The nature of attraction

Why are we attracted to some things and not others? I think it is because they seem to have something that we lack, something that if obtained would make us feel more whole, more complete. It’s fair to say that most people (myself included) are not fully enlightened, individuated beings, and hence have underdeveloped aspects of themselves and in some ways feel incomplete or lacking in something. As A.H. Almaas explains, we look outside ourselves to objects and people to fill these perceived gaps in an effort to become whole and complete. The problem is that anything you can get, you can also lose, hence these attainments are temporary and insecure at best. When they inevitably are lost or no longer serve their purpose of filling our gaps, our self-esteem sinks back down and we go searching again. As I explain elsewhere, powerful interests in society manipulate our sense of lack by promising to fill our gaps, resulting in our falling under their power. The only thing that can bring us a sense of wholeness is from discovering our being. Who you are is always deeper and more powerful than what you have (or don’t have).

How about when it comes to attractions to other people? Is it really a sexy body that we want most? Or is this merely the surface representation of a deeper longing? If you think about it, someone who is wearing revealing clothing is often considered to be more attractive than one who is completely naked, so it must not be the naked body part itself that compels us, but rather something about the mystery it holds, the wonder of something waiting to be revealed. This is especially obvious when you consider the fact that many adults who are dating or married to beautiful and wonderful partners nevertheless cheat with other partners just for the thrill of something new and different. It’s not the lack of a quality partner that causes them to stray and go searching; it’s the lack of novelty. It may explain why most people prefer to make love with the lights off – to enhance the mystery by keeping certain details hidden. It is also why people love to go out to dimly-lit night clubs, bars and restaurants which creatively use lighting to enhance the ambiance, infusing a bit of mystery and allure and tempting us with possibilities for meeting someone new.

Thus it seems it is not the achievement of something known and obvious that we really yearn for, though we often think that is what we want. When you know what you’re going to get and how it will make you feel, it becomes mundane and loses most of its appeal, unless of course you are suffering from illness or hunger and you wish to end the suffering and return to a normal state of health. What we really yearn for is to discover something that we’re not yet aware of, and to have an experience that we have never had before. This could be why travel is one of the most popular activities. In essence, we don’t know exactly what we’re looking for but we know we haven’t found it yet. Since, through the process of discovery, the unknown is always turning into the known and we can never fully capture mystery itself, this situation repeats itself and is always present.

What we really long for is to become whole by discovering and assimilating elements of ourselves that we did not know existed. The way we do this is by encountering these elements in other people and in the world. At the core of desire we find the universe striving to know itself through human consciousness. In order to experience the true joy of discovery, you must first forget that you know something. Seeing something for the very first time is one of the great joys of life. This is why the universe had to explode into countless pieces through the big bang and then reassemble itself through different forms of life: to experience the joy of rediscovering itself on the canvas of space-time.

How can this knowledge help us as individuals? When we feel attracted to several things at once, whose achievement may for practical purposes be mutually exclusive (such as multiple partners), it helps to look at the root of our desire. Surely it is not the person herself/himself that we desire, but some aspect of them that will evoke a feeling in us. Take a closer look at the personality and behaviour of the person you desire and ask yourself: “What is it about this person that I am attracted to? Do I not already have the potential to discover these aspects in myself and develop them in my own life? Can I learn what I need from them without having to upset my existing relationships?” See if you can find joy in the recognition that the aspects you so desire in the other person are aspects that are already part of yourself. All it takes is an open mind and heart and some time and practice to cultivate these qualities. As you meet more and more people, your sense of fulfillment and wholeness grows and you are more likely to behave with abundant love and generosity toward your partner rather than desperation and dependence which comes from a sense of wanting and incompleteness.

Anytime you enter into a relationship with anyone, if you go in with the expectation that “this person has something that I lack and by bringing them close to me in my life I will gain that which is missing” – in other words, expecting someone to make up for your own perceived deficiencies – you are setting yourself up for disappointment. Yet that is how most relationships begin, isn’t it? I call this “filling the void by consuming the other”. We see an attractive person who has some character qualities or special skills or traits that we deeply admire and yearn for – confidence, skill and talent, persuasiveness, etc. – or maybe even actual resources such as money, power, connections or access, and we try to bring those aspects into our lives by osmosis. In essence what we are doing is trying to take from the other by consuming their positive qualities.

A rewarding relationship with long-term potential arises not from a place of need, but from a place of wholeness and abundance. We must be able to say “I don’t need anything from you, but I respect and understand you and I feel that we would complement each other well.” Honouring and respecting the integrity of the other and committing to serve the highest good of both of you rather than trying to ‘get’ anything is the only path to fulfilment in a relationship.

The basic dilemma of the pursuit of happiness is as follows: we want to be surprised, yet we want to remain in control. We want to feel deeply, yet we don’t want to be hurt. We want to discover new things, yet we want to keep our familiar comforts. The fact is that if you want to reach for the new, you must let go of the old. In any given moment, either you choose control, safety and familiarity, or you choose adventure, vulnerability and novelty. As always, there is an ideal balance, but if you feel drawn toward novelty, the way to go there is through trust, love and an open heart.

In my personal experience, people seem to pass through what we may call “stages of knowing”:

  1. First, you don’t know what you want. You experiment and try different things.
  2. Second, you know what you don’t want. You run up against displeasing things and follow the process of elimination. In general our youth is spent moving through these first two stages.
  3. Third, you know what you want. You get to know yourself better and clearly define the things you want. This is where personal development usually ends for most people – the attainment of known desires.
  4. Finally, you want the unknown. You find the attainment of known desires to be shallow and ultimately unfulfilling, leading to the pursuit of mystery and wonder. This is the realm of true spirituality, the path of curiosity, faith and surrender.

Unlike superficial pleasure, which can be purchased at the nearest store, true joy comes from discovering aspects of yourself that you didn’t know existed. It is opening one’s eyes and inviting the unknown, rather than moving forward in a linear fashion toward predictable outcomes.

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~ by spiritualseeker1 on April 24, 2012.

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