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The Mastery Of Desire

Manifest Your Desires Effortlessly

The Mastery of Desire does not mean (as some suppose) the "killing out" of all Desire. In fact, as all careful students of the subject well know, it would be impossible to kill out all Desire, for the very act of "killing out" would be actually, itself, a response to a desire—a desire not to desire, as it were. Mastery of Desire really means the control, management, and direction of Desire by the Ego. The Ego may decide that a certain set of desires be repressed, or shut off, and prevented from expression in action or thought. Again, it may decide that certain desires be encouraged, cultivated, and stimulated, so that they may be able to exert a greater pressure and power in expression in thought and action. And, finally, it may decide to direct into a certain channel the force of a certain desire, so that some particular action may receive its concentrated and firmly directed power. In all of these cases, the Ego manifests Mastery of Desire.

In beginning the study of the Mastery of Desire, however, we must, of course, begin with the subject of the handling, direction, culture and control of the Feelings and Emotions, for these are the "stuff" of which Desire is made. The Ego must learn how to manufacture certain grades and kinds of Feeling and Emotion into Desire, and at the same time to discard and throw into the "scrap pile" other kinds of Feelings and Emotions which would make only the wrong kind of Desire.

How to Restrain Feelings, Emotions, or Desires

The general rules for the restraint of any class of feelings, emotions, and the desires arising therefrom, are as follows:

1. Refrain as far as possible from the physical expression of the feeling, or emotion, or the desire arising therefrom, which are deemed objectionable.

2. Refuse to permit the formation of the habit of expressing in action the feeling, or emotion, or the desire arising therefrom, which are deemed objectionable.

3. Refuse to dwell upon the idea or mental picture of the object or subject exciting the feeling, or emotion, or the desire arising therefrom, which are deemed objectionable.

4. Cultivate the class of feelings or emotions, or the desires arising therefrom, which are opposed to those deemed objectionable.

Let us now consider each one of these rules in further detail.

1. Refrain from the Physical Expression. A strong feeling or emotion, and the desire arising therefrom, tends toward expression in physical action of some kind. In fact, the feeling is said not to have been fully manifested unless this outward expression is had in at least some degree. This being so, it is seen that if one refrains from the physical expression he has done something to prevent the full manifestation of the feeling.

So closely are the two—feelings and their physical expression—connected, that some psychologists have, actually held that the physical expression precedes and practically causes the mental state of feeling. This, however, is not the commonly accepted view, the latter being that the mental state precedes and causes the physical expression. One has but to experience the feeling of anger to know that the same is accompanied by a faster beating of the heart, a tight pressing-together of the lips, a frowning brow, narrowed eyes, and clenched fists, and a raised voice. Likewise, one who has experienced the emotion of fear knows how his jaw dropped, his legs trembled, his eye opened widely, etc. But few realize that if the man who begins to feel the rise of the feeling of anger will but positively refuse to press his lips together, to frown, to narrow his eyes, to clench his fists—and, above all, to raise his voice—he will find that the feeling of anger will cease to increase, and that in fact it will gradually die away and disappear.

Some men in important positions make it an invariable rule to maintain an even, low tone of voice when they are threatened with a rush of angry feeling—they have found that such a plan prevents them from "flying into a rage," and enables them to "keep their temper," even under the most trying circumstances. And, in passing, it may be said that such a course will often result in the other person to the quarrel also lowering his voice, and abating his angry feeling.

A writer says: "There is a mutual action and reaction between emotional mental states and the physical expression thereof; each in a measure being the cause of the other, and each at the same time being the effect of the other. For instance: in the case of anger, the object causing the feeling tends to produce, almost simultaneously, the emotional state of anger and the several physical manifestations which usually accompany that state. There then occurs a series of mental and physical reactions. The mental state acts upon the physical expression and intensifies it. The physical expression in turn reacts upon the mental state, and induces a more intense degree of emotional feeling. And so on, each acting and reacting upon the other, until mental state and physical expression reach their highest point and then begin to subside from exhaustion of energy. It is an established fact of psychology that each physical expression of an emotion serves to intensify the latter—it is like pouring oil upon the fire. Likewise, it is equally true that the repression of the physical expression of an emotion tends to restrain and inhibit the emotion itself."

Another writer says: "If we watch a person growing angry, we shall see the emotion increase as he talks loud, frowns deeply, clinches his fist, and gesticulates wildly. Each expression of his passion is reflected back upon the original anger and adds fuel to the fire. If he resolutely inhibits the muscular expressions of his anger, it will not attain great intensity, and it will soon die a quiet death. Not without reason are those persons called cold-blooded who habitually restrain as far as possible the expression of their emotion; who never frown or throw any feeling into their tones, even when a wrong inflicted upon someone demands aggressive measures. There is here no wave of bodily expression to flow back and augment the emotional state."

The last quoted writer also says: "Actors have frequently testified to the fact that emotion will arise if they go through the appropriate muscular movements. In talking to actors on the stage, if they clinch the fists and frown, they often find themselves becoming really angry; if they start with counterfeit laughter, they find themselves growing cheerful. A German professor says that he cannot watch a schoolgirl's mincing step and air without feeling frivolous." Another writer, a famous psychologist, said: "Refuse to express a passion, and it dies. Count ten before venting your anger, and its occasion seems ridiculous. Whistling to keep up courage is no mere figure of speech. On the other hand, sit all day in a moping posture, sigh and reply to everything with a dismal voice, and your melancholy lingers. There is no more valuable precept in moral education than this, as all who have experience know: If we wish to conquer undesirable emotional tendencies in ourselves, we must assiduously, and in the first instance cold-bloodedly, go through the outward movements of those contrary dispositions which we wish to cultivate. Soothe the brow, brighten the eye, contract the dorsal rather than the ventral aspect of the frame, and speak in a major key, and your heart must be frigid indeed if it does not gradually thaw."

The essence, then, of the above is: Refrain so far as is possible from indulging in the physical expression of a feeling, emotion, or desire which you wish to conquer, control, and repress.

2. Refuse to Form the Habit of Expression in Action. Habits build a mental path over which the Will thereafter travels. Or, to use another figure of speech, Habit cuts a channel, through which the Will afterward flows. When you express a feeling, emotion, or desire in action you begin to form a habit; when you express it the second time the habit takes on force; and so on, each repetition widening the mental path, or deepening the mental channel over which it is easy for subsequent action to travel. The oftener the feeling, emotion, or desire travels this path of action, the stronger does it become. Habit is like the lion-cub, which while perfectly harmless when a cub, eventually grows so strong as to destroy its former master.

Refuse to give the disadvantageous feeling the exercise which it requires to promote its growth—for feelings grow and gain strength by exercise. Instead, starve it to death by refusing it the food of expression, and in time it will droop and die. Habit is a fine servant, but a poor master.

The essence, then, of the above is: Don't get into the habit of expressing in action a feeling, emotion, or desire which you wish to conquer, control, and repress.

3. Refuse to Dwell upon the Idea or Mental Picture. This rule is based upon the accepted fact of psychology that Feeling, Emotion, and Desire are fed, nourished, and strengthened by the representative idea, or mental image of the object or subject which has originally inspired them, or which is associated with that object or subject. Feelings are often caused by an idea, resulting from the process of thought or recalled in memory. Likewise they are deepened and strengthened by the recalling into consciousness of such ideas. In the same way, they are fed and nourished by ideas connected with the original object or subject by the ties of association.

A writer has said: "Feelings may be caused by an idea. The remembrance of an insult, of an act of unkindness, of a wrong done, may cause acute feeling. The memory of his dead mother's face caused the stolid Nero pain. There may be no immediately preceding change in the sense organ when an idea flashes into the mind, but the feeling may be just as pronounced as if it were. Shakespeare classified the feelings as (a) the sensuous, and (b) the ideal, when he represented the pain inflicted by the wintry wind as less severe than the memory of man's ingratitude. The ideal feelings, however, rest indirectly upon sensory foundations. A representative idea is a revived sensation, or a complex of revived sensations. Some ideas cause a joyful, others a sorrowful mental state; accordingly feelings differ qualitatively according to the idea. Our feelings also differ quantitatively according as the idea has a more or less pleasurable or painful element"

The same writer says: "The idea of a glass of water when one is not thirsty will have little effect. The mental image of a glass of strong drink may raise intense desire in the case of a drunkard. The prospect of the loss of a limb or of one's eyesight will cause strong emotions in any instance. The rapidity of the rise of an internally initiated emotion will be due to the amount of pleasure or pain, immediate or remote, which the idea suggests. As attention declines, the idea grows weaker, and the emotion begins to subside. Any idea which suggests gratification of desire, any idea which vividly pictures something affecting the welfare of the self or others, is apt to be followed by emotion. Probably no one can even imagine a person in a burning car, or lying helpless with broken limbs on a lonely road, without feeling the emotion of pity arise. To repress certain trains of feeling, repress the ideas that give them birth. This will have a restraining power, even where the emotional state tends to bring up a consonant idea, just as a fire may suggest the idea of putting fuel on it."

To sum up: Inasmuch as it is a psychological fact that ideas not only cause feelings, emotions, and desires, but also tend to revive the same, and to deepen, strengthen and nourish them, it follows that if one wishes to inhibit, repress or weaken any disadvantageous feeling, emotion, or desire, he should studiously and insistently refrain from allowing his attention to dwell upon the ideas tending to arouse or stimulate such feelings, emotions, or desires. He should refuse to feed the feeling, emotion or desire with the nourishing food of associated ideas. Instead he should set to work to starve out the objectionable feeling, emotion, or desire by refusing it the mental food needed for its nourishment and growth.

The essence, then, of the above is: "Don't feed a feeling, emotion, or desire with the nourishing and stimulating food of associated ideas; but, instead, starve out the objectionable thing by denying and refusing it such food.

4. Cultivate the Opposite. It is a law of psychology that one set of feelings, emotions, or desires may be weakened, repressed, and controlled by a careful and determined cultivation of the opposite set of feelings, emotions, or desires. Every mental state in the emotional field has its opposite state. The two states are antagonistic, and each tends to annihilate the other. The two cannot exist together at the same time and place. One cannot feel happy and miserable at the same time and place. Consequently, there is always a struggle between opposing sets of mental states if both sets have obtained a lodgment in the mental field of the individual. Everyone will readily see when the matter is thus presented to him, that if the individual, by means of the will, will throw the weight of his attention into the side of the balance in which rests the preferred set of feelings, emotions, or desires, the victory will be won for that side.

It is true that one, by a continued series of acts of sheer will, may be able to directly "kill out" an objectionable mental state of this kind—but the effort is a tremendous one, and one which is beyond the power of most persons. But, by the Cultivation of the Opposites, the person takes advantage of the fight already under way between the two opposing emotional armies, and instead of fighting the battle all alone by a frontal attack, he forms an alliance with the friendly army, and throws the weight of his own will in its favor—he brings up a powerful reserve force, with men, equipment, ammunition, and supplies, and thus gives to the friendly army an enormously increased advantage. One has but to consider the matter in this light, in order to see that this is the best, easiest, and quickest way to conquer the objectionable mental army.

The above statement is based upon the acknowledged psychological fact which is expressed in the axiom that: "To develop a positive quality, it is important to restrain or inhibit its opposing negative; to restrain or inhibit a negative quality, develop and encourage its opposing positive.'' In this axiom is contained in condensed form a whole philosophy of character-building and self-improvement. Its very simplicity causes many to fail to perceive its universal application and absolute truth. "We advise each of you to commit the said axiom to memory, and to "use it in your business" of self-development and Mental Mastery.

The essence, then, of the above is: Cultivate the opposite set of feelings, emotions, and desires, and thus restrain, suppress, inhibit, and master the set you wish to overcome and conquer.

[Note: The feelings, emotions, and desire may be cultivated by reversing the above rules given for their suppression. In the remaining pages of this chapter, moreover, specific directions for such cultivation are given. Accordingly, this last rule must he studied in connection with the further instruction given for the cultivation of the feelings, emotions, and desires.]

How to Cultivate the Feelings, Emotions, or Desires

While we might rest content to say, regarding the Cultivation of the Feelings, Emotions, and Desires, "merely reverse the rules given for the repression thereof," we have thought it better to emphasize the positive as well as the negative phases of the Mastery of Emotions, even though we may seem to be traveling over ground already covered. At the last, one always finds the positive phase the best one to apply in practice. "While we have thought it well to give the "Don't" side careful attention, because so many need it, yet, at the same time, we personally, prefer the "Do" side in imparting instruction on this subject.

Here follow the general rules for the Cultivation, Development, and Strengthening of the Power of Feelings, Emotions, and Desires:

1. Frequently express, mentally and physically, the feeling, emotion, or desire which you wish to cultivate, develop, and strengthen.

2. Form the habit of expressing in action the feeling, emotion, or desire which you wish to cultivate, develop, or strengthen.

3. Keep before you as much as possible the idea or mental image associated with the feeling, emotion, or desire which you wish to cultivate, develop or strengthen.

4. Restrain the classes of feelings, emotions, and desires opposed to those which you wish to cultivate, develop, or strengthen.

Let us now consider each one of these rules in further detail.

1. Frequently express the positive feelings, emotions, and desires. As we have seen in the earlier part of this chapter, a feeling, emotion, or desire, is developed by the physical expression thereof, and also by the frequent repetition of the same in consciousness. The expression of the outward physical manifestations of the inner state tends not only to add fuel to the fire of the latter, but also nourishes and strengthens it. Likewise, the frequent bringing into the field of consciousness of the feeling, emotion, or desire tends to deepen the impression, and to cause the mental state to take deep roots in the mental being of the individual.

Exercise and practice develops the emotional muscles, just as they do the physical muscles. Repetition is a potent factor in forming and strengthening mental impressions, and in the cultivation of the mental habits. Consequently, lose no fit opportunity of exercising and using the feeling, emotion, or desire that you wish to cultivate and develop. Put it through its paces on the mental track. Not only frequently bring it up into the field of consciousness by means of the fixing the attention upon the associated ideas and mental images connected with it, but also express the inner feeling in the appropriate physical expressions. If you wish to be courageous, bring up often the idea of courage, and endeavor to feel its thrill through you; and at the same time, deliberately assume the physical attitude of courage. Think of yourself as the courageous individual, and try to walk, carry yourself, and in general act like that individual. Form the correct mental picture, and then endeavor to act it out.

The idea of the physical expression is well illustrated by the following quotation from a writer on the subject, who says:

"Get control of your physical channels of expression, and master the physical expression connected with the mental state you are trying to develop. For instance, if you are trying to develop your will along the lines of Self-Reliance, Confidence, Fearlessness, etc., the first thing for you to do is to get a perfect control of the muscles by which the physical manifestations or expressions of those feelings are shown. Get control of the muscles of your shoulders, that you may throw them back manfully. Look out for the stooping attitude of lack of confidence. Then get control of the muscles by which you hold up your head, with eyes front, gazing the world fearlessly in the face. Get control of the muscles of the legs by which you will be enabled to walk firmly as the positive man should. Get control of your vocal organs, by which you may speak in the resonant, vibrant tones which compel attention and inspire respect. Get yourself well in hand physically, in order to manifest these outward forms of will, and you will clear a path for your mind-power to manifest itself—and will make the work of the will much easier.''

But one must not content himself with merely experiencing the mental state, and "acting out" the physical expression. Important as these may be (and they really are very important), they must be supplemented by the actual manifestation in outward form of the inner mental state which you wish to cultivate and develop. The man referred to in the above quotation must learn to occasionally actually perform some act requiring physical or moral courage. He must exercise his mental state and will by actual use. Grow by expression and action. Do the deeds, and you will acquire the power to do still greater.

The essence, then, of the above is: Express frequently, mentally and physically, in "acting out" and actual doing, the feeling, emotion, and desire which you wish to cultivate and develop.

2. Acquire the Habit of Expression. By acquiring the Habit of Expression of the feeling, emotion, or desire which you may wish to cultivate and develop, you make a mental path or channel over which the will naturally and easily travel. Habit renders the expression "second nature." Habit is formed by exercise and repetition. Every time you express a mental state, the easier does it become to express it again, for you have started the formation of a habit. Habit is a form of mental impression, and the oftener you sink the die of action into the soft wax of the mind, the deeper will be the impression. Ease of performance increases with habit, the latter becoming "second nature." When a habit is built, it will constitute the "line of least resistance" for you, and you will find it easy to move in that direction, and hard to move in the opposite one.

The hardest work in the voluntary establishment of an emotional habit is at the beginning. This period requires the greatest determination and "stick-to-itiveness." Here you must fight with all your might, but, the first battle once won, the after-fights are less severe, and finally degenerate into mere skirmishes. Let one endeavor to establish the habit of not-smoking or not-drinking, for instance, and he will find that three-quarters of the entire struggle will be condensed in the fight of the first week, if not indeed in that of the first day. It is hard to get started. Remember old Rip Van Winkle, who never could get started—he was always saying: "Well this drink don't count" Beware of the slips at the start, for such slips lose more for one than he can regain in a whole day of success. After you have determined to establish a habit, you must not allow even one of those early slips, for this reason. A writer has said that such slips are like the dropping of a ball of cord which one is endeavoring to wind— each drop of the ball unwinds more than many windings can replace.

The essence, then of the above is: Establish firmly the habit of expressing in action the feeling, emotion, or desire which you wish to cultivate and develop.

3. Visualize the Associated Subject or Object. It is an established principle of psychology that the mental picture of the object or subject of a feeling, emotion, or desire, when held before the mind, tends to add force, power, and vitality to the emotional state representing it. And the stronger, deeper, clearer, and more frequently repeated such a mental picture is, the stronger, deeper, and more does the emotional mental state associated with it tend to become. Feelings, emotions, and desires are fed by ideas—and the strongest kind of ideas are those taking form in clear mental pictures of the imagination or memory.

A writer has said: "The clearer the mental image of the object of desire, the greater will be the degree of desire, all else being equal. A child may be filled with discontent—it wants something, but it does not know what it wants. The child thinks of 'toys'—and it begins to want still harder. Then it sees a toy—and then its want becomes very intense. One may feel hungry, in a degree, but when he sees some particular object of taste the hunger becomes far more intense. And so it follows that if one will keep on presenting to his desire the suggestion and mental image of the object, then will the desire begin to burn more fiercely and strongly, and may be cultivated to almost any degree.

You know one may awaken desire in another in this way, by means of suggestion, and by presenting the idea or mental image of the object in conversation, or by means of pictures, etc. How many of us know to our sorrow how the "sight" of a thing of which we were not thinking at the moment has caused the fire of desire to spring up suddenly and fiercely in our minds. Therefore, visualize the object or subject of the desire you wish to develop, until you can see it quite plainly. Also visualize yourself as attaining the object of the desire, and being in possession of it. Keep this mental image with you, for it has a wonderfully stimulating effect upon the desire. Keep your mind filled with mental pictures of the thing which you wish to become a habit with you, for by so doing you are constantly adding oil to the flame of desire—and desire is the motive-power of the will."

The essence, then, of the above is: Feed your mind with the ideas, and mental pictures, of the object or subject of the feeling, emotion, or desire which you wish to cultivate and develop.

4. Restrain and Suppress the Opposites. As we have seen elsewhere in this chapter, the development of an opposite set of feelings, emotions, or desires tends to restrain, suppress, and eventually destroy any particular set of these mental states. Contrariwise, it follows that if we will studiously and determinedly restrain and suppress (by the methods already given in this chapter) the feelings, emotions, and desires opposed to those which we wish to cultivate and develop, then will the favored ones be given the best possible opportunity to nourish, grow, develop, and wax strong and vigorous. Regard the opposing set as weeds, which is allowed to grow will choke and weaken, or possibly even kill, your favorite valuable plants. And you know what you should do in such a case, of course: carefully and determinedly weed out the harmful growths—pluck them up by the roots, and cast them out of your mental garden the moment they manifest an appearance.

By resolutely refusing to permit the growth of the objectionable emotional weeds of the "opposites" in your mental garden, you greatly promote the growth of the valuable plants and fruits which you wish to cultivate and develop. Remember, there is not room in the mental garden for both of the two opposing sets of emotional qualities to thrive and flourish. It is "up to you" to determine which ones shall be the victors— which ones shall be the "fittest" to survive. The "fittest" in such cases is not always the best—rather is the one which you strengthen, stimulate, and feed, by the methods mentioned herein, or similar ones based on the same principles; and which you have protected by destroying its "opposite."

It is for each and every one of you to make the decision—and the sooner the better. The question before you is: "Shall my emotional garden bear thriving weeds, noxious and poisonous to my well-being? Or shall it, instead, bear a crop of sturdy, strong and vigorous plants and fruits, which are conducive to my well-being, strength, efficiency, and ultimate happiness? It is "up to you" to decide—and then to act.

The essence, then, of the above is: Pluck out and cast off the emotional weeds—the opposites of the feelings, emotions, and desires which you wish to cultivate.


It may not have occurred to the reader of the preceding pages of this chapter that in cultivating and developing the positive feelings, emotions, and desires, and in restraining and repressing the negative ones, he is really performing an important work in the direction of Character-Building. But it is a fact that in this work he is really performing the basic task of the building-up of his character.

We have seen that a man's feelings, emotions, and desires really constitute the motive-power which operates in the direction of determining the character and nature of his thoughts and actions. This being so, it is seen at once that in the emotional realm of mind is to be found the principal material of that which we call Character. Therefore, in the selection and storing-up of this basic material the man really has proceeded far in the direction of Character Building.

A man's "character" is composed of his mental qualities; and his mental qualities are largely determined by the nature, quality, and quantity of his emotional factors. The work of Character Building most always begin by the Mastery of Emotion, and this mastery is attained along the lines of control, development, stimulation, direction, and cultivation similar to those indicated in this chapter.

The person wishing to scientifically build-up his character should begin by making a list of his positive and negative qualities, placing the positive qualities in one list and the negative qualities in another list. He should be honest with himself in going over this list, and should not hesitate to mark down the qualities manifest in himself which are clearly negative and disadvantageous. Nor should he let modesty prevent his marking down those qualities possessed by himself which rightfully may be called positive and advantageous. The man should be thoroughly honest in this mental stocktaking.

Having made this mental diagnosis and inventory, the person should then set deliberately to work in the direction of repressing and restraining the negative and disadvantageous qualities found on his list, in which task he should follow some such system or method as that laid down for him in this chapter. At the same time he should pay some attention to the strengthening and stimulation of the positive and advantageous qualities found on the list. In repressing and restraining the negative and disadvantageous qualities, he should not neglect to put into effect the rule therefore which teaches how to develop the "opposites" of the negative qualities; by doing this the weeds are not only rooted out, but strong healthy valuable plants and fruits are developed in their place.

The result of such exercise, practice and work, faithfully and determinedly followed for even a short time, will be very gratifying to those making the effort; many will be surprised at the decided improvement noted. And, as we shall see as we proceed, the encouragement and development of certain kinds of desire will increase the willpower of the person so that we may make great progress in his intellectual development also. And, in this work he will have enormously developed his willpower, by exercise, use, and directed and concentrated attention.

The task of Character Building is one quite worthy for performance by the Master Mind. In fact, it is one of the first things that the developing and awakening Master Mind—the Ego—should proceed to undertake and successfully carry to a conclusion. The Master Mind can build up a character to suit its tastes and highest ambitions— providing that it will take the trouble to do so; and if it is a real Master Mind, it will take the trouble, for this end justifies the work and effort required to attain it.