Everything That Distresses You: Desire vs. Attachment

What would you say if I told you, “Everything that distresses you is irrelevant”?

Distress, worry . . . irrelevant!? Most people are puzzled and annoyed by this proposition –– some folks get very angry! “How could I not be worried or distressed about being unemployed, becoming seriously ill, or experiencing a significant loss?”

I’ve found that our confusion about the needlessness of distress generally relates to four main issues. Here’s the first one.

1. Confusion about Desire vs. Attachment

I find many people believing themselves to be basically “sinners” think their desires are selfish and therefore wrong. Yet they can’t give them up so they feel distressed in the pursuit of them. Since they are wrong, they feel ashamed and guilty. Since they are selfish, they have to be covert and manipulative in their effort to satisfy them.  Very distressful orientations, indeed!

Consider this – it’s natural to have natural desires and to meet them with ease and self-respect. Natural desires arise from simply being alive – life desires what it wants to celebrate being alive. Respecting life, being grateful for life, means being respectful of and grateful for the guidance of natural healthy desires.

Therefore, desire is not the problem. Grasping at desires is the problem. Grasping is a problem because you can’t actually grasp a desire –– all you can really do is squeeze your guts. Squeezing your guts is the actual activity (to put it politely). What we think, what we hallucinate, is that when we do this we are grasping our desire. But it is the squeezing itself that is causing our distress!

If you succeed in recognizing when you’re engaged in the activity of squeezing, you can evaluate:

• How does squeezing my guts help me get my desire?


• How does squeezing my guts help me recover from not getting my desire?

It doesn’t, clearly! Enjoy the desire with ease if you meet it. If you don’t meet your desire, then –– with gratitude for a lesson learned –– you can move on to other desires (enjoyable pursuits). Either way, no squeezing required!


Learn about the other main causes of our distress and worry in Part 2 (Limited Self Concepts), Part 3 (Not Recognizing the Nature and Origin of Fearful Thinking, and Part 4 (Confusion about Cause and Effect, or Victim Mentality of this series.