You Do Not Want What You Think You Want: Meeting The Deficits That Drive Your Desires

You Do Not Want What You Think You Want: Meeting The Deficits That Drive Your Desires

By Heidi Priebe

Ezra Jeffrey

Last week I had an emotional meltdown because I remembered that I’d left a shampoo bottle at my ex’s house.

Anyone who’s gone through a difficult breakup can attest to the irrational emotions that accompany them. One day you’re ready to start over anew; the next you’re paralyzed at the thought of moving forward. One night you feel revitalized, on top of the world; the next you’re one glass of Pinot Noir away from calling your ex and begging them to come the hell back.

Post-heartbreak emotions are disarming. So are the aftershocks of grief. So is the dull, pervasive ache of loneliness.

The tough feelings in life – the ones that really get inside of us and scramble things up – are often the easiest voices to listen to.   

They’re quick to latch on to external solutions. Lonely? Go the hell back to your ex! Unfulfilled? Quit your job and travel aimlessly! Feeling vaguely inferior to essentially everyone you know? Buy more stuff! The answer’s always lying on the other side of some external achievement. I mean, it has to be. Otherwise, how would we make ourselves happy?

A life hack I’ve discovered is to meditate on it.

‘It’ being whichever irrational emotion happens to be clouding your atmosphere. Because that emotion is almost always masking some deeper deficit.

Some need that we have left unfulfilled. Some wound that we’ve neglected to heal. Some disease that has begun spreading out from its origin, to infiltrate all aspects of our lives.

So the other night, I did the adult thing and took a hot second to meditate on why the fuck a bottle of shampoo was causing me to weep into my pillow like an idiot.

The first though that filtered through my mind was a visual of the shampoo bottle sitting there, on the bathtub’s edge. The way the light would fall across it early in the morning. The murmur of the house cat brushing up against the bathroom door. The creaking lilt of pipes crossing the ceiling.

My mind then wandered out into the kitchen. The soft green plants curling over the cupboards. The French press left steeping on the island. My favorite mug, tucked onto the second-highest shelf beside the plate shaped like an elephant.

My ex’s house was flooded with comforting memories: memories of belonging. Memories of quiet, unassuming moments stolen between us while the rest of the world rushed on outside. Memories of having found a single, irreplaceable solace in the universe. Memories of feeling safe.

And there it was. Like a warm blanket, the word ‘safety’ settled into my awareness and expanded to fill my understanding.

As long as I had shampoo bottles lining my ex’s shower, I had a safe place to come home to. A place where I would always feel loved, and accepted and whole. A place where I felt protected from the ever-bustling chaos of the outside world.

It wasn’t my ex I missed at all. It wasn’t my shampoo bottles or his shower with the shitty water pressure, or even his old, weathered house that I loved so unbearably much. What I missed was feeling safe. What I missed was having a hideout from the rest of the world.

And this is precisely where the awareness of one’s true emotional needs becomes critical.

When we become too focused on specific desires, we ignore the emotional deficits that caused the desires to emerge in the first place.

We spend our lives treating the symptoms of a curable disease.

Thinking I was sad about the shampoo bottles at my ex’s house – and refusing to deconstruct the want any further – would impregnate me with the insatiable desire to return to my ex’s bathroom. To shower in it, using my 2in1 Dove shampoo. To breathe in the scent of coffee overpowering the kitchen as the light filtered in through the blinds. To sink back into the bed that was infected with his scent. To relapse on him and our unhappy relationship, because I didn’t know how else to make myself feel safe and cocooned.

To stay connected to the specific, irrational want – the want of his house again, the want of him – would be to keep myself stuck in an unhealthy loop.

Because the reality was that I didn’t want any of those things back. What I wanted was to feel safe and protected in some corner of the Universe. And that happened to be a want that I could take into my own hands.

The want for a safe, quiet space is one that I could eventually recreate. A place where I could wake up in the morning, breathe in the comfort of the stillness in the air, brew a cup of coffee for myself. Watch the light dance across the rooms in a captivating new form. A place to disappear into. A place lined with the scent of me, not of someone else.

The want to retrieve my shampoo bottle suddenly wasn’t a want that would threaten to throw my emotional ecosystem out of balance. All of a sudden it was simply a message – that I hadn’t put the hard work into cultivating a safe space for myself in the world yet. It was a deep, pervasive ache in me, begging to be soothed.

And there I was, refusing to slap another Band-Aid on it. Refusing to once again outsource the way that I wanted to feel.

There’s a unique beauty in staring down the deficits that dictate our desires, and it is this: doing so opens us up to a wide range of solutions. So many ways to turn the bad feelings around. So many paths that we can now walk down with purpose.

Suddenly, we find ourselves encountering an infinite number of routes that can take us to the place we want to get to. An open field emerging where there was once only the narrowest of roads.

As soon as we encounter the deficits that are driving our desires, our wants are forced to slink back from the steering wheel.

We realize that being with a particular person isn’t the only way to quell our fear of being unloved. We realize that achieving a professional role isn’t the only way to make ourselves proud. We realize that assimilating to a particular lifestyle or belief system isn’t the only way to act morally and justly. We realize that the majority of our lives have been spent chasing things we saw as solutions, when in reality they were only distractions.

Only things that were covering up our true desires. Only placeholders for what we actually needed to feel.

Suddenly we don’t have to break down over empty shampoo bottles or French presses anymore. We don’t have to feel helpless and stuck when the thing that we want will not work out for us.

We can simply take the time to regroup. To think things over. And to discover another path that will get us to where we want to go.

After all, there are a million other bottles of Dove shampoo out there. And there are a million other routes to starting over.

Heidi Priebe

Author: Heidi Priebe

Author. Blogger. Speaker. Founder. Person.