The Wanting MindBy Dr. Margaret Paul
July 28, 2008
Do you believe that getting what you want is what will make you happy? Discover how this false belief keeps you stuck in suffering, and what really brings happiness, self worth, and inner peace.
"This force [that keeps us always wanting] is known in several Buddhist traditions as the Wanting Mind. The Wanting Mind is always craving an experience different from the one it currently has."
--Brent Kessel, It's Not About the Money
There is nothing wrong with wanting - wanting more time, more money, a wonderful relationship, a family, a successful career, a new car, a bigger house, and so on. It is not actually the wanting that causes us problems. Problems occur when we ATTACH our happiness, worth, and inner peace to getting what we want.
Brent Kessel, in the above-mentioned excellent book, makes the very astute observation that the reason people believe getting what they want brings happiness is because they feel so happy when they get what they want - for awhile. BUT IT IS NOT THE GETTING WHAT YOU WANT THAT IS MAKING YOU HAPPY - IT IS THE CESSATION OF THE FEELING OF WANTING! Which is why the happiness doesn't last long. If getting the object of desire created happiness, then the happiness would last. But it doesn't. Pretty soon, you are back to wanting - bigger, better, more, still believing that getting what you want will bring you happiness and self-worth. When you get what you want and experience the cessation of wanting for the week or two after getting what you want, you are more able to be present in the moment, enjoying the moment and feeling grateful for the moment. This is what actually creates the feeling of happiness, worth and satisfaction.
Once we attach our happiness and sense of worth to getting what we want, then we need to attempt to have control over getting what we want - over people and the outcome of things. This is when we might behave in ways that are guaranteed to make us feel anxious: ruminating about the past or future, worrying, getting irritated or angry when things don't go our way, intimidating others into doing what we want them to do, and then utilizing substance and process addictions to numb the stress that we are causing by our controlling behavior. The Wanting Mind convinces us that, not only do we need to get what we want to be happy and feel worthy, but also that we need to do whatever we can do to have control over people and outcomes.
The Wanting Mind is another term for ego or, as we refer to it in Inner Bonding, the wounded self. This aspect of us is completely devoted to focusing on the past and future - never being present in the moment. The Wanting Mind, or wounded self, believes that by endlessly going over the past and judging ourselves for our mistakes, we can have control over not making the same mistakes in the future. The wounded self believes that by ruminating on the future, we will discover the exact right thing to do to get what we want. However, if you tune into how you FEEL while you are ruminating, worrying, or judging yourself - all forms of trying to control the outcome of things - you will discover that this behavior ALWAYS causes anxiety and/or depression. The anxiety or depression is your inner guidance system letting you know that your thoughts are very off track, totally out of alignment with what is actually in your highest good.
The very act of attaching our happiness, worth and inner peace to getting what we want creates our unhappiness! No wonder so many people are on meds for anxiety and depression. Our society has brainwashed us into believing that our happiness is attached to getting what we want, and the endless ways we try to control the outcome of things is creating great suffering.
As long as you attach your happiness and worth to getting what you want, your experience of happiness and worth will be short-lived, and the Wanting Mind will continue it's never-ending focus on wanting more and more.
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Today, notice what you do when pain comes up - especially the pain of loneliness and heartache when someone is being unloving with you. Do you get irritated, angry or judgmental? Do you resist or withdraw? Do you people-please and give yourself up? Do you numb out with food or other substances, or with activities such as TV? Notice the ways you might be avoiding your feelings rather than compassionately attending to them.
By Dr. Margaret Paul