Desires | Neither Good nor Bad
BY: T. Franklin Murphy | September 2018
Pushes from the underworld of consciousness, significantly impact our action; but these pushes are neither good nor bad. They are a complex construction of living.
We can’t aimlessly wander and expect to arrive at our desired destination. Achieving intentions requires correct actions accomplished through planning, sacrifice and discipline. Often the impulsive tugs of feeling don’t push us towards our dreams; sometimes insist on action contrary to important goals. The attractive advice to obediently submit to feelings for their divine guidance misses the mark, and dangerously contributes to selfish momentary pleasures, while ignoring more important goals that demand deferring present minded action. Those yearnings shouldn’t be ignored.
Feelings are an intricate part of identity, teaching preferences, and reminders of humanity. Sometimes wisdom bubbles to the surface from unconscious memories, subtly pushing us towards safety and away from harm. The impulses pricking through to consciousness are not all good nor are they all bad—they're just impulses flowing from the complexity of a living, thinking being. Feelings of pleasure and displeasure originate from a complex mixture of cultural concepts, biological givens, and personal experiences. Our response to feeling displays emotional maturity or impairment.
"Sometimes wisdom bubbles to the surface from unconscious memories, subtly pushing us towards safety and away from harm."
We want a concrete guidance system. It would certainly make life easier. We could shut off our cognitive thoughts, be impulsive, and succeed. We could blame all stupidity on our ignoring of felt motivation. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Our feelings, whether pleasant or unpleasant, are ignited from incomplete and misinterpreted information, making errant predictions of meaning. So, we yell at a partner we fear will leave. We quit a job for a 'promising' position at a failing start-up, and we eat a quart of ice cream to soothe our anxiety.
It’s not that intellectual cognitions are the golden ticket. The musings of thought are highly susceptible to feeling—the underlying pushes we just discredited. Our words, thoughts and arguments often blindly jump on the train of deception, decrying any opposing facts that suggest deeper investigation. The same decrepit lie is excused for one candidate but deplored when committed by the opposition.
Wisdom flows from a slight pause. A pause long enough to skeptically evaluate internal and external reasons behind the experience, giving life to the impulse and the supporting chatter of selective facts. By focusing on long-term intentions, and a growing knowledge of consequences, we can make constructive choices—most of the time.
We can treat momentary desires. A bowl of ice cream now and then will not destroy a diet. But unchecked, and used as a crutch to bad feelings, we may be avoiding critical attention to pivotal moments in our lives. Our adaptive responses may inhibit smother functioning rather than clarify the problem and find constructive answers. Impulses often create more chaos, shaking the foundation for making accurate predictions in a complex and dynamic world. Our lives rock back and forth without direction, burning energy for causes that fail. When failures accumulate, we drift further and further off course, losing contact with reality, and creating a dangerous world where our impulses prefer escape instead of creating.
We pleasure in satisfying desires but with careful assessment, we can avoid destructive desires that pull us further from the life we desire. A few moments of mindful attention, checking behaviors against long-term goals, often saves a lifetime of regrets.