What do you want? (What your longings tell you about yourself)

Screen Shot 2015-01-06 at 13.59.01Psychiatrist Dr Irvin D. Yalom conducted a simple exercise in which he gathered a room full of total strangers, randomly paired them off, and had each partner asked the other, repeatedly, the same simple one line question; “what do you want?”

“Could anything be simpler?” Concluded Yalom following the exercise. He wrote; “one innocent question and its answer. And yet, time after time, I have seen this group exercise evoke unexpectedly powerful feelings. Often, within minutes, the room rocks with emotion. Men and women — and these are by no means desperate or needy, but successful, well-functioning, well-dressed people who glitter as they walk — are stirred to their depths. They call out for those who are forever lost — dead or absent parents, spouses, children, friends.

“I want to see you again”.
“I want your love”.
“I want to know you are proud of me”.
“I want you to know I love you and how sorry I am I never told you”.
“I want you back — I am so lonely”.
“I want the childhood I never had”.


So much wanting. So much longing. And so much pain, so close to the surface, only minutes deep”.

Our sacred longing

Yalom identified what is true of each of us. That resident within lies a deeper longing, a sacred cry. Often indefinable, intangible. But something nevertheless that somehow helps identity all that we deem as significant.

We do not long for irrelevancies. We do not carry soulful yearning for cosmetics. That which gurgles within the soul of a man, which simmers and boils in the spirit of a woman, is that which is deeply personal, intangibly holy. It is the voice of the soul, the silent screams of a profounder identity.

Wishes, wants, fantasies and desires can often lay close to the surface and reflect something of a superficial element to all of our lives. But deep yearnings and gnawing longings, come from deeper places, and reflect more weighty emotions.

Our deeper longings often can go undetected. We know they’re there but struggle to quite put our finger on what they want or where they’re originating from. Consequently we can be given at times to interpreting them in confused and partial terms. Writing them off as foolish or whimsical, “like that’s ever going to happen” etc. Or simply dismissing them as me “being silly” or me “getting older”.

We exist in our longings

But this is where we are mistaken. Such deep cravings are not idle emotions. They are not the onslaught of old-age or the misgivings of senility, any more than they are the daydreams of an over-active, under-nourished mind.

Rather, they could well be the most accurate reflection of that hidden part of us, the very core and soul of what and who we are. So little do we see this side of us, so little do we really understand or appreciate it, when it does raise its voice via the deeper yearnings and longings of our lives, we are given to misinterpret its source and confuse its motives, dismissing them in rather trivial and superficial ways, which is very unfortunate.

For our longings not only reflect us, but they inform us, they become us. It could well be that much of our more superficial wants and fantasies, are but the distant ripples of a more serious core, namely; our deepest most sacred longings.

Hearing our true voice

Like it or not, understand them or not, we all carry deep longings. Sometimes, given enough of a pause in our frenetically active lives, we can hear them crying through our busyness, speaking through our mental clutter, whispering through our emotional traffic. Returning us to deeper realities, reminding us of those more substantial, more important truths about ourselves.

In Romans 8 Paul speaks of the whole earth issuing a kind of intangible groan. A deep and hidden longing to be what it was created to be. He speaks of each of us, how that when we do not know what we ought to be praying or asking God for, are assisted by his Holy Spirit who gives off something of an intangible cry, a deeper longing that cannot be easily articulated.

The meaning of which is simply that there is a lot of chatter that rises from within us that we can often be simply unaware of. Our lives, or more accurately our souls, are speaking 24/7, and it is perhaps only in our more reflective and quieter moments that we begin to hear it’s authentic voice.

It could well be that our souls seek to remind us on a far more regular basis then we appreciate, just who we are and what ought to be of greatest importance to us.

However hectic, pressurised and broken our lives may become, there is always a deeper me, a more authentic version that lies breathing and hidden under the rubble.

That voice is never silent, its desires never still, but rather its whisperings and its callings are constant.

Sooner or later we all get to hear its voice, and it is only by the grace of God that we eventually get to live it and thereby become the most honest, most authentic expression of our true selves.


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