To crave or not to crave

It is quite likely that in the last hour you craved momentarily for something or someone or a feeling. It usually hits us out of the blue, sometimes lasting for one moment while at other times it lingers on. It could be a feeling of intense desire, it could be that sudden hunger for ice cream or it could be the strong urge to buy that phone.

Craving is defined as great or eager desire; yearning in Dictionary. Some of the common ways to describe a craving include using words like hunger, lust, urge, need etc. However I have been wondering on whether craving is a good thing or a bad thing.

Without getting into the metaphysical debate of what’s good or bad, I rather wanted to focus on what is our society’s reaction to craving. The answer as usual was a mixed bag. By default, and whenever the word craving is used directly, it is looked down upon. Have some self-control people tell us. But on the other hand there are all these advertisements asking us to give in.

Most commonly in the western world, the idea to happiness is to have things. If you want something, you should have the choice to get it or not. And then there are the sub-conscious themes that if you want something you deserve to have it. The right course of action, in these situations, is to fulfill the craving without calling it so. You may call it need or you may call it a reward but more often than not, we think it is okay to give in to craving. You want something, you buy it. You feel joy, you display it. Let your emotions out, buy more things if you can afford them. These are the most common choices and encouragements that you hear.

On the other hand, in some (if not all) eastern societies, it tends to be a little different. With globalization and rising income levels, it’s becoming very similar but still there is a slight difference on how you grow up. If you crave for something, usually you cannot have it even if you want to. Hence you train yourself to not want that much, or channel that craving into something else. Also you realize that feeling a lot is not encouraged. At most times you would not be encouraged to give into your emotional cravings but rather to control your thoughts and emotions.

That kind of brings me to the question: Is craving right or wrong? The follow up question would be: Should you act on your craving or not? I think the answer to first one is simpler. Craving exists and it happens. It happens to all of us. You can’t wish it away but you can re-condition your mind to not crave as much. So there is no right or wrong here. It is a fact of life and we need to accept it as such.

The second question is the one that keeps me awake at night. Am I right to act on craving or not? For me personally, I feel that craving is a form of survival instinct. You crave something because your brain tells you to take something / feel something without going through the process of rationalizing it. It saves you precious time to act without thinking. But our world today does not require the same survival instincts. In fact thinking before you act is the better decision in majority of the cases. So if you choose to act on craving, it can lead you into trouble. If you buy everything you had a craving for, you would soon run out of money or space or both. If you eat everything you crave for, you will soon destroy your body. If you act on every moment of lust, then you wouldn’t be able to form a lot of meaningful relationships.

So if I had to pick, I would say that think before you act on a craving. Consider the long term impact of each action you make. The more you act against the craving, the less it will happen to you into the future. This is because our brains are constantly learning and re-learning. The more you train it to not satisfy momentary desires, the better your brain is wired to consider your real needs and wants.

To crave is human I think. To act on every craving is not.

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