The act of longing is beautiful, creative, vulnerable, and…. uncomfortable for me. How is it for you?

Longing is an inspiration to change, and melt, and take new shape to find and be something truer, more beautiful. It is a core energy we experience in seeking union, romantic connection. Saying “I want” is such a simple thing, but it opens us up to receive–personally and professionally. It is also a vulnerable thing to do, deeply wanting something. It opens us to possible disappointment and pain.

For some types, the sweetness and pain of longing is a big part of everyday life. And there are certainly unhealthy amounts of longing. My 2 (Helper) and 4 (Individualist/Romantic) Enneagram type friends know this quite well, I find. They tend to have pain around wanting something they feel they can’t have — craving, desiring, pleading. In unhealthy times this attitude can show up as addiction. And it can be a dependence on other people or things for satisfaction. They have to work to find center, contentedness that starts from within. I admire their deep feeling, and have compassion for the struggle to find balance around desire.

As an 8 (Leader) I tend to have a confident, tough exterior that protects a deep feeling of vulnerability. The idea of needing anything or anyone can be a scary thing for 8s. We can be very passionate about helping people in need and protecting weakness in others. But deny our own weakness and instead emphasize power and control.

I’ve had the opportunity to realize lately that I don’t let myself long for or desire nearly enough. I want things that I think I can have, and pursue them. But I don’t pursue what I tell myself I can’t have, because that might lead to hurt (8s biggest fear).

We all have moments in our lives where we learn how to stay safe. One of my moments taught me, for instance, that to want someone who doesn’t want me should be avoided at all costs. When did this moment happen? Middle School of course! When so many lovely little wounds are inflicted by our clueless peers. I only recently remembered this gem:

I’m in 7th grade (12 years old) and I have a crush on a boy in my class. I often go and hang out with him at his classroom seat near the far window, and think I’m being very subtle. Already at that age it’s really important to me that no one think I have a crush; I hardly even admit it to myself. That would be silly, embarrassing.

One of our mutual friends calls him on the phone pretending to be me, saying I like him and would he like to go out on a date. My crush finds some way to say “no” politely, awkwardly. The story is reported at the cafeteria the next day, to the laughter of a big group of our social circle.

I don’t remember feeling mortified, or changing my behavior. It’s clear that I’ve repressed the memory, as I only faced it recently. Here’s what I do know: since then, I have never let myself have a crush on someone first. Men have always had to clearly show interest in me before I will respond, if I’m interested. Maybe I thought that if they really want/love me they won’t hurt me, so I have to make sure of that before I get involved. Getting totally betrayed and hurt by someone who had been completely in love with me taught me otherwise. The lesson: there’s really no guarantee that you won’t get hurt by someone you love and who loves you. That’s what makes being in love the most vulnerable act.

If this attitude of protection and aloofness has been at play in my love life, how might it be affecting my other relationships, my career path? What am I afraid to long for, for fear of getting embarrassed and exposed? How is that stunting my imagination, accomplishment, happiness?

It’s important to have some safety around our hearts, not inviting things in that mean us harm. So I’m glad I have a sense of discretion and practicality about what I should be vulnerable to, and what not to be. But the time has come to let go of protections that aren’t actually helping me, but are keeping me back from the relationships, life, success I do long for.

The other day I spoke a longing, risking embarrassment and rejection. And I didn’t die. I felt very much alive. It didn’t so much matter how the other person responded, though I certainly had my preference. I got to tap in to my own tender, vulnerable heart in a new way. And love it, and trust it, and know that it actually doesn’t want me to protect it in the tough the way I have been.

So if you too have a hard time admitting desire to yourself and others, I invite you to do this:

  • Choose a situation that is safe enough, where you can stretch your comfort zone and not be shot down by anyone in a cruel way. Maybe you have to start in a room alone, and build up to other people.
  • Voice a desire — one that you have been afraid to name and ask for.
  • Receive and accept the response.
  • Give yourself space to process the feeling of the desire, and the response. Feel the desire as energy, feeling, that is beyond what this actual ask is for.
  • What is that desire really about? What does it tell you about what you love? How can you hold it sweetly, firmly, without pain?

My Meditation

I am ok with not knowing where my longing will take me, how it will look, or whether it will find completion.

I am thankful for knowing my heart’s desires, and bringing my power to aid them in happening.

I am willing to be embarrassed in articulating and pursuing them. Though I find the real embarrassment in my life comes when I do not say and do what my heart longs for me to.


2 Responses to Longing: Beautiful, Vulnerable, and Scary

  1. Bri says:

    Thank you Helena for this very honest piece. As a 2 appreciate hearing the experience of the 8. I am working on my balance and appreciate this very much!

  2. Jenny says:

    When I was in 9th grade, some older boys came up to me to tell me that a friend of theirs had a crush on me. Assuming that they were just making fun of me, I said, “Ewwww, he’s gross!” Then one of them said, “Geez, you look in the mirror lately?” And I saw the boy in question gazing over at us from a ramp, looking quite sad. I realized they weren’t actually making fun of me and that the kid really did send his buddies over to see if I liked him. Fear of embarrassment can turn us into assholes!

    I’ve always been afraid of appearing needy, or desperate. But it’s funny how the things you try to hide just end up getting made more apparent by your elaborate charades to disguise them.

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