Is it better to repress desires or suffer the emotions of unfulfillment?

While being fried about my frustrations by a wise person yesterday, I realised that apparently I have adopted over the last year or two a survival strategy that I had once looked down on when implemented by my mother:

The strategy of avoiding, hiding, pushing out of mind your desires when it is clear that you can’t have them (at least not now or soon; maybe not at all).

The intelligent person pushed me to wonder if the source of my recent intense inner restlessness might be that I’ve struck this deal. (Abstracting from the general restlessness due to the world health situation.)

I had complained to her about a recent increased tendency to complain, to just generally moan and express directionless discomfort, at others (such as my partner), kind of wanting something from them, a magic solution, but not even really knowing … to what. The way a baby moans and groans and expects others to figure out what it wants and/or what will make it happy.

Kind of wanting stuff, but not really knowing what, but also … in a way, perhaps not wanting to know.

I took this hypothesis to heart and tried to peek underneath the restlessness and diffuse moaning. Indeed, there were fairly intense emotions, at least deep grief, perhaps despair, and rage. If I stop the restlessness, I just want to turn into a lion and groan at the next person, or curl up and become a waterfall and whirling eddy of grief, a little hurricane of falling leaves, a contracting point of sorrow, frustration, despair.

This whole hot cauldron of emotions is because I can’t have what I want, and I don’t allow myself to try now because I have rational checks and balances in place about risks (based on experience). The effect is apparently that I prefer to avoid knowing what I want, because I can’t deal with the cauldron of not having it or rather not doing it.

The feelings of loss concerning what would be if I had it, and how every second I live in a way I don’t really want to never comes back. Feelings of loss of what could be, and even what already could have been. Rage at the confusion and cluelessness of how to get there. Not knowing how to proceed, not seeing a way – hence shifting aside the goal; because why look at it and drive yourself nuts. Over what you can’t have, apparently.

* * *

As I used to occasionally mention on this blog, I have at times suffered of an overdose of “American” (YESSS! You can do absolutely ANYTHING if you just want it, and if you can’t then just think more positively) self-help books, inundated with abundances of “follow your dreams” and “listen to your soul” and blah quotes, supposedly inspirational.

The truth is that these quotes partly make me feel guilty, and partly – at this point – make me angry, because I find them irresponsible when directed at readers who might have real life issues and limitations other than just lack of the “right” attitude. It’s an ungrounded perspective. It’s perhaps good for some folks who have everything except the right mindset, but otherwise a guilt trap for most of us here on earth …

At least such were my thoughts when reflecting why living a life different from that of my ideal vision seems so emotionally unbearable to me. Part is the sadness and the grief, the loss over what could have been or could be, and anger at why the f* I can’t finally have it now. But to be honest, I think that would be handle-able, at least with my current level of emotional skills. Not that much of a big deal. The despair and emptiness of how to live if the way that seems right is not available (right now, and who knows the future – an attitude I’ve always had, but at this time suddenly more people share it with me, eerily).

It’s dealing with loss, raging a bit, letting inner nature handle the adaptation as well as possible.

But I think an additional burden comes from the somewhat “spoiled” mindset that this shouldn’t be – that it’s incorrect, wrong, impossible, or a personal failing. Unacceptable. Can as well kill self if this “right life” can’t be done. I think that aspect comes from reading the wrong books.

Reading these books though came, in part, as a reaction to living around people who carry resignation.

Like my mother in a certain period – can’t have it, so better to forget about it (not move through the loss, but just force things out of consciousness). Like my father, transforming personal life disappointments into rage, complaints and blame. (Not blaming either of them, the older I get the less I judge any of this because I discover that despite my youthful optimism and narcissism I’m not necessarily doing better on any of these fronts – there are real difficulties and nobody can be expected to deal with them perfectly.)

But I think in response to this resignation, disappointment and (what I perceived as) self-denial, I needed this “follow your soul and achieve anything” outlook as a balance. It caught me unaware though and imprisoned me into guilt trips or a sense of all-out, existential failure when I compromise to survive. Looks like I compromise on my soul to be comfortable, to be less stressed.

The ultimate evil of all these inspirational blah books.

But it’s not the ultimate evil.

It happens.

* * *

Question being, being stuck there: there’s still some inner freedom left. Regardless of the external situation and compromises, there is still the choice about having consciousness of the inner tensions vs. shoving them underground to not suffer from the consciousness of unfulfillment.

What’s a good strategy for making use of this inner freedom? Heroic awareness for the sake of integrity? In other words, is it better to at least be honest with yourself?

Healthier? Safer?

There seems to be, in most situations, at least to some degree the freedom of style. In which style are you not getting what you want? With limited freedom in the what, a certain freedom in the how. Is that how large enough to hold enough authenticity to carry the soul through these various adventures anyways?

Maybe the lesson here is also that I really don’t want to say what’s better. Honestly with myself isn’t necessarily “better” – it’s unwise to frame this question (just like the question of living just the way you want) as a moral choice. You can deal with one option, or you can deal with the other option.

In my own case I tend to think that moderate honesty is recommended, honesty up to the point where I can still digest the disappointment. The other option might feel too much like loosing the compass. It’s still good to know where north is even if you’re not going there. Because in a world which is not 100% under my control (not even 0.000 000 001% if I divide control by world population) not going there isn’t a personal failing or a diminishment of value.

Now as I look at it, the stupidity of the idea astonishes me, actually – the idea that having things the way I want them is a measure of something. It’s nice to have stuff I want and even need, but the essence of one’s humanity can’t be played out over that.

Knowing that maybe makes it more feasible to tolerate the various tensions of honesty about desire, need, and surety about how stuff should be.

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