Note: I recognize that some hungers/cravings are not healthy, and can cause problems significant problems for the individual. This piece is not meant to advocate pursuing destructive urges. Also, you can learn more about mindful eating and identifying some of those other hungers here or at visit www.AmIHungry.com.
What are you hungry for?
If your first thought was about food, that would make sense. That’s our most recognized craving, and it’s generally what people mean when they say, “I’m hungry.”
But maybe you really want something else. After all, as the character of Famine said in an episode of Supernatural, “Hunger doesn’t just come from the body, it comes from the soul.”
Which is why, when Famine (i.e., one of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse) rolled into town, people didn’t only turn to food. In fact, it took a while for the main characters to sort out what was going on because the effects seemed so disconnected. People doing crazy things for love, drugs, alcohol, etc., as well as food.
Eventually Castiel, an angel, realized the truth when he started craving hamburgers – not the norm for a heavenly being.
Castiel: [This town is] suffering from hunger…, specifically famine.
Sam: I thought famine meant starvation, like, as in, you know, food.
Castiel: Yes, absolutely, but not just food. I mean everyone seems to be starving for something. Sex, attention, drugs, love.
And those are just the really obvious and extreme cravings. I often have other, more subtle hungers. Solitude, connection with others, beauty, music, laughter, a feeling that I’m doing something meaningful with my life, and more.
In reality, we all have these deeper hungers, although we may not always recognize them. We may instead turn to food, mistaking these other needs for an empty stomach.
In part, that’s because hunger for food is expected, normal, and therefore safe to admit. We all have to eat if we want to survive, and hunger is part of that package.
Admitting to other desires, though, is not always something we want to do, especially if they’re destructive. Even more benign urges, though, aren’t always easy to admit. For instance, telling people that you crave sex, or really want attention, may bring unhappy results. And after all, we don’t need those other things to survive, right?
But is it only about survival? What if we want to truly live?
For that, those other, non-destructive hungers may be just as necessary as the craving for food, and none of them should be overlooked.
Ignoring destructive urges can simply increase their power, whereas recognizing them may allow you to understand the drive behind it and address that underlying issue.
Ignoring more moderate desires isn’t much better, because then we run the risk of becoming like Dean (one of the main characters in Supernatural). He was immune to Famine’s presence, not because of any virtue or special nature, but because he had become dead inside. As a result, he no longer felt desire for anything.
But if we pay attention to our hunger, it can often lead us to find or rediscover what we truly love. Then, instead of having it become an overwhelming need, we can use it as a seasoning, making our lives richer, more vibrant and joyful.
So I ask again – what are you hungry for?