My client is one of the kindest people I know. She is patient, philosophical, and takes the high road and the long view.
But she recently confessed to me that she didn’t know what I meant about “authentic desire.”
“Is that some special category of wanting, some extra gear in desire that life coaches know about?” she asked. In addition to kind, she is also funny.
“It’s a how we distinguish shallow wants from deep ones,” I said. “Authentic desire is the deep kind. Yearning.”
“Okay, well, I’m not sure I feel that difference,” she said.
I had an idea why not.
Dazzle and Suppress
I am always asking my coaching clients and myself, “What do you really want?” because authentic desire is a compass you can navigate by (here’s a tool to help you find it). When you know the answer, not only can you pursue it, you can avoid chasing after what other people and culture tell you that you should want.
There are good reasons you might not know what you really want.
We live in a dazzling world! We’re marketed to ceaselessly, and advertisers are skilled at hooking and pulling us in. We’re also social creatures, with a fundamental need to belong and a drive to seek status within our chosen group. Advertisers don’t necessarily have to make us want what they’re selling. They just have to say it’s what people like you have – shoes, a certain style of car, a remodeled kitchen – and we sell ourselves.
Another reason is that we fear our desire and, so, suppress it. It can be scary to want. It makes you vulnerable because you might not get it, and then what? Some of us also learned in childhood – despite the best intentions of our parents – to rein in our desires when we noticed they made others uncomfortable. Little girls in particular are taught it’s their job to support and make others happy, another imperative to rein ourselves in.
Suppress your yearning long enough, and you lose touch with it altogether.
I understood where my client was coming from. I’d been there myself. But an exercise in Kasia Urbaniak’s book Unbound: A Woman’s Guide to Power helped me get my desire back.
It’s called “The Bad Girl Protocol,” and I have to confess that this exercise scared me. I’m not a bad girl! I don’t like bad girls! It was only on my third reading of the book, as we studied it in Be the Heroine, that I finally did it.
It changed everything.
Like the exercise I shared with you in my last post, this exercise is a wee prompt with a big impact:
“If I were a bad girl, I would…”
You answer with fantasies of revenge or outrageous desire! What would you do if there were no consequences? What would you do if only the wicked were punished, if good were rewarded, and all memories and evidence were erased?
It reminded me of the Holodeck in Star Trek, a holographic simulation you could play in and then turn off.
I wrote my heart out for, I don’t know, 20-minutes? After I had fully expressed my badness, I felt a quiet sweetness rise up in me.
“Every complaint hides a desire,” Urbaniak says. As I read over my bad girl fantasies, I saw the deep desires nesting inside them: for abundance, freedom, influence.
I went back to the Holodeck and got as playful with my desires as I had been wicked with the Bad Girl Protocol.
You do it, too.
Ask yourself again:
What do you really want?
Imagine you have all the resources you need. Be impractical, unreasonable, demanding, and really specific. If you write something down and it doesn’t make you laugh or feel a little dizzy, try again, like it’s a game of warmer/colder. What would light you up?
Free and Curious
I gave this assignment to my client who didn’t know what she wanted. I had a hunch that her exceptional kindness might be crowding out the expression of other, darker feelings. I thought a little play on the Holodeck with the Bad Girl Protocol might liberate not only those dark feelings but the desire inside of them.
She loved it. “Now I like to stop and notice when I’m putting a lid on something that wants to come out,” she says. “It’s rarely something I would act on, but just taking the lid off has made me feel freer and curious to see where my desires will take me.”
Now your turn! What desires have you rediscovered?