‘I feel lust is an extremely misunderstood emotion.’ When my friend said this, I couldn’t help thinking about lust. I never even saw it as an ‘emotion’. When I hear the word lust, the instant image that comes to mind is something that’s dirty, dark and disrespectful. And that’s because my mind has been conditioned to believe so. That made me, as a creature of habit, dig deeper into the philosophy of lust and understand what it actually means to me beyond the superficial notions and ideologies.
Come to think of it, if you welcome lust from another person, it translates into passion. But if you do not, you label it as perverse and disdainful. Like most of the emotions, lust is complicated. We tend to ignore the power of this emotion and focus on the side that we have learnt or imbibed from our surroundings.
Lust is a potent emotion. If we pay attention, lust can tell us a lot many things about ourselves. Well, I have been lusting after my Zumba trainer for weeks now. While I follow his rhythm in the studio, I cannot keep my eyes off his perfect lean and athletic body. Broad shoulders, slim waist, those sexy calves and to top it all, his infectious smile. By the time he’s covered in sweat, I am gasping for breath. And just yesterday, he caught me staring at him; I lost my balance and hit the sidewall. I realized I was blushing like a teenager!
What did I do about this lustful feeling? Nothing. When the storm passed, I tried to look within. I have always been an impulsive woman but now I exercise caution and use my consciousness to not give in to the momentary lapses of reason that are impulses. I realized that the lust was more for the touch and warmth of a man than anything else. I miss the attention and security at times. It isn’t a mere urge that can be satisfied by a sexual encounter. I lust after intimacy and connection.
The concept of good and bad, sin and virtues exist to direct human behaviour in a direction that establishes order and reduces chaos. Imagine a world where every single being on the planet begins to act on their impulses. The chaos is unimaginable and it wouldn’t take long for us to wipe each other off the face of the earth. Lust, too, is portrayed as a sin in most of the ancient scriptures. Krishna, in Bhagavad-Gita, tells Arjuna that lust is the root of most evil and man should rid oneself of it. Budhha propounded that lust or craving is the reason for our suffering. The reason being when we crave for an object or a person, we are obsessed with their thoughts. If we attain the desired object or person, we worry about losing them, and if we do not get them, we burn in the fire of craving, worrying about what’s wrong with us. We are never at peace.
Lust, like sexual desire, is a life force. It’s not possible to quench this animalistic desire with the snap of a finger but it sure can be redirected.
If you are in a relationship and you feel lust for your partner, you can express it in multiple ways you want. But what if you lust after another person than your partner? It’s only natural and normal to lust after other people or objects of desire. However, we are blessed with cognitive and discretionary abilities to decide what’s better for us in the long run. If you deceive your partner, how would you feel later? How would you feel if your partner does the same to you?
What if you cannot have the object or person you lust after? Here’s where you need to pause and reflect. Instead of giving in to the obsessive thoughts, you need to ask yourself if you are lacking something in you or your relationship. Or if you miss something in your life or partner that you seek in others. Is it just a physical attraction you feel for the other person or it is something you’d want to invest in? The answers to these questions would provide you with insights about yourself and your life. It’s better to be the mature adult that we are than act mindlessly on an impulse, only to regret later.
As Dr Neel Burton sums it in his article on The Philosophy of Lust, ‘So long as one is willing to learn, lust can be its own cure’.