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gorgeous woman in her mid-20s leaned toward me, the look on her
face an invitation to conspiracy.
I want," she said, as though the words themselves were
dangerous, "is to know what I want."
proceeded to list all the things that she did not want, including
living at home with her parents, her secretarial job and being 15
pounds "too chubby."
she wound down, I threw out the obvious: "So, then, what DO you
want?" Startled, as though she hadn't expected the question outright,
she drew back and gripped her hands in her lap. "I don't know," she
said. I waited. After a while, she said, "Maybe this isn't such a
good idea after all." Again, I waited. "It doesn't really matter,"
she said. More waiting. "It's not possible." Silence. "I probably
can't, anyway." Still I said nothing.
in exasperation, as though she thought me too slow-witted to
comprehend anyway, she yelled: "I want to be a rock star!" "Sounds
good to me," I shouted back.
come it's so dangerous to say what we want? After all, it's a
natural act. Kids do it all the time. As adults, though, I think it's
risky business to tell the truth about what we want for two reasons:
1) We're afraid we can't have it. 2) We're afraid we can.
we imagine we can't have it, we're left to deal with all the
feelings of undeservability, disappointment and limitation with which
we surround ourselves. If we decide we can have it, we're forced to
face up to actually doing what it would take to make it happen.
a rotten double-bind deal. So, what do we do? Well, we do the
wise thing, of course. We pretend not to know. Or, even better, we
decide not to want anything at all.
good. In fact, some of us make a case for this as a major step
toward enlightenment. Pointing to Eastern philosophies, we note that
since desire is the root of all suffering, we're wise not to want. We
declare desirelessness is highly desirable state. Yes, this sounds
good. As with all things that sound too good to be true, however,
there's an obvious catch: Pretending not to want does not
consider it another way, here's a question: Is Mother Hubbard's
dog no longer hungry just because she finds the cupboard bare? Not at
all. In fact, the dog with no bone will eventually begin to chew on
hungry dogs, we all want. And want. And want. If we pretend we
don't, we either starve or end up unhappily chewing on wrong bones.
True wanting, wishing and desiring are instruments of our inner
guidance system. To ignore them is to deny access to our own
but what's the point of admitting I want to be a rock star?"
said the young woman in my office. "What are the odds of my actually
making it?" "I don't know," I said. "But all bets are definitely off
if you never declare yourself."
to say what we want gets us unstuck and sets things in motion.
It's also an act of courage because it leads us to the next layer of
questions: Do we want this for its own sake? Is it our heart's true
desire? Or is it a means to some other end?
where things get dangerous again. Sometimes we uncover hidden
motives. Things that we think we shouldn't want, maybe, or things
we'd like to avoid. Does the budding rock star genuinely want to sing
her heart out on a strobe-lit stage for throbbing crowds? Or is her
wish an exciting and elaborate cover plot to escape a boring life
that's too attached to overly protective parents? Either way, saying
what she wants leads towards her heart's truth.
we're willing to say what we want, we go against ourselves. We
deny our heart's desire. And if we don't follow our heart's desire, I
think we relinquish joy. Risky business, all right.
Lynne Whiteley Novy, MFCC is a psychotherapist and a writer with a
private practice in Petaluma, California. For more stories and
information visit her web site at
or see her listing in Share Guide's
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