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What Are We Yearning For?

Author: Tom Rhodes, MFT
This seems like a fair, if albeit, under-examined question. Far from under-examined, however, are the myriad attempts at ways to quench this yearning!  TV, drugs, eating, being alone, being around people; pretty much anything that we could think up to do or not do, can potentially qualify as a means of attempting to quench or get rid of this yearning.  But what is it that we are even yearning for in the first place?  Again, the question at the core of many of our drives, impulses, and addictions that run our everyday lives appears to be vastly under-examined.  It is one of my dearest passions in life, as a human being at large, and certainly very much as a psychotherapist, to shine the light of attention on this very question, and of the heart on the lived experience. 
So, what ARE we yearning for?  An honest inquiry into this question often involves an initial sitting in the ‘not knowing’ of what that is, which can be as uncomfortable as feeling into the very yearning itself.  This can indeed act as a veritable double whammy against ever really getting to exploring the heart of it.  Often it takes real support and/or life throwing us a real curve-ball to get this inquiry ignited.  After all, it can be very scary for the mind to look at something that is unsolvable from the perspective of its limited toolbox.  The mind’s natural inclination is to come up with answers on the spot, to fix things, to solve problems.  This yearning is more in the realm of feeling though, so, again, wrong tool for the job, as wonderful and powerful a tool as it is.  In fact, the mind appears to be so powerful that it actually very effectively can pull us away from many a highly transformational and nourishing internal experience.
In having sat with many people over the past 9 years as a psychotherapist, and in being human myself, what I hear a lot is a yearning “to be loved” or “to be at peace”, or quite simply “to be happy”.  Some of our culture’s most popular songs reflect these themes of yearning, and fulfilling that yearning.  I think, although on a relative level certain objects can quench our thirst for fundamental human yearning of the heart, what we’re most deeply yearning for cannot be truly fulfilled by an object or other.  My sense is that this is because what we are yearning for most deeply is not an object at all, but rather what is actually experiencing the yearning, the very heart that is yearning.  When we are in touch with our own heart, that empty fullness, or just as much the full emptiness, it is, we are, self-effulgent and self-fulfilling; nothing is lacking.  From that inner buoyancy and bottomless, sated ‘self’, the experience I have found to be there every time I dive in 100% to feeling that yearning, is that I actually find that peace, love, and happiness right there, right at the core of the yearning itself.  We are, sadly, taught that these feelings like yearning, shame, and sadness are to be side-stepped, ignored, direly avoided. From the standpoint of the ego or mind, this makes a ton of sense, as the ruling paradigm is, well, divide (away from) and conquer what doesn’t feel good.  I would invite us all to get at least a little curious, for even a brief moment, and look for the prize in the least obvious place; right in our pocket, under our nose, right in the center of the felt sense of yearning itself. When the story is dropped, and we do a 180 into literally being the yearning, we are then being our very heart.  We are being love itself in our willingness to vastly open to what the mind would label hell.  We are being peace itself in our willingness to not divide away from and conquer, or go to war against yearning.  We are then, as if magically, simply, and in the snap of a finger, inherently happy.  It is too simple, too easy for the mind to get. Drop the heavy mind tool belt draped around your forehead. It’s not needed here in this yearning.  It will come back soon as needed I promise!  What is left when you don’t consult the mind and finally let yourself feel this yearning heart?  Although therapy can be a very helpful and powerful vehicle for deepening into this vital, open space of the heart, it can be done right here, right now. In fact, it could never be otherwise.  
Here is a song, one of so many out there, that I think conjures up a yearning feeling, perhaps for innocence, something essential in all of us, yet perhaps buried or cast aside, as many of us in one way or another have been stomped or made to feel unsafe in this innocence.. I think we actually seek this yearning state out in moments, when we’re in the mood for certain kinds of music. This may be the heart itself knocking on the door of our mind, inviting it down into its warm, safe hearth. What would it be like if that safe haven did actually lie at the core of our very being? Enjoy.   

Tom Rhodes

Tom Rhodes

Tom Rhodes is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in private practice in the Noe Valley neighborhood of San Francisco. He specializes in working with people who suffer from anxiety or whose very identity is being called into question by the current circumstances of their life.

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