Desire, Yearning & Craving

Anyone care to say what the following words have in common: Desire, yearning and craving. Think of an answer before you continue. This will help you engage the material to follow. Next, ask yourself: Do cravings usually begin first, followed by yearning, ending in desire or would you say it’s the other way around? Not satisfied with my either/or question; no problem, let’s shake things up and roll the dice another way:

Walla! Here’s another way of looking at it: First we discover a new desire, draw pleasure from it and long for the objective of such desire. Now the more we long for it; i.e. yearn for the emotional sensation associated with the desire, the more we are consumed by it until craving sets in. Craving? Yeah, craving as in being overly attached to something to the point that we experience agitation.

Even though desire, yearning and craving can be defined in different ways and represented independently of one another, there are conditions in life where they can be experienced as a process. From one point of view we may distinguish them by intensity of emotion. Whereas another frame of reference can have us bogged down in linguistic differences.

The objective here is not to get bit by some dogmatic syntax as it is to enter into the fluidity of using words to help discover complexities that often go unnoticed. To accomplish this task in view to contextualizing the relational value of desire, yearning and craving, let’s inject the opinion of a Philosopher: “Love all by itself, caring nothing for other objectives, inflames the mind with desire for the other’s beauty, and hopes the affection will be returned.” – Seneca, Letter 9.11

In this sense the word desire can be rendered as eros; sensual attraction. Now does this kind of desire immediately bring about its extreme; namely, lust. Or does one first give consent to the desire and then spend actual time longing for the other before it morphs into craving?

Perhaps some of you believe that yearning will never transpire into craving because your love is more noble than others. Whatever your erroneous beliefs are about your infatuation for another, however conscious or unconscious you are of them, they play a role in the procession between desire—yearning—craving. In fact, some are willing to argue that false beliefs are a major cause in why our desires evolve into monstrous proportions.

Either way, seeing that our emotions can get out of hand, does it not make sense to address them before they become complicated and hardwired into our manner of being? What if we are already stooped into a culture of sensuality and don’t even realize that we are being driven by fabricated desires? Why would we even begin to question the validity of our desires unless of course we begin to detect that they are really making us miserable. Should our desires get to the point where they lead us around by the nose, we might need to stop and ask ourselves who and/or what is really in control.

So let us begin with the source of our dilemma, seeing that we are unable to acknowledge our fallacies. Go ahead and bisect the word desire and define its parts. (De-Sire) (De as in remove or reduce) (Sire as in a title of authority) In other words, desire can represent the removal of authority, as in a reduction of personal autonomy. The more we chase after our desires the less centred we become. We betray ourselves by trying to find happiness in external things. Without self-reliance we feel inclined to take from others without considering the ramifications of our actions. Our unchecked emotions (desires) override our ability to reason well.

“So pull back from empty things. When you want to know what it is that you are pursuing, whether it involves a natural desire or a blind one, consider whether there is any place where your desire can come to rest. If it goes far and yet always has further to go, you may be sure it is not natural.” – Seneca, Letter 16.9

About Philosopher Muse

An explorer of volition and soul, a song under a night sky and a dream that forever yearns to be.
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2 Responses to Desire, Yearning & Craving

  1. Of all the Stoics, I think Seneca does the best job of warning against wanting too much, so you did well to use him here. This post is a good reminder that it doesn’t take much for a simple desire to get out of hand and rob us of our freedom. I’ll definitely return to it in the future when I need a reminder of this!

    • Glad you found something useful in the mix. Stoicism seems to have a bit of something for everyone.

      “And if our genuine honesty nevertheless gets tired one day and sighs and stretches its limbs and finds us too harsh and would rather things were better, easier, gentler, like an agreeable vice: we will stay harsh, we, who are the last of the Stoics!” – Friedrich Nietzsche

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