Five types of spiritual hunger

candy2016-02-21 13.58.16I’be been thinking about hunger. What it means and what it does to you. Mostly it makes you irrational, I think. In the same way that being physically hungry can end with scoffing a bowl of fries, spiritual and emotional hunger can drive your decisions, for good or ill. Looking at my own life and the people around me, I see some types of hunger that we are all vulnerable to.

  1. The hunger to please – What is it about making someone else happy that is so appealing? Is it the sense of approval, the ‘someone else thinks I am worthwhile’ feeling? The other side of it is fear. Fear of disappointment, of not measuring up, of not being good enough. But really, what is the worst that can happen if you fail to please? What is the downside of disappointing others? There is no real danger, just the one you make up in your head. And then, we often blame the other person else for failing to validate us.
  2. The hunger to be loved – This is, in essence, a reciprocal hunger. One doesn’t just send out their love into the world with no expectation of response. So the hunger to receive love is also a hunger to give love. Why is is it so appealing? Is it just the way we are wired? Is it the most essential part of ourselves? Does the love have to be romantic – or, is romantic love just the hardest to find and the most difficult to traverse, and therefore has scarcity value?
  3. The hunger for validation – This hunger can be dangerous when it relies on the whims of another to satisfy it. We look to those around us to tell us that we are indeed attractive, smart, good, successful, or whatever else we want to be. But if we can’t accept that we are all those things on the strength of our own evidence and conviction, we can spend forever chasing it from outside. Social media likes, words of approval, awards, compliments or reviews – these are all great to have, but they need to be the secondary to our own conviction we ‘are good enough’.
  4. The hunger for success – Definition is important here. What is success? How have you defined and then measured it? Is it tied up in the validation equation? And what if you haven’t defined it, but still keep chasing it – does it becomes a relentless race with no end and few checkpoints. I have seen this hunger bring people undone, in pursuit of a vague notion of success, where the goalposts move all the time and you never get to say, ‘Great, I made it!’. Because you certainly can make it – you can reach a goal, satisfy the hunger, then choose another destination and start again. But you need to agree the rules with yourself at the start.
  5. The hunger to acquire – This is an appetite that looks to fill a hole, in a way that distracts you from something else. Whether you are thirsty for knowledge, hungry for possessions, or collecting skills – you keep gathering these things to yourself, plugging a hole in a bathtub that is in fact leaking at the other end. When you are hungry to acquire, you can feel momentarily satisfied with each thing you pick up. Yet soon the old feeling returns, and you wonder why it’s so voracious and hard to satisfy; it’s because you are feeding the wrong hunger with the wrong food.

It’s not wrong to be hungry. It’s at the core of our human condition. And we crave different things at different times. Just like our physical appetite – which sometimes wants sweet, sometimes savoury and sometimes nothing at all – our spiritual hunger waxes and wanes – often beyond our control.

So we need to look at what we are really hungry for, and whether we can find the solution within ourselves. When I am hungry for validation, can I find a way to high-five myself? When I am hungry for love, can I find pleasure in my own company? Not always. If we were never hungry we would never get off the couch to live, strive or suffer. But when we can see our hunger for what it is, perhaps we can sit and make friends with it.

By Belinda White

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