The Nature of Desire

April 14, 2015

In helping us understand our sexual selves we need to understand the nature of desire. The basis of all desire is that most fundamental impulse to seek connection. I see this as a two-stage process and I could include in this not only desire for sex but also any type of desire. We cannot desire ourselves, much as we might narcissistically love and enjoy ourselves. All desire is a felt sense of longing for that which is “other” than us. If we already have it we cannot, by definition, desire it. We may enjoy it but we cannot desire it. Desire arises because of how we imagine we will feel within ourselves when we meet the object or our desire, whether that is another person, an event or an experience. We might desire a glass of wine or a good meal – because of how we experience our tongue or taste buds when we meet this other thing. We might long for contact with another person because of how we feel when we are with them. This understanding of desire also applies to internal sates. If we are feeling tired we might long to rest. If we feel stressed we may yearn for calmness. This is because we experience ourselves in relation to the “otherness” of that object or feeling.

It is only through the experience of contrast, that is to say “I feel like this” and “You feel like that” that we can experience ourselves. We might say therefore that our desire for anything arises out of a desire for contact and from a yearning to feel the otherness of that contact. It is the space between us and the other which creates the desire, the longing to have contact with them or it. This is the first stage of the process of desire, that is, the experience of self through contrast with the other.

When we merge with the otherness, as it is possible to do in profound lovemaking, we cease to experience ourselves as unique individuals and we become one with the other. Our bodies move in rhythm, our breath synchronizes, our heart seem to beat as one. If we are lucky enough and in tune enough to orgasm together there may be a deep sense of melting into one another. This merging with the other is the second stage of desire.

So on the one hand the nature of desire is to feel ourselves through the contrast with the otherness and on the other it is so that the felt otherness dissolves and we become one with the other. Eating a delicious meal or drinking the wine we become one with it, making love to the other we merge with them. We long for the otherness in order to feel connection it, to experience the return to one-ness. This then begins to have a spiritual quality to it. Fundamentally all spiritual traditions say that “God”, the divine, whichever form the tradition imagines exist, created the universe in order to feel itself because being one with everything he/she/it cannot experience itself. The nature of the universe, say the spiritual traditions, is that it is constantly striving to know itself as its true nature (that is one-ness) and to return to that sense of one-ness.

This is the universal cycle – the rotation between separation and unity.

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