“I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”: Our Yearnings
“I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” is a pop song of enduring popularity. Released by U2 in 1987, it resonates powerfully, even now.
The phrase “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for” seems to strike a chord with many people in our era. For many of us, there is a sense of feeling deeply unfulfilled, and of looking restlessly to find what can meet the need. There’s a strong sense that there’s something, right now outside of our reach, that we need to quench a kind of thirst in our soul.
In our culture, advertisers are constantly using our deepest yearnings to try to motivate us to purchase their wares. What lurks behind many advertisements is the subtly implied promise that the advertised product will bring us the kind of love that we really want and need. Other advertisers implicitly offer the sublime peak experiences we’ve been waiting for all of our lives. Yet others quietly offer us the sense of inclusion and belonging that we’ve always sought. The phantom offering of other products is just plain old ageless immortality!
However, make no mistake. All of these beckoning offers are playing deeply on the sense that some kind of fulfillment is missing, i.e., “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for”.
What Exactly Are We Looking For?
One quick answer to that question is that we’re actually not all looking for the same thing. In fact the thing that we yearn for most deeply is probably highly individual. Also, a Jungian perspective suggests that there is also a large unconscious component to what we’re looking for. Our ego, what we normally think of as “I”, may not completely know what we’re really after. But that doesn’t mean that we’re not deeply yearning for something.
It may seem hard to get a fix on what we really yearn for. It may seem incredibly elusive. In the words of the Sufi poet and mystic Rumi,
Longing is the core of mystery.
It would seem that he’s right. And his insight complements that of Jung:
The fact is that each person has to do something different, something that is uniquely [her or his] own.
C. G. Jung Man and His Symbols
The humanistic psychologist Abraham Maslow states something very similar, in slightly more homey language:
If you plan on being anything less than you are capable of being, you will probably be unhappy all the days of your life.
Our yearning is a mysterious and very individual thing. It moves us to discover and explore aspects of ourselves of which we were previously unaware. We need our yearning: it leads us into life.
Jung clearly asserted that yearning is what spurs the great artists of the world to make their monumental creations. He also saw yearning as enabling each of us to create the unique masterpiece that is our individual life.
What If We Ignore Our Yearnings?
Now, we don’t have to pay attention to our yearnings. We can often just ignore them. But what happens when we do?
We may be able to choose to simply focus on the needful things of every day life without awareness of any greater desire for fulfillment. We might even tell ourselves that it’s virtuous to ignore our “frivolous wishing”. That we should just get on with the business of humdrum life. Suppose we’re successful in completely repressing the sense that “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.” What then?.
If we are successful in driving out our yearning and our spontaneity, we are probably also driving out our individuality. We are probably also courting depression and anxiety. Huston Smith, the famous scholar of comparative religion, put it this way:
With mind distracted, never thinking, “Death is coming.”To slave away on the pointless business of mundane life, And then to come out empty—it is a tragic error.
Huston Smith, trans. Robert Thurman
The weight of this tragedy may already be felt by the time we start to undergo the midlife transition.
We may not have found what we’re looking for, yet. But our yearning is one of the most profoundly human things about us.
The Unconscious Side of Our Yearnings
Much of our sense of yearning or lack of fulfillment may have to do with aspects of ourselves of which we are only partially conscious, or perhaps entirely unconscious. It may be important to explore that part of ourselves that feels that “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for” There may well be treasures of self-knowledge at the root of that yearning. There may be a source of deep meaning for our individual lives.
It may be of great importance to work with a supportive Jungian analyst or /a-midlife-transition
Wishing you every good thing on your personal journey.
© 2023 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario