth and power, that desire is a substitute. And, and so it’s really, it’s sort of like, again, it’s a false God, our needs from my vantage point, as I’m defining them are all like, they all are qualities of, if you’re coming from a religious background, they’re all qualities that I believe God is. Whereas our desires are much more man-made. They’re much more, well, I can’t really have what I need on an unconscious level. So, I’m going to get excited about my next vacation and that’s going to be the center of my life.

Robert Strock: (14:08)
I’m getting, I’m going to get excited about watching my sports team, and that’s the center of my life, where I may have a slightly more satisfying desire of I’d like to go to the beach today, but whatever they are, they aren’t as deep and universally linked that if they’re satisfied, it’s not only going to be good for you, it’s really going to be good for everyone else too. There’s some universal connection in needs. Whereas desires are much more individualistic and don’t carry the same benefits for humanity on what is usually a subtle level. So, I like to give some examples of desires to have that very clear of the unrealistic desire type, which you may laugh at, but I promise you every one of these are ones that I’ve seen in my office. And many of these are a lifelong wound that actually can warp a person’s well-being until they die.

Robert Strock: (15:21)
So it’s not trivial, even though it seems absurd, maybe for the person that is true, it doesn’t seem absurd, but the person that’s true, it seems serious. I wish I had a different childhood, now, how many people have I seen that they stay with that wish that they didn’t want their mother or their father, and they’re upset. And they’re reacting to that. And they’re not working toward a tolerance or an acceptance, or even an appreciation of the suffering that their parents went through. They’re staying with well, I’m screwed up, the reason why I’m neurotic, the reason why I’m angry, the reason why I’m anxious, the reason why I’m depressed is because I have this shitty childhood. And I wish I had a different childhood, and I wish I had a different childhood. It becomes a mantra. I want my lover to be more attractive and more intelligent.

Robert Strock: (16:12)
Now that’s something that, okay, you choose a lover. And as I’ve shared with many clients there’s at least 10 for most of us, some it might be 20, so it might be seven, but there’s at least around 10 important elements to really having your lover be satisfying to you. And so my, my usual thing is I say to my clients, if you can get seven out of 10 important things, you’re doing well. And so, yeah, to be realistic, you need to deepen your acceptance and tolerance of the three areas now that are not ideal. And by the way, you might want to take a look. They probably feel the same way about you too. Then we might have another one, which is I want my partner to be more developed than they are in an area that isn’t possible or even desired on their part.

Robert Strock: (17:15)
So, I look at myself there and I’m, let’s just say what you might say on the extreme end of loving communication. So, I had a big part of me that, and maybe had is too optimistic, but it is I think, pretty close to had, cause I have a partner now that is on the continuum in the same, same level that I am, but I’ve gone through a lot of years of my life, where I want my partner to be more communicative about everything significant going on in their lives and to be interested in everything significant going on in my life and have that be the nature of our dialogue. Day-to-day and ya know I, leads me to a story where my first love, I, I, this was when I was 17. I look at her and I said, I don’t see any reason why we can’t share the most essential things going on in our life, you know, until we die.

Robert Strock: (18:25)
Cause I thought I was going to marry her and I was heartthrob, first and love, and she looked at me like I was nuts. Her eyes, if you framed them, she looked like she saw a Martin and she was completely a “no,” and a “not even sure I want to be with you now.” So nothing was said, I didn’t, I didn’t, we didn’t even verbalize it, but it was, it was obvious. And then through a incredible coincidence, my brother ran into her future husband at a golf course and reconnected us. And so, I shared this memory with her 50 years later, but in the last year, and I said, you may not know this, but you were my first love. And you may not remember that. I’m sure you won’t remember this conversation I shared with you that I didn’t see any reason why we couldn’t share what’s most essential to us for the rest of our lives.

Robert Strock: (19:23)
And she started laughing, she had a great sense of humor and she said, I look at it the same way now. I still think you’re crazy. So, this is something that is not exactly popular or common. And I’m not suggesting that any of you would want to be as extreme as me, but I find it very fulfilling and I have had to work and I have worked, um, I think mostly successfully to accept that my partners to various degrees have wanting to communicate close to as much as me or not as close to as much as me and I had to take responsibility that everybody wasn’t supposed to be me. And that’s not an easy thing to do. It’s something that all of us need to work on. Another desire is I want my political party to be in power, now, when it isn’t and we were, how many of us are one way or the other, whether you’re left or right, or center, how many of us are grieving and are contracted or even feeling violent because our political party isn’t in power now and how much do we need to address our desires and this desire with our needs, where we can move toward acceptance or tolerance.

Robert Strock: (20:59)
And then how can I make the best of it? How can I make the best of it? Given that this reality is impossible is certainly a question that we would ask ourselves. And then let’s just say, you’re planning on going to the beach and you’re have been looking forward to it all week. It’s going to be a respite from the hard work week. And your desire is I want the weather to be more beautiful than it is today and, and how, how much that can bum out your day. Because you know, the beach is not going to be the place to go. You know, it might be raining, it might be all fogged in and it might be 52 degrees, which maybe in some parts of the country would be fine, but out here in California, it’s not. And, and so again, it’s important to see that maybe I can go to a park or maybe maybe we can recreate and tolerate that and forceful enough to shift the desire by tolerating it and then be resourceful and figure, okay, how do I take care of my needs given that this desire is not going to be taken care of?

Robert Strock: (22:08)
Or how do I replace this desire with another desire that would be close to as pleasurable or another one is I want to have more power, money, beauty, or health than I do. Now, how many of us want more money? We’d like to be more attractive or handsome or pretty, or be more healthy than we are. And that desire is in a certain way, especially for some of them more than others is kind of normal, especially to want to be more attractive and healthy. That’s quite normal power and money. Maybe not quite so much. But then the question is, can we see that that’s a desire and guess what? I’m not going to become more powerful, I’m not going to become more beautiful, not going to have more money and I’m not going to be healthier today, very likely. And so the emphasis again, needs to go to the needs and not let these completely unrealistic desires take hold of us.

Robert Strock: (23:13)
I’ve had so many people come to my office, even friends who have suffered because they’re not as attractive as their ideal taught them that they want it to be. And, and so you may focus, you need to focus on, well, what are the alternatives? I’ll be as attractive as I can be. Yeah. That’s one of them. But then what other attributes do I really want to focus on? So, I can be my wholesome best. So, I don’t want to feel sick when I feel sick. Yeah. There’s really a bummer. I didn’t want to feel sick today because I had a lot of other plans. And again, how do I make my best efforts to tolerate or barely tolerate feeling sick and how can I best take care of myself? Does that mean I need to drink a lot of fluids? Does that mean I need to eat well?

Robert Strock: (24:07)
Am I do I, does that mean I just need to rest? Can I, can I call my, call this one friend? The desires always can be reminded when we’re most suffering from not satisfying them, that we can have needs that can support us. I want my family to love me more than they do now. This is one that is probably true in one-third of my clients. And that doesn’t mean the whole family, but that means a family member where there’s a deep conflict with that. And again, the need, the needs can come into these desires and we can say to ourselves, okay, how do I tolerate the fact that this person keeps talking about things I have no interest in or, or, they keep talking about themselves. They never asked me a question about me or their attitudes sucks. And they’re very critical of me and they’re putting me down.

Robert Strock: (25:05)
How do I take care of my needs, when I have a family member that is unchangeable and really hard to tolerate well, I’m going to develop my capacity to barely tolerate. Now, in some situations, if it’s severely abusive that need might be to vastly limit the contact. If it’s physically abusive and might be necessarily, it would be necessary to set a boundary and say, I’m not seeing you until I feel reassured that that’s not going to happen, but in most situations it’s much more moderate or minor than that, but it’s still disturbing. So how do I maybe join their world? It’s like there there’s a time in parts of my family where I was always a little bit off the beaten track in the ways that I am now. And most of my family were more normal. And so, I was able to join them by taking an interest in their world and what mattered to them and that blossomed.

Robert Strock: (26:14)
So, there are a lot of ways to bring your needs into your fall off from your desires not being satisfied. And the last one is one that I happen to have a lot of close friends and, and people who are into athletics. And they’re like, I want my favorite sports team to win, you know? And when my team lost, I’m really bummed out and your wife comes in and you’re really in a foul mood. It’s like, you’re really depressed. And you’re really agitated, you know? And, and you, you maybe say something that has nothing to do with it, which is probably the way it normally comes out. And you’re just distant. And maybe they’re in a place where they want to make love, or they want to, they want to hold each other. And you’re just not in the mood. Well, it’s very important again, to see the needs, when you’re in your desires, how can the needs intervene?

Robert Strock: (27:11)
And it’s a find a bare tolerance of, you know, what I am bummed out, I want to admit it, I am depressed, I really did care. My favorite player really did play. Um, and we recognize hopefully that our sports team, you know, we’re actually projecting that our favorite athlete is us, you know, and, and just like on TV, when we watch our favorite TV programs, we’re projecting that that favorite TV program is our family or is us. And so we see, we start to see maybe this identification that we project on, which is what the nature of desire is. And when we can, we can intervene with our needs and say, okay, I’m bummed out. I can be bummed out and still be present with my spouse. Now, the other part of desire, so we can finish desires on this episode are desires that are heartless, that, that are, like I said earlier, their desires to, to play sports or desires, to go to the beach or desires, to have fun or to travel.

Robert Strock: (28:26)
And there’s nothing at all wrong about desires. It’s part of being human to have desires, to be a slave to desires is the root of suffering. And so, what we’re wanting to do is with these desires is to support them when they’re not running our life, when they’re just a supplement to our life. And when we get forwarded and we can’t have them, we want to find that bare, bare tolerance at least, or acceptance, and then learn how to live in the present when they’re forwarded. So having this great distinction between desires and how to intervene, how do we find our needs is a crucial part of living a fulfilling life to support those desires that are possible, especially when they’re imbalanced, but intervening when they’re afforded. And also to really clearly identify the desires that are deep seated, that are absolutely impossible that need our tolerance and hopefully in many cases, acceptance.

Robert Strock: (29:38)
So, I hope you realize that even though this sounds more superficial than going for our essential needs, it’s not. And the reason why it’s not is so much of our country, the American dream itself is largely desire. So, we want to be realistic that a lot of our life is rooted in desire and it isn’t rooted in essential needs. And to have that awareness and to know how to identify it realistic or unrealistic when it is realistic and thwarted, how do we respond when it’s unrealistic? How do we respond? That’s going to save an enormous amount of suffering. And another key is when we can see desires, clearly that is a steppingstone to being able to go for our essential needs because they won’t trap us when we can see the American dream. Clearly, we can see that it leaves us a bit empty. We can see desires are satisfying, but they’re not inspiring. They’re rarely inspiring. And so, it’s not a guilt trip. It’s actually an encouragement to enjoy desires, but also to see them for what they are. So again, my greatest wish is for the quality of attention, the remembrance and the retention of this, so that you can meet your desires with your intuitive intelligence and with your awareness and with your intention to heal. Thanks so much.

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