The Echoes of the Mind (33) Desire


We are awash in desire at virtually every waking moment. ~ American philosopher William Irvine

The body needs sustenance, exercise, and sleep. The mind paradoxically craves stimulation and a sense of security. The mind-body wants comfort. These are basic biological needs and desires. Everything else that anyone wants is a product of social interaction.

Desire is merely the fixation of the mind on an idea. ~ Nisargadatta Maharaj

Biological needs do not necessarily take precedence over desires entirely fabricated by the mind or fostered by culture. Social demands can be just as compelling as biological ones.

Social processes construct subjectivities not just as categories, but at the level of individual desires. ~ Jeffrey Weeks

Achievement is a powerful motivator for many people. It first appears around the age of 3 1/2 years, as sense of self begins to jell. A yearning for achievement is inculcated culturally.

Desire and emotion are inexorably entangled. Desire’s impetus and its aftermath are a matter of affect.

All men should strive to learn before they die what they are running from, and to, and why. ~ American author James Thurber

Pleasure and pain are the imagined stars by which we navigate through the dark shoals of uncertainty to the future. As such, desire has 2 vectors: attraction and avoidance. Both are propelled by anticipation.

Desire is the memory of pleasure and fear is the memory of pain. Both make the mind restless. ~ Nisargadatta Maharaj

The allures that draw us in promise satisfaction, however momentary. Much human effort is expended for seconds of pleasure.

It is hard to fight against impulsive desire; whatever it wants, it will buy at the cost of the soul. ~ Turkish Greek philosopher Heraclitus

In contrast to attraction, avoidance is homeostatic: we desire relief from the prospect of pain or unpleasantness. Avoidance is the desire of remedy from the expected.

As people are generally loss-averse, avoidance is generally a more powerful motivator than attraction, but folks differ in how much fear they hold dear. A sense of inner security lessens risk aversion.

The effect of incentives is dependent upon personal values. ~ American psychologist James Shah et al

Overarching fear also determines how a person feels about accomplishment. People with a promotion locus are happier when rewarded than those who are not so achievement oriented. Conversely, those focused on prevention are more anxious when threatened than those who are not fearful. Despite individual differences, as a task becomes more difficult, incentive reverts to baseline biology: loss avoidance or fear of punishment trumps reward.

Modern psychology’s focus on behaviors supplanted the term desire with motivation: something that causes a person to act in a certain way. It is a needless empirical emphasis. Desire is the wellspring of motivation, which prompts goal-seeking behavior.

A goal can play an essential role in the psychological situation without being clearly present in consciousness. ~ Kurt Lewin

Empirical focus misses essential aspects of understanding psychology. Behaviors and the motivations associated with them are often loosely, even obscurely, related.

Desires are products of the mind and fulfilled in the mind. Any associated intermediate activity is merely instrumental, as evaluation of sufficiency in achieving desire is entirely mental. Some desires are dealt with without moving a muscle.

Little is needed to make a wise man happy, but nothing can content a fool. That is why nearly all men are miserable. ~ François de La Rochefoucauld

Desires can be an entangled nest, with inherent conflicts. People are only sometimes aware of these conflicts, or even conscious of all the motivations that propel them.

Any segment of behavior can be consciously identified in many different ways. ~ American psychologists Robin Vallacher & Daniel Wegner

How easy something is to do has much to do with how conscious we are of what precisely it is we think we are doing. When actions are easy, people are only generally aware of what is going on. When the going gets tough, awareness of specific motivations rises.

People tend to gravitate toward a level of identification that is warranted by the action’s difficulty. ~ Robin Vallacher & Daniel Wegner

For instance, awareness of the goal of screwing in a light bulb becomes more exacting when the threads do not instantly align. This illustrates the boundary between conscious and subconsciously driven behavior.

The context in which an action is performed also influences the level of awareness of what is going on. In a social situation, glib conversation takes a more reflective turn when some feedback cue indicates that one’s chat is not being well-received.

The immediate precursor to a behavior is a mental representation of the moment. But the mental representations that guide action vary in conscious awareness and affect the level of attention and control paid to an action. If a person does not seem to know what s/he is doing, it is because the observer is identifying the action at a level that is inapt – in a word: clueless.

An intrinsic motivation is one where actions taken are themselves rewarding, as the motivating desire comes from within. An extrinsic motivation provokes behaviors in hopes of reward.

It is of the nature of desire not to be satisfied, and most men live only for the gratification of it. ~ Aristotle

Desire is catching. People are motivated toward what others want. This contagion is termed mimetic desire.

The motive that lies at the root of ownership is emulation. ~ American sociologist Thorstein Veblen