When you want not to want the one you want

I recently listened to Martha Beck’s podcast, the gathering pod, and it felt like connecting with an old friend.

With Melody Beattie, Martha Beck is one of the authors who unknowingly helped my right at the beginning of everything. I had just decided to do what it took to get better, and what it meant initially what reading a lot of self help and psychology books. (I was right to do that by the way. Reading was not enough, but proved to be immensely helpful.)

With Martha Beck, we have a lot in common. The most important common experience, of course, is to have grown up with an incestuous father. We then both proceeded with the foreseable consequences: depression, anxiety, perfectionnism, PTSD, various physical problems, you know, the usual stuff. We also share the unfortunate situation of a late down syndrome diagnosis for our second child, and a strong bond to South Africa (where I found her book Finding your own North Star, that I still recommend). It’s kind of weird, I know.

Anyway, I can say now that I managed to find my way towards a reasonably fulfilling, pleasurable life. But at the time, I was not sure it was possible. She showed me it was, even though her books were not about recovery. Since then, I’ve kept an eye on her books, podcasts, articles, whatever she comes up with professionally.

Since I am currently investigating love addiction and limerence, I though I would listen to one of her latest podcast episode, “When you want not to want what you want” with the perspective of wanting not to want a person (but failing, of course; where is the fun if you can just chose to let go?).

Well, it works. I mean, her podcast is brilliant. It’s a very, very different approach from Dr L‘; What martha Beck says is infused with Asian philosophy, centered on emotions, very personal, and delivered with lots of warmth. Here, she is not talking about our brain, reward mecanism, and neurotranmitters. She’s talking about her friends, her children, loss, mourning, compassion, Buddha and “Nisargadatta Maharaj, this very cool Indian dude who lived in the 20th century and sold cigarettes out of a little shop in Mumbai and was enlightened.”

Strangely, it all makes sense: go and listen if you don’t believe me (and also if you do for that matter).

The (very Buddhist) philosophy behind it is : “Suffering does not come from desire; suffering comes from attachment to desire”. I don’t know for you, but it definitely rings a bell in me about limerence or love addiction. Oh yes.

And the “how to” stop this suffering boils down to accepting the desire without judgement, feeling the loss and the pain, all the while extending immense compassion to ourselves. Often, that’s something we were not taught by our family of origin – definitely not our type of family – but I agree we have to learn how to do this later to navigate a successful life.

So, which approach to choose if you are battling with a painful attachment to someone you cannot have ? Dr L’s ? Or Martha Beck’s ? The answer of course is both; who says you have to choose?

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