“What are you tired of feeling? What would you love to never feel again?”
This is Danielle LaPorte’s introduction to “The Desire Map,” which she describes as a “multimedia guide to what you want the most.”
“Knowing how you actually want to feel is the most potent form of clarity that you can have,” LaPorte adds. “Generating those feelings is the most powerfully creative thing you can do with your life.”
LaPorte’s ideas are not unusual. In fact, they point to a core premise of many spirituality and self-help books—the idea that happiness means feeling good.
To be fair, I have not done The Desire Map. So, I cannot offer an informed opinion about LaPorte’s program.
Still, I urge you to think critically about the invitation to The Desire Map—and any teaching with a similar premise.
What if trying to feel good is the real problem?
One of the world’s great spiritual teachers pinpointed attachment to desire—the quest to continually feel good—as the root cause of human suffering. That person was the Buddha, and his teachings have been vetted by practitioners across the world for over two millennia.
More recently, the new wave of cognitive-behavioral psychotherapies—backed by a growing body of research—echoes the Buddha’s insight.
In his masterful overview of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Russ Harris makes this point:
In general, clients come to therapy with an agenda of emotional control. They want to get rid of their depression, anxiety, urges to drink, traumatic memories, low self-esteem, fear of rejection, anger, grief and so on. In ACT, there is no attempt to try to reduce, change, avoid, suppress, or control these private experiences. Instead, clients learn to reduce the impact and influence of unwanted thoughts and feelings, through the effective use of mindfulness. Clients learn to stop fighting with their private experiences—to open up to them, make room for them, and allow them to come and go without a struggle.
ACT is based on the clinical observation that emotional control backfires. In fact, emotions—like the weather—are inherently uncontrollable. From this perspective, you might as well try to stop a hurricane by shaking a stick at it.
Harris and other ACT practitioners describe happiness as defining your values and aligning your actions—while accepting whatever you feel in the moment.
How shall we live?
So here we have two contrasting visions of human well-being—emotional control versus emotional acceptance and values-based action.
This is not just an interesting ambiguity. It is a stark and genuine contradiction—one that leaves us with a high-stakes choice about how to live.
And by psychotherapist Bobbi Emel: