11 votes How to know what you really want | From career choices to new purchases, use René Girard’s mimetic theory to resist the herd and forge your own path in life Posted December 21, 2021 by simplify Tags: philosophy, advice, rene girard, mimetic theory, desire, careers https://psyche.co/guides/how-to-know-what-you-really-want-and-be-free-from-mimetic-desire Link information This data is scraped automatically and may be incorrect. Title How to know what you really want | Psyche Guides Word count 1166 words 5 comments Collapse replies Expand all Comments sorted by most votes newest first order posted relevance OK  simplify (OP) December 21, 2021 Link I have pretty much always eschewed the herd mentality in my life, though I have had bouts of materialistic desire, mostly when I was earning good money in a professional job. During that time,... I have pretty much always eschewed the herd mentality in my life, though I have had bouts of materialistic desire, mostly when I was earning good money in a professional job. During that time, mimetic desire certainly affected me because I was around other people in a similar position as me, we would talk about this gadget or that gadget, and money was easy to toss around. The tech specs of whatever thing was being discussed mattered. But that life made someone like me miserable. I drank a lot of bourbon. Now that I've aged, I've better internalized the Buddhist idea that desire leads to suffering. I believe it because I experienced it. But unfortunately, even though I have very few desires in life (not because I "have it all"--far from it), I still feel like I'm vaguely suffering. I think it's now coming from my desire to want to be noticed for my art, which I also don't actually want. It's a strange dichotomy. It's an ingrained--yes, probably mimetic--idea of success that is hard for me to escape. I don't want fame at all, especially from a culture I generally abhor, but yet I'm still over here, writing away, hoping people read and enjoy my work. Does an author, by nature of their own ego that instructs them to write, demand to be noticed? In a previous version of myself, as an aspiring writer, I imagined myself as some literary figure. I wanted to write literary novels, novels that somehow mattered. But I experienced that life for a short time, and what I learned dashed my dreams out. Very few people actually read literary novels. Authors of literary novels also have to work other jobs, or they already come from money. When I hop on Amazon and look up the books written by my former instructors and old classmates (who, by the way, often came from wealth), I discover that the books don't sell and nobody reads them. Bummer. I write pulp fiction under a pen name and it not only gives me distance from any kind of personal notoriety--which I don't logically desire, I only want fame because of something ingrained in me from my youth--but it actually comes with a reliable readership. Yet I still desire to write something I can feel comfortable sharing with the world as myself, and I suffer because I'm write behind a pen name and my work isn't what people might expect of me. I like to think, in regards to the article, that my desires and my suffering are authentic rather than mimetic at this point. I think I've sufficiently "dropped out" enough and am weird enough that I'm not really mimicking anybody. But I don't know. It's an interesting article and an interesting personal thought experiment. 4 votes Omnicrola December 21, 2021 Link Parent It was a really interesting article, thanks for posting it. You do seem to have found yourself in a bit of a dilemma. On the one hand, you have found some level of success with your writing. On... It was a really interesting article, thanks for posting it. You do seem to have found yourself in a bit of a dilemma. On the one hand, you have found some level of success with your writing. On the other hand, since it is a pen name, it is perhaps unsatisfying and leaves your desires unfulfilled. Even though there is tacit approval in the form of sales, (and here I'm extrapolating and making several assumptions on your behalf, for which I apologize) you have perhaps not dropped all the barriers and been truly honest with your audience. To be able to say "this is mine, I did this" and engage with the feedback, good or bad. I don't know what to offer as a suggestion really, I'm not a writer and I don't actually know you as a person. 1 vote Gaywallet December 21, 2021 Link I'm not a jealous person and I'm not particularly interested in becoming a cool person in the eyes of others simply because I'm able to embody whatever they have externalized from society as... I'm not a jealous person and I'm not particularly interested in becoming a cool person in the eyes of others simply because I'm able to embody whatever they have externalized from society as desirable. Because of such, a lot of this article seems very common sense to me. We shouldn't chase after something because others are chasing after the same thing. I believe I've always been predisposed to challenge the norm because I am simply not the norm - a combination of my own neurodivergence and laissez-faire attitude towards much in life, not to mention alternative sexuality, gender expression, etc. I have, throughout my life, found myself fighting established systems simply because the very idea of tradition holding any water seems pointless to me. The world changes, constantly, and the idea that something is correct because other people before you decided it was correct seems somewhat shortsighted. Regular re-evaluation, I believe, is the key to success on many axes. With that being said, like all other humans, I do spend a lot of my time mimicking the behavior of others, adopting mannerisms, desires, and thoughts. While I understand the point of this article is to get people to start thinking critically about the origination of a desire, it felt somewhat shortsighted to me for the author to not spend some time focusing on how this can be a good thing. The focus is so heavily on that of a cautionary tale, an author who found themselves at the whims of society's values and chasing after or coveting things based on the people around them that they didn't really stop to consider how their desire to write this article was likely influenced by the same systems or to acknowledge that we can learn so, so much from others. Take a second and think about your most fulfilling hobby. Did you truly find it by yourself? Or were you introduced to it through a movie, a friend, an event, someone you looked up to, a book you chose to read, or some other social mechanism? Does that make the hobby any less fulfilling or useful? I believe the author spends a bit too much time focused on how it all can go awry or behaviors which are less than desirable, and not enough time on how it can all go right. When you are introduced to something new that you find yourself desiring, the immediate reaction doesn't need to be "is this mimetic? should I even really desire it?" While understanding the source of a desire can help, I would argue the vast majority of the time we can learn quite a bit by pursuing the desire for a little first. Dig into the desire and spend some time reading from others with the same desire - why are they doing it? What do they get out of it? Spend some time with your own thoughts - how would I feel if I leaned into this desire? Do I have the free time for this desire? Does this desire conflict with others? Would I need to take time or resources away from other desires? Can this desire help me to grow closer to those I love or will it push them away? We shouldn't necessarily be skeptical about a desire and approach it with a negative lens, so much as we should perhaps approach it with a lens of curiosity and reasonable restraint. Moderation seems perhaps the missing key that the author doesn't speak about - they give an example of buying DOGE because others are doing so meant to be an example of a clearly mimetic desire, but what of those who find investing interesting and instead of pumping their life savings into a gamble decide to utilize this interest to begin their journey of education and explore it through the a small acquisition of said coin to better understand the field and their own wants and needs? What about when your desires align with a mimetic one? And what to do when you find yourself a hipster, passionate about something before it became cool? Are either of these any less valid? The author touches on how values can shift from mimetic to not, but fails to adequately pin it to the consideration of a desire and the needs it appropriately or inappropriately addresses. A need or want can be fulfilled by a number of rotating mimetic desires that happen to provide what is desired - is this necessarily any worse than picking one of these needs or wants to follow so long as you're aware of what it's fulfilling? What if one of your core desires is that of novelty? And what of needs or wants that are social in nature - these tend to be experienced as mimetic because of their inherently social nature. If you have a desire to be respected amongst your peers, why would it be any less valuable to do so through a slightly more mimetic means? I believe that the person's sense of fulfillment of desires will increase when they understand the reason for the desire, but how mimetic it is can at times be purely a representation of the sum of human wants and desires in combination with the current environment, with a dash of chance. 3 votes HotPants December 21, 2021 Link The author is basically saying we should stop and evaluate if what we are pursuing will make us happy. But I think the author takes the example of his wife, and mimetic desires, too far. It's... The author is basically saying we should stop and evaluate if what we are pursuing will make us happy. But I think the author takes the example of his wife, and mimetic desires, too far. It's useful to stop and think if you really want to have that career. People often pick a field of study to make their parents happy. It's not useful to ask why you want to try something new. Just try it. Once you have tried it, you will know if you like it. I would argue, on the whole, mimetic desire is usually very good. If I only pursued my own natural desires, I would never get off the couch. I would rarely, in fact, even get out of bed. Seeing others do fun things, like traveling to Machu Picchu, makes me want to travel to Machu Picchu. And that is a really good thing. Every year, at around this time, I like to stop and think about what makes me happy, and if I have been spending my limited time on this earth wisely. If I am spending too much discretionary time on things that don't make me happy, and not enough time having fun or learning new things, I set myself some goals to get myself out of my comfort zone. Don't worry. Just do it. Then be happy. Or try something else. (This worked best when I was single with no dependents.) 3 votes simplify (OP) December 21, 2021 Link When it comes to understanding the mystery of desire, one contemporary thinker stands above all others: the French social theorist René Girard, a historian-turned-polymath who came to the United States shortly after the Second World War and taught at numerous US universities, including Johns Hopkins and Stanford. By the time he died in 2015, he had been named to the Académie Française and was considered one of the greatest minds of the 20th century. Girard realised one peculiar feature of desire: ‘We would like our desires to come from our deepest selves, our personal depths,’ he said, ‘but if it did, it would not be desire. Desire is always for something we feel we lack.’ Girard noted that desire is not, as we often imagine it, something that we ourselves fully control. It is not something that we can generate or manufacture on our own. It is largely the product of a social process. ‘Man is the creature who does not know what to desire,’ wrote Girard, ‘and he turns to others in order to make up his mind.’ He called this mimetic, or imitative, desire. Mimesis comes from the Greek word for ‘imitation’, which is the root of the English word ‘mimic’. Mimetic desires are the desires that we mimic from the people and culture around us. If I perceive some career or lifestyle or vacation as good, it’s because someone else has modelled it in such a way that it appears good to me.