We All Have Urges
‘Happiness is when what you think, what you say and what you do are in harmony’ – Mahatma Gandhi.
We all have urges. At some point we all also try to deny them. Denying, ignoring, refusing, squashing an urge may be effective in the short-term but like the whistling lid on a boiling kettle, the pressure has to be released from somewhere. We are all quite familiar with this cycle (in our each very unique form); restriction, followed by unbridaled, even thrilling release from that control. Successful refusal of a cookie followed 12 hours later by wolfing down two pieces of cake. Ignoring the extra glass of wine offered only to end up doing shots. Denying yourself a much wanted afternoon nap to end up crashing and oversleeping into mid-morning.
It can be a pleasure, and is a healthy part of life to be able act on our urges. But for many of us it can also be a form of self-torture. Associated with heavy feelings of guilt, somehow many of us have associated the ‘acts’ of our urges with moral constructs – so that if we act on them we judge not only the acts, but ourselves as either ‘good’ or ‘bad’. As a result, if we engage in the ‘bad’ acts there can be tendency to feel we need to self-punish – restrict ourselves from the cake, alcohol, sleep – whatever it was that we were restricting in the first place that led to the urge! What an insane cycle to engage in: restrict -> urge -> act -> guilt -> restrict -> START AGAIN!
Yet this is not ground-breaking news. Many of us are well aware of this repetition, can even identify certain points in our daily lives when we are setting ourselves up for any point in the cycle to begin. If you are like me than you know that you do not want to be caught in the circle anymore. This is for the simple reason that, like Gandhi, you want to have harmony between what you think (that restricting, loosing control and afterwards feeling guilty about it is stupid and a waste of time), what you say (that we know it is stupid and a waste of time) and what you do (that it infuriatingly keeps happening anyway!).
So what is the answer? Heightened awareness. Easy to say, very hard to do. In all its facets and degrees and to its full range, awareness is our most powerful and elusive tool. In the first instance it helps to understand that our urges have lifespans. They, like good stories, sequences and orgasms, build to a peak and then start to subside. We can ride our urges, without denying, or ignoring them, but by diving fully into their sensation and asking what they are really about. This is a third alternative that does not act on urges, and does not squash them, and it is the only one of the three alternatives that actually allows the emotion beneath our urges to surface. It is the most confronting but it is also the most potentially fulfilling.
In the early stages, when first considering new approaches to our urges, coping mechanisms such as distraction and delay can help. However, these tactics ultimately only deny urges, only allowing us ‘ride’ out our urges to a limited extent. In the long-term it is only by deeply and completely facing the underlying drive behind our urges that we can become free of them. This is often a very scary prospect of the deep emotions buried beneath our urges. It is often much easier, and less painful, to ignore these emotions than to continue facing them. Yet, if you dare, Gandhi promises us that the rewards are ours for the taking – and you have the power to release yourself from any cycle of suffering by bringing harmony between what you think is best for yourself and your actions.
I wish you much much light and love in your endeavours engaging with your urges today – as I too embrace and delve into mine! 😉 xox
Image: Margaret Bourke-White’s 1946 photograph of Gandhi at the spinning wheel, published in LIFE Magazine. Bourke-White was LIFE’s first female photographer and before she was allowed to take the photograph she was asked to learn to use a spinning wheel.