What It Really Means to Want It Too Much [24]

By Dr. Keith Witt
September 3, 2011

man_crossed_fingers One of my best friends in college was a dedicated womanizer.

This was before the idea of sexual addiction, or sexual compulsivity, hit the mainstream, and I found nothing wrong with him organizing his life around one sexual conquest after another—in fact, I admired him at the time and often wondered, “What is his secret?” As a basically monogamous person myself, I followed his sexual exploits with interest, titillated by his stories and inspired by the wild experiences we occasionally shared. I remember one time he pursued a particular woman for a while, but she successfully resisted his advances. We were talking about it one day at the beach, and he said, “Keith, I wanted it too much.” Since then I’ve considered “wanting it too much” from lots of angles, aided by social research and clinical data. When it comes to accomplishment, fierce desire can be a good thing. For instance I’ve observed friends and clients being motivated by intense hunger for success to take incredible risks and achieve amazing outcomes. Popular culture is saturated with teachers and systems advocating various forms of creating your own reality—all essentially manifestation systems. Several years ago I wrote a book called Mindful Manifestation: Yearn, Discern, and Act to Create Daily Miracles (unpublished at this point) detailing the common elements of these systems, based as they are on harnessing human genius, desire, mutuality, and focus to achieve big goals. All manifestation/transformation systems are based on sustaining desire for what you want to create—which often makes “wanting it too much” look pretty good. The problem is that such driven behavior can lead to more driven behavior. This is arguably one of the reasons less than 2% of American citizens control more than 60% of American wealth, and why some people compulsively move from one romantic infatuation to the next—there is never enough to scratch the itch of “wanting it too much.” From an emotional standpoint, “wanting it too much” is almost always a losing proposition—it is the epitome of the Buddhist concepts of “ego” and “attachment.”
  • “Ego” is that part of us that strives for happiness by acquiring—wealth, mates, acclaim, objects, mastery, or security—or that trashes us for not being “enough” (we all have felt the pains of “not enoughs” like thin enough, rich enough, loved enough, or whatever enough). Ego’s voice is an urgent buzz about “me, me, me.”
  • Attachment” is the quality of not accepting the world right now as it unfolds, with its pleasures (which always pass) and pains (which always pass). “Wanting it too much” is the urgent buzz in the background which never finds the present moment completely acceptable.
If you think about it, urgent buzz is often repulsive—the friend who can’t take “no” for an answer, the kid who whines for what he wants, the salesman who keeps pressing, the political enthusiast who pushes and prods, the spouse who nags or bullies to get his or her way are all common examples. If someone is pressing past your “no,” you sense you are being related to less as a person and more as an object. It’s distressing to not feel seen as you with your own unique needs and reactions, but instead as an object to deliver validation, money, sex, or whatever other “yes” the urgent buzzer craves. Urgent buzz is quite different from excitement, which has an innocent, non-demanding quality. Your wife bursting into the room during the fourth quarter of a playoff game with, “It’s so beautiful! Let’s go to the beach!” but detached from outcome (“No? Well, maybe after the game.”) is pretty easy to take. An urgent edge to the same message (“Football is stupid! I want to go now!”) grates and coerces, making us fidget and look for escape. What causes otherwise lovely people to get caught up in wanting it too much? The short answer is lack of attunement to ourselves and others sets us up to be urgent buzzers.
  • Attunement to self is being aware with acceptance and compassion of what you’re sensing, feeling, thinking, judging, and wanting right now.
  • Attunement to another is considering with acceptance and compassion what he or she is sensing, feeling, thinking, judging, and wanting right now.
It’s very difficult to sustain any form of “wanting it too much” while attuned to yourself and others. In my book, The Attuned Family, I explain how attunement is an organizing principle that unites all development, relationship, and healing. We’ll explore attunement much more deeply in future blogs. For now, the bottom line is that wanting it too much means your attunement skills have gone down the drain.

Wanting it too much, excitement, and indifference; three critical dimensions of intimacy.

Intimate relationships cycle all the time through three general states of “wanting it too much,” excitement, and indifference (as in, “I can’t think of anything I’d like from you”). Indifference tends to be the worst sign with couples—especially in therapy since therapists rely on desire for some kind of contact to encourage partners to make positive changes in attitudes and behaviors. I’d much rather work with a couple furious at each other for not getting what they want than with either indifferent about sharing love, attention, or contact. If fact, it’s often a sign your spouse might be having a secret affair when he or she stops wanting intimate connections of any kind with you. Most of us have some knowledge of “wanting it too much” and ideas about how to apply it to life. In dating, the idea of “wanting it too much” leads to a lot of strategy and tactical based approaches—you know, things like, “Don’t call her back for two days, she’ll think you want it too much.” Such tactics can provide short-term advantages in keeping potential partners interested, but miss the real problem of feeling the urgent buzz. I’ve found improvement in loving yourself and others better usually comes from examining “wanting it too much” with interest and genuine desire to transform urgent buzz into innocent excitement—which of course involves attuning to yourself until you can consistently taste the very different flavors of urgent buzz and innocent excitement. In a marriage you’ll know you’re making progress when you don’t get irritated and press against your partner’s “no” as much. You still care about going out, having sex, attending the parenting workshop, talking about the problem, or watching the playoff game, but you’re more accepting and less coercive in the face of disagreement. In other words, it’s good to “want it,” but not to “want it too much.”  

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