Do you have a wanting problem?
I think you might. It’s pandemic.
A question of what’s possible from therapy
- “Anxiety is just a part of my life, and I know I’ll have to live with a lot of it, for a long time.”
- “I don’t have a college degree, so I’m just not going to make that much money.”
- “Sex is just something I’ve given up on.”
- “I’m fat. I’ve accept that’s just a part of who I am.”
- “I’m lazy.”
- “Depression runs in my family, so it’s something I have to live with.”
What strikes me about these assumptions is that they are so deeply held, so much so that they’re rarely recognized as assumptions; they’re simply seen as “just the way things are,” like gravity or taxes.
Where does this wanting problem come from?
Most people are pretty cynical about making our lives better and getting emotional help. For many, the limits placed on them in regard to what might be possible for them to achieve are staggering. People believe they’re going to stay fat because they’re surrounded by diets scam diets and unclear directions on how to lose weight. People believe they’re less-than, incapable, destined for a life without accomplishment, and deserving of little because they’ve been told that–by parents, teachers, and portrayals in the media of people who look like them.
Others have inherited a set of beliefs about the moral downside of excessive wanting. To want, it seems, is greedy, selfish or unrealistic. At times this is reinforced by religion, though growing up poor or experience a difficult process of immigration (or having parents who’ve had these experiences) can also reinforce these beliefs.
In a period where there is very little, materially, wanting is pointless or even risky. It makes sense to quiet our wants. Too often, though, the suspension of wanting long outlives these periods of scarcity.
In therapy, you might get all the help you asked for
Which is to say not much.
Even in such a therapy-friendly town as New York therapy doesn’t exactly have a great reputation for success. The old story of the therapist who charges a fortune, sits back and listens while taking vigorous notes (or not) and occasionally tells you what’s wrong with you (or your mother) comes from somewhere: it’s sadly the experience of therapy that many New Yorkers have had.
It doesn’t occur to most people I encounter that they might, with good help and tons of work, get rid of depression! Many don’t bother to ask for help to create a life without anxiety! Few people consider that maybe they could go after their bosses job, make more money, write a book, live bigger (or slimmer around the waist).
Be needy. Be want-y. Be greedy.
Be needy: Let it be known to those around you, your therapist, your friends, your family what it is you need to make your life work, to feel better and to grow. They have every right to say no, but without asking for you what you need, it’s not likely gonna happen.
There’s a lot of fear out there around seeming “too needy.” It’s grounded in a scam. Human beings have needs. Lots of them. And we are a fundamental social species, which means we need one another to get those needs met.
Be want-y: Why stop at needs? For most people reading this, there’s plenty of room to go beyond needs. Being wanting of the world, and of other people is a gift. It allows you to give more and get more from the world.
Be greedy: I want an awful lot, and I’m not even a little bit ashamed to say it. I also want a lot for the people I care about, especially the people I work with in therapy. I want them to grow, to live a life unburdened by anxiety, depression, fear and stress.
I want them to want more.