A friend of mine asked me the other day, whether I could explain what I meant when I talk about desire and I guess she was asking me about when I use Desire with a capital D in my psychoanalytic musings.

I was kind of glad that I didn’t have time to talk about it then because I was so far from any sense of desire. In fact I had lost the desire of desire itself.

Psychoanalysis presents the human condition in terms of Drive and Desire and they both have a different impact on how we live our lives. In order to understand Desire we need also know about Drive to see how they differ.

I love to practise unaccompanied violin music for myself. And something like violin practise has the perfect structure for drive and desire because there is a certain kind of inbuilt impossibility integral to it. You know that at what ever level you are, there will always be a gap from our idealised perfection, what is actually possible.

Drive is on a level that we don’t have any control of. We get up in the morning and it just kicks in. I went through a period in my practise where I set up my computer so that I could check whether I was playing each note in tune as I was playing a passage.

In one of my analysis sessions I was talking about this system and my analyst’s response was “And does this system work?” – an obvious question but it was kind of unsettling for me. I could only respond by saying “I don’t know, I can’t be sure…” It was unsettling not just because of the realisation that it probably wasn’t having the desired result I was looking for, but also because I knew that I was being driven by my Drive. I was stuck in a circular movement that was giving me a kind of satisfaction, not because I was necessarily improving but because of the enjoyment created by the Drive itself.

Drive literally drives us – we are being driven by it. And in analysis we get to see where we are being driven so that we can move from Drive to Desire.

Desire is similar to Drive but there is an essential difference and it is something that we can almost feel. Drive has a connection to the body which is why it feels like we are being taken over by it. When we move from Drive to Desire we have the sense that there is more space in our minds and the pleasure and satisfaction is not so overbearingly intense.

In a way Desire is a little like the feeling that one looks for in meditation. But unlike meditation analysis acknowledges the idea that we are always in a dynamic structure of a movement towards something, something ultimately unobtainable.

It’s really important to know that there are certain things which we do that have an aim but no resolution. Hobbies are a good example. You might take up tennis or sailing but not with the intention of earning your living from it. Being paid for it would spoil the enjoyment. In some cases it can be devastating to reach a conclusion, or resolution. Someone might be dating online for years but then when they are confronted with the real person the desire disappears with disastrous consequences. In these cases what we really want is the desire of Desire itself


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