What do you want?
That’s a horrifying question. When someone asks me that, I turn into something that resembles a deer in headlights. I have no idea what to say. I prefer other questions, easier ones, like “what’s the meaning of life?”
What don’t you want?
That’s easier. The list practically compiles itself. My brain is required to do almost no work at all.
In my case, the list would start with these wishes:
- I want to not be depressed.
- I want to not suffer anxiety.
- I want to not have an eating disorder.
- I want to not have harmed myself withself-mutilation.
- I want to not be detached.
- I want to not treat people like they’re an annoying drain on my energy.
That took approximately five seconds and if I took another five, I could generate more. What we don’t want and what we don’t like are easy to pull out of the ether.
They’re all negative statements, however, and that’s problematic because apparently, we – our brains – don’t hear the “not”. So, the way I ask means I’m likely to get more of the same.
Positive affirmations are better –who knew? Well, a lot of people, actually. I must include myself in that number but as is the case with most things, what we know and what we do are often miles apart. If they weren’t, I probably still wouldn’t be smoking.
What do I want? The opposite of my don’ts, of course, but couldn’t I aim higher?
Based on my short and introductory list, I want to be happy, at peace, to eat healthily, to treat myself kindly, and to practice good boundaries.
That was easy enough to correct but it does take effort, and how annoying is that?
How annoying is it that the brain doesn’t default to an operating system that serves us well?
Hearing “what do you want” is problematic when we really don’t know. When you’re focused on survival, and you often are if you’re dealing with mental illness, you don’t spend a great deal of time contemplating life enhancements. You don’t aim high. This is a mistake.There really is more to life than just making it through the day (to be fair, sometimes it doesn’t seem like it).
Mere survival isn’t a sustainable long-term goal. We need more than that.
I have secret dreams. Some I came up with on my own, and some are the product of dissociated mental meanderings, but I have them. They’re just hard to articulate. It’s scary to step beyond survival, to seek more than that, to ask for things.
It feels selfish to ask for more than what is sufficient.
It’s a scarcity mindset – “I have this, so best not ask for more lest what I do have gets taken away.” Part of us believes there’s not enough for us. That’s not true.
The scarcity mindset is a mistake.
Articulate your dreams.
Coming up with a plan is even better but articulating your dreams is a great place to start. Don’t discount them, and don’t belittle them. It’s okay to want more than just making-do. It’s okay to want things to be good. There’s no prize for living a small, dark, and constrained life.
What do I want?
I’m going to spend some time giving that some thought.