Our desires dictate the paths we pursue. But how often do we question where those desires originate? Understanding the complex forces shaping our wants is key to living an authentic life true to ourselves.
The Difference Between Desires and Needs
Unlike essential needs like food and shelter, desires are intellectual appetites for things we perceive as good. We don’t desire something because it brings physical pleasure, but because our mind perceives it as worthy of wanting. This crucial distinction reveals how desires take root in our consciousness.
The Infectious Nature of Mimetic Desire
French theorist René Girard proposed the concept of mimetic desire – we imitate and mimic the desires of those around us. What others deem desirable becomes what we want. It’s contagious peer pressure, creating a vortex of shared desires.
Recognizing Your Models of Desire
The influences shaping our desires, or “models of desire”, can be people in our immediate circles or distant figures like celebrities. It’s crucial to identify these sources and evaluate if they align with our authentic selves.
Internal vs External Models of Desire
Girard identified two model types:
- Internal models – People in our close networks like family and friends. Their desires directly impact ours.
- External models – Distant figures like actors or influencers. While seemingly detached, their lifestyles infect our aspirations.
Social Media Blurs the Line
On social media, the boundary between internal and external models blurs. Even faraway people feel accessible. But their projected desires often remain detached from our reality.
Recognize Systems Dictating Desires
Often, we operate within a system of desire – a set of social norms or values defining what’s worthy of wanting. Recognizing these coercive forces is key to independent thought.
Take Ownership of Your Desires
While desires may be seeded by others, we can still customize them to our values. Mold your desires into something that resonates with your authentic self.
Cultivate Anti-Mimetic Virtues
To break free from mimetic traps, focus on timeless virtues and desires – those originating from your core rather than fleeting fads. Discover wants that fulfill you deeply.
Beware Restless Desires
When desires leave you feeling empty, it signals they may not align with your true needs. Redirect effort towards desires that satisfy your soul.
Curiosity and wonder prevent getting stuck in a rut of complacent desires. Let go of assumptions and open yourself to life’s beautiful surprises.
By understanding the forces shaping our desires, we can live intentionally in pursuit of a life story that is truly our own.