Alain de Botton, in Status Anxiety, isolates two narratives that support an individual's psychological life: our search for sexual love and our search for love from the world. This avoids or perhaps conflates our search for love from ourselves. While Helen may have launched a thousand ships and Alexander may have built an empire spanning half the world, we mustn't underestimate how broken the personality becomes if its desire for self-love remains unrequited. If our quest for love from the world is obstructed, de Botton suggests we become plagued with status anxiety. If our quest for love from ourself is obstructed, things are not as simple.

The complication arises because we can prevent ourselves from loving us in two ways. We may generally feel content with ourself, but lack the self-awareness to recognize it. Or, more tragically, we may have some self-defeating flaw in our character or our history that contradicts a core value. In anti-semitic times, there were sometimes self-hating jews. In modern times and in unenlightened states one sometimes encounters homophobic homosexuals. Not all examples arise in this manner. In most cases I've observed, either the perceived flaw needs to be resolved, e.g., by coming out of the closet or embracing one's religion, or the trait needs to be more completely repressed. The latter option is not always possible.

It's the first obstruction, our inability to perceive our own love, that concerns the rest of this note. In my dealings with people, I find the leading cause of this obstruction is a preoccupation with the surface details of one's identity. That's to say, narcissism. While a narcissist is very good at identifying immediate goals, these goals tend to be myopic. In turn, they tend to view themselves as a bundle of these short term ends and have trouble realizing that there is a cohesive self supporting this bundle. From this perspective, it's apparent why they are unaware that they love themselves. As far as they are concerned, the only "self" available to loving is the state of having short-term goals. So they throw all their efforts into fulfilling their current goals and obtaining more easily fulfilled goals. Also, they work to reduce the difficulty of fulfilling future goals.

It's to avoid this pitfall that I recommend sometimes working toward either the sublimation of goals or their postponement. Removing frivolous desires is almost always productive, and postponing ancillary goal fulfillment gives more spare time for the self to "find itself", so to speak. While the method can be taken to unhealthy extremes, I've only once seen a self-described narcissist take this idea and degenerate into abject apathy overnight. However, that is another story.

The trick of projecting one's desires into the future is particularly effective. It's quite difficult to wield sufficient willpower to actively negate an apparent desire. On the other hand, postponing it in a definite manner can be relatively easier. There is a certain cognitive bias, called hyperbolic discounting, that causes us to value proximate goals far more highly than distal ones.

This title then serves as a somewhat reasonable mantra for clearing one's immediate concerns from clouding one's self-perception. What do we want? Nothing. We are more than what we want. When do we want it? Whenever. We are not driven by desires.

PM Note: This old note written while doing armchair psychology. Not professional, seek professional advice. Standard disclaimer. Because demand for grammar, writing, gave to coworker for edit. No longer sounds me, but doubt me would hold up to standard.

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