Mastering Appetites and Desires

I’ve been posting on the “10 commandments” of sound character development. Experience has taught me we need to embrace the principles embodied in these commandments to become psychologically well-adjusted. The “fifth commandment” addresses perhaps the single most important of those principles. It involves subjugating our hard-wired thirst for pleasure to the great cause of life itself. To be of good character, we must become master of our appetites and aversions, our likes and dislikes. We must become master of instead of slave to what has been commonly called the “pleasure principle.”

Two Driving Forces

We have two great drives within us: 1) the pleasure-seeking drive and 2) the drive to thrive (i.e., to live and prosper). From birth, we’re primarily aligned with the pleasure-seeking drive. And the vast majority of us remain aligned with this pleasure principle for most, if not all of our lives. When we leave the comfort of the womb and are thrust out into the cold, cruel world, we’re generally not too happy. So, we actually start out in fear of life itself.  That is, of course, until we get our first taste of pleasure. But once we’ve grown accustomed to savoring life’s pleasures, we live in fear of death unless our pain becomes too great.

Although we’re innately aligned with the pleasure principle, we have the power to live on a higher plane. But to do that we have to subordinate our desire to please ourselves for the good of all and, hence, for the advancement of life itself. This is the fifth “commandment” of developing good character.

Living Beyond the Pleasure Principle

No one can serve two masters. We must always subordinate one of our two main drives to the other. Pursuing pleasure for its own sake and in an unbridled way (i.e. hedonism) always leads to psychological ill-health and spiritual death. One reason for that is that our appetites can never be fully and consistently satisfied. It always takes more the next time around to make us content. But we can rise above living life merely on the pleasure principle. And for most of us, that means being truly born again in spirit (not just the words of religious zealots!). We have to refashion our lives on a different operating principle. To cherish and advance life and to put that quest above what might or might not please us: that’s the mark of genuine character.

The Dilemma of the Character-Impaired

Over the years I’ve been impressed how debased and tragic a life can be when a person has become a slave to their desires. Some character-disturbed individuals are constantly “chasing highs.” They’re forever pursuing their next turn-on. And they also refuse to be burdened or suffer in any way, especially on another’s behalf. When they encounter hardship, pain, or loss they can become angry and bitter, empty, or even depressed. After all, they tend to expect (i.e. feel “entitled” to) so much more.

We live in an age of rampant hedonism, gluttony, instant gratification, and narcissism. Excess is the norm. And there’s also little tolerance for hardship. So, it’s harder than ever for people to recognize the value of controlling their appetites, let alone commit themselves to doing so.  But making the choice to live life on a very different principle from that with which we are aligned from birth is the all-important first step toward an emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually healthy existence.

A Noble Calling

We’re all called to the noble cause of nurturing life. And we’re the only creatures who can answer this call freely and voluntarily. We’re meant to survive and prosper, not to be pampered or indulged. Our ability to experience pleasure and pain is meant to help guide us through life, not govern our lives. Taking pleasure for its own sake is almost always a pathway to destruction, just as is avoiding pain and hardship at all costs. To be of good character, we must avoid greed and excess. But we must also be willing to endure certain discomforts. Unfortunately, the disturbed characters among us have failed to learn these important lessons. So they don’t achieve healthy self-mastery. And in the coming weeks, I’ll be talking more about why and how this happens as well as the problems that often result.


Thanks to all of you who contacted me about my recent TV appearance. I had reservations about doing the interview because of the program’s underlying agenda. But I did my best to speak fairly about character issues and bring them to the fore.

I’ve added some new speaking dates and venues to the workshops page, so you might want to check them out.

Character Matters will be a live broadcast this Sunday at 7 pm EDT, so I can take your phone calls.

Look for my upcoming book with Dr. Kathy Armistead, The Ten Commandments of Character: How to Lead a Significant Life at summer’s end. And be sure to avail yourself of the hundreds of timely articles on this blog and at Psychology, Philosophy and Real Life.

As always you can find more information on these and other timely topics in my books In Sheep’s Clothing, Character Disturbance, The Judas Syndrome, and How Did We End Up Here?

36 thoughts on “Mastering Appetites and Desires

  1. Mastering Appetites and Desires

    We must never control are appetites, for understanding in how these DC have used us and for learning how to recognize these Non-symbiotic creatures in the future.

    We must also never control are desires, for healing the damage and destruction that these Non-symbiotic creatures cause us.


    1. It has been almost 10 years and I still have an appetite to learn about the DC. I’ve been thinking that maybe I should try to stop reading about it. But, then again maybe we just need to keep on learning. I feel thirsty for all new information.

      1. Noel,
        We can never know enough about these individuals, especially since in the world the numbers of CDNSP seems to keep growing. Also, the more educated we become the more deceiving and manipulative the CD become in their tactics. Remember knowledge is power and not keeping up on them can cause us to lose some of our being on guard and sucked in.

        We must never forget they are always on the prowl seeking to lie, cheat, deceive and destroy. They look to destroy our souls. Remember we are then able to help and educate many who are unaware. As DR. Simon says, our goal is to take back our society if we can, “one at a time.” If we touch one person we have made a difference.

    1. Hi Lucy,
      Not feeling the greatest today. I had to think about this topic too and will try to get back to you later on my thoughts. I believe Dr. Simon is talking about the Selfie phenomena, the me society, the I, I , I, me me me world. Filling our self with material wants and pleasures for the soul purpose of personal gain and fulfillment without a thought of how it will affect our society, families or anyone except themselves.

      The whatever feels good for the benefit of me/I not caring about the long term affects their selfish desires will have on others and ultimately society as a whole. The whatever feels good and its all about me society. Pleasure seeking at the cost of destroying our own personal life and that of others all for the satisfaction of satisfy ones desires.

      The other drive is to fulfill ones needs and desires with the thought process of how it will effect others. Looking at the big picture of the world, country, states, town, where we live our neighbors, and ultimately our families. Asking oneself how do my wants and needs affect others.

      Having the ability and the desire to think of how my wants and needs will affect others, or do I just think of fulfilling my selfish needs and desires for me. Asking oneself how can I satisfy myself and at the same time fulfill my desires and needs and will be beneficial to others. Ultimately, weighing the facts and saying No, knowing it would be harmful to others.

      Most importantly to work on having a good character that would squash unhealthy self serving thoughts and desires before they take a foothold.

      Having the ability to say no to oneself and develop/have a conscience that will pull one back and say no to selfish and lustful desires. This is sometimes a difficult thing to do. Having the ability to care enough about the outcome and its harmful effects on others rather than satisfying ones selfish desires.

      To live in truth instead of lies.

      I hope you are well and what happened to Noelagallagirl?

      1. Lucy,
        I also think the main question lies in how can we serve ourselves and fulfill our needs but at the same time our wants and desires will also benefit fill othersl. In serving mankind we get many rewards that are satisfying and fill that void in us that can never be filled by fulfilling the I/M mentality.

        Giving, sharing, loving, for the benefit of others. A good example is this blog that Dr. Simon created for persons that have been harmed by selfish, uncaring individuals. Dr. Simon could stay in private practice and rack up enormous fees for his expertise in this field. Rather Dr. shares his knowledge for the benefit of mankind.

        At the same time there are so many posters that have shared their personal experiences to the benefit of others. We help our fellowman in society, we give of our time and resources.

        It is a two fold blessing and gift in helping our fellow man. We receive gratification from giving and the pleasure in seeing how our giving has helped another. More importantly is the reward of knowing our giving inspired and taught another human being to do the same thing for another and hopefully, a chain reaction.

        The greatest teacher Jesus said: Do unto others as you would have them do to you, to love thy neighbor as thyself. If the CDN would find in their hearts to follow the golden rule can you imagine what this world would be like. I don’t like to be lied to or stolen from and neither does the CDNSP, but they do it all the same and scream to high heaven when it is done to them.

        Ultimately, it boils down to Character.

      2. BTOV,

        Well that fully explains. Thanks for that. And I think it can be balanced to do pleasurable acts while at the same time not harming anyone else or self.

        I wonder how everyone is doing. Have not heard from Noelagallagirl or Charlie or Suzi or Jeannie.

        I especially worry about Jean. Jean, I know you’re worn out, so am I, but no way will that sinister CD husband of mine come out of this divorce with a sweet deal without a fight. He will answer to what he’s done and pay the price.

        1. How are you TheresaK? I hope the moving isn’t to hard on you and you found a nice place to move too.

          Yes, Jean please post and let us know how you are. If you would like you can always contact me via email. Just let me know, it’s hard when you are all alone. Take care Kindred Spirit.

        2. Hi Lucy – I’m hanging in there. I’m on here and read, read, read – but posting is difficult for me sometimes. So many emotions and confusion. It’s hard to put it in words.
          Last week was our 41st anniversary and it hit me hard. I am frustrated with the divorce process and feel my attorney is dragging his feet. My soon-to-be ex now wants the divorce to be final – (too complicated to get into here, but it is now to his benefit for it to be done). His attorney sent a response MDA (marital dissolution agreement) to my attorney back in May and my attorney has not gotten back with a response yet although I immediately told him what I would agree to not agree to in it. It’s been almost 4 months and my attorney has not sent the response!
          My husband drug things out for year and now he’s wanting it to be over and I do too – but I can’t seem to get my attorney to respond. He always has an excuse for his delay. I filed over a year ago and just three weeks ago my attorney decided to call in a specialist attorney. I agree this is a good idea, I just don’t understand why he didn’t do this months ago. I feel I’ve been spinning my wheels (and money) and going nowhere.
          My husband’s attorney has sent a letter that outlines all the dates she has tried to contact mine and was basically told they would get our response “tomorrow”. This has been going on for over 3 months. My attorney seems to use the “your check is in the mail” technique quite often. They are now threatening to get a court order against us.
          so now my husband is very mad and that has been difficult for me – I find myself wanting to apologize for the delays. It is embarrassing and it’s not helping the situation. I have to be in contact with him because our house is on the market.
          I hope everyone is doing well – what a rocky road we are on.

          1. Jean,

            All this hard work, money and now he drops the ball? Unacceptable. But what to do?
            Write your attorney a letter – it’s important to have crucial issues put in writing, precise and concise. Be frank and blunt and demanding in your letter. If you feel weak – pretend you’re brave and outgoing. You are so close. And with your husband getting frustrated and wanting this done, maybe he will give in more to your demands to get this over with.
            It’s hard for me to imagine what the heck is going on with your attorney’s office. Don’t back off. Come in stronger. You can do this. I know it wear you out. I’m so worn out and frustrated right now I could literally scream. You are close to the end. Be assertive, even though it’s not your nature. Remember, we got stomped on by not being assertive. I’m so sorry. As if you don’t already have enough problems, your attorney is acting shady. I just don’t know what to think of it.

          2. Jean,
            I am glad you are posting. Many attorneys officies take on cases and and handle them in a bulk manner and do what may need to be done to keep the process going. For your attorney to act in this manner I will assume she or he is way over their heads in other cases.

            Unfortunately, we are the ones to suffer. The attorney’s make their monies by dragging these cases out. It is not to her advantage what you get and to make sure you get a fair settlement its about how much the attorney gets. I hope you have keep a copy of all your paperwork. I know it is extremely and emotionally draining and painful to deal with. I Know.

            Lucy, is right about you addressing your concerns in writing listing all the the issues that should be addressed, in you getting your rightful share of your assets.

            I hate to say it but so many of these SB lawyers sit and have dinner together and know exactly whats going on. Unfortunately, these bottom feeders exist off the misfortunes of others and take advantage of us when we are at our lowest and weakest point.

            At least address these things in writing and also ask why the attorney is not responding in a ethical and professional manner. What is happening from the inaction is you will lose a large portion of your assets that are rightfully yours.

            I really grieve for you Jean, and my heart goes out to you. I will keep you in my prayers and as always my offer is open. Take care of yourself and eat well. I struggle too, but we can give each other strength and hope. Stay posting Jean, don’t slip under, somehow try to find the strength to go forward. I am giving myself this self talk too.

            God bless you, we care very much for you and you are a Kindred Spirit. We really care and worry about you. (((((HUGS)))))
            Lucy worries very much about you too!

    2. Lucy,

      I think following statements contrast between two states, slave to selfish desires vs master of appetites and desires

      I want ice-cream. I like it so much that I will not have one, I will have two.
      I want ice-cream. I do not need it though. I should not have today as I had a different fast food just 2 days ago.

      I want my dose of cocaine. I will steal money from home. If my mother find out, I will simply lie to her, she cannot prove anything anyways, haha. If my act get recorded, who gives a damn.
      I should stay away from drugs. I know they give some sort of pleasurable high, but I also know that high is only short-term, and I know I will be in a mess in long-term.

      I want some excitement in my sex-life. Let me try to catch that new woman I met recently. Meanwhile, prostitutes are available anyways. Don’t remind me of my wife right now, I am in good mood!
      I want some excitement in my sex-life. But, I should seek it within marriage. After all, that relationship is what I value most, and should not destroy it with a fling outside.

      I want a cool car. Let me steal one.
      I like cars, cooler the better. I will work hard to make enough money for myself and my family that buying a cool car will be just another side luxury that we can easily afford.

      Above are two contrasting views, sort of black and white. But, most people live somewhere in between. The extent of grayness depends upon a person’s need to look good in front of others, their need to avoid social stigma, or prison. Sometime a person simply has good character. sometime people do charity work, because it make them look good socially. Sometime people do charity, because they simply believe it is good. Sometime people don’t cheat on their spouse because the risk of getting caught far outweights the please they will derive out of cheating. Sometime people do not cheat, simply because they care about their partner.

      Fear of death or denial of death is different. Most people have fear of death buried inside their psyche, but they simply deny it. One should accept the fickleness of life, and that ‘I’ is actually insignificant when all things are considered. Such realization alone can lift people out of their ‘I’ level. It can make one person good because of his inner-drive toward a higher level.

      1. Andy,

        Thanks for the insight.
        I’m trying to think of how to apply this to my life, to reach a higher level of “for the greater good”. It’s difficult to work on self while going through an intense divorce situation where major obstacles/problems continually arise. But I will come out the other side, eventually, hopefully with what is due me.

  2. ” They’re forever pursuing their next turn-on. And they also refuse to be burdened or suffer in any way, especially on another’s behalf. When they encounter hardship, pain, or loss they can become angry and bitter, empty, or even depressed. After all, they tend to expect (i.e. feel “entitled” to) so much more.

    Just thought I would post this comment from Dr Simon. Anyone experiencing a painful
    divorce at the moment.

    “And they also refuse to be burdened or suffer in any way, especially on another’s behalf”.

    This is why The Non-symbiotic DC causes all that distress

    1. Joey,

      So true. This week he tried the “gaslight” tactic. It’s laughable. I know all the tactics and he tries them all. Such the evil, sinister CDN.
      And the part about them becoming angry and bitter, he is so angry WITH ME. He victimized me all these years, now has to answer to it, makes HIM ANGRY! It’s all topsy turvy, making absolutely no sense.
      Some day this will be behind me. Ugh

  3. it, makes HIM ANGRY!

    He is angry because YOU are not giving him WHAT HE WANTS. Which is you in a subjugated Position.

    Remember it is all Position,Position,Position With the DC.

    They hate to LOOSE a Position of POWER. Which you have done so.

    And they also refuse to be burdened or suffer in any way, especially on another’s behalf.
    So it has to be something else other than him. Hence he is angry

        1. Joey, Lucy,

          Just curious, when you said NO and they didn’t get what they wanted, Did you get the “Stare of Death” or ” If Looks Could Kill?” Did you notice if all of a sudden the pupils of their eyes got piercingly beady?

          It is something how we can become accustomed to such hateful, malicious and ultimate evil tactics by one to control us. I will go so far as to say if they could get away with it even murder you. I have watched many of the PSYCH tapes you have listed Joey and it makes you wonder how we made it thus far.

          Joey as always, I thank you for sharing. Knowledge is power and will ultimately if we heed the warning signs and our guts keep us safe.

          1. “And they also refuse to be burdened or suffer in any way, especially on another’s behalf”

            Killing you. Ruining your reputation, Taking something away, vandalizing your achivement. They do not have to end your life, to kill you.

          2. BTOV,
            The death stare is chilling. It’s a new thing since I left him. Never saw it before.
            My husband has never shown his emotions and I think that look is the closest thing I’ve ever gotten to seeing him with any emotion at all.

  4. BOTV

    No, I never got that look. I get the darting eyes. He can’t look me in the eye long, because he lies. He avoids and is evasive, so his eyes shift. To me he looks sick in the eyes. They aren’t bright. They are dull.

    Yes we do get accustomed to a sick normalcy. Others see the bad but we were so accustomed to it we accepted it. That’s where I’ve let myself down.

    Knowledge has helped me understand and therefore to heal. And now I do trust my gut. I don’t argue with it. It knows.

    So I found out the Jerk’s official title where he works is “compliance officer”. If that isn’t the most backwards position – Mr. Non-compliant, who lost his law license, is Compliance Officer with the company! He judges and makes sure the company complies with rules and regulations, but not himself. How fitting. There are rules and for him there are His Rules. Goodness . . . .

    1. Lucy,

      DIdn’t you know everyone has to follow the rules. But the prince gets to make up the rules as he sees fit for himself because he is special.

      His eyes are so shifty because he may be

      1. Lucy,

        Hit the wrong button. SB eyes may be shifty because he is paranoid and then his eyes may look sick because of all the booze and drugs he does. Great job for SB to make sure everyone has to follow the rules but him. I’m sure he is a real treat to have to work for.

          1. Lucy,
            Time will tell, it will take a little time, SB needs to get them to feel at ease which it seems he has from what you say. When the bills start coming in and the pressure mounts so will the urge which will be hard to resist . As we have learned past behavior is a good indicator of future behavior.

            All you can do dear one is sit back and watch the bonfire of the vanities. You have done a commendable job of letting go and that will serve you well in the future when the day of judgement comes and it won’t be pretty.

            When I went through this I cried for all years we had shared and for the unnecessary loss of humanity and what we could have had. To watch all you worked for dissolve before ones eyes. It was rather cathartic to cry and let it out.

            Stay strong and keep up the good fight, no matter what happens you still come out on top, you have taken back your life.

  5. Jean,

    In my pending divorce case my attorney just brought into her office a new attorney, one with an MBA, who is now assigned my case because of all the financial matters. Maybe that is what your attorneys describes as a “specialist”. You may have more complex financial matters that need to be thoroughly looked at by someone more capable than your attorney. I’m glad my attorney was humble enough to realize she needed someone with more expertise in that field.
    As is your STBX, mine is getting angrier, and is using scare tactics, lies, all the tricks he has in his bag, to go to hearing without the documents I need – which he can provide but won’t. He calls me demanding documents “playing your silly game”. Gaslighting at its best.
    Jean, keep up the fight. I am. BOTV is. This is not the time to weaken. Let us know when you hear next from your attorney.
    I’m anxious and overwhelmed also. I go more into debt each month. Debt is mounting because of this BS. I’m watching it burn. I told attorney at consult yesterday I’m going further in debt every month, and now everything is really going to shit. Overdue property taxes. Overdue house insurance. Income taxes due and and overdue. House association dues – overdue. The jerk fired the real estate agent five months ago. And I have no savings. I can’t stop it. I cannot keep up anymore. It’s ALL OVERDUE. And I’m pretty much helpless. When bills exceed the income – DEBT. It causes stress, for sure. I’m just watching my possessions burn, as BOTV says, Bonfire of the Vanities. Boom. Yeah, it really sucks.

  6. The following is how a typical encounter is I have wit the STBX. I’m trying accomplish what to a normal person would be a simple task. I’ve got a dangerous tree leaning on an old barn from a wind storm. We both got a price to have the job done. So I send him a note to tell him I have the funds to pay my half for the tree removal, for him to send me a proper bid (since he claims to have a cheaper one) and I will pay the day the job is done. So he says to have my attorney forward the proposal (wanting to up my attorney fees). He calls me a “habitual liar” and “deadbeat”. So I go back to the original request, I’ve got the money, ready to go. My attorney advised me to get a proper bid from him. He tells me to pay him X amount of dollars for other bills he claims I owe him for. Again calls me names. Tells me to send HIM a check and it will get done. Otherwise, we can take it up before the judge. (again, litigation, attorney fees, postponing THE DIVORCE hearing on merits). So I again state I have the money, am ready to go, will need a proper bid, and will pay the serviceman the fee directly on date the work is done. (I have learned to stay on task, keep going back to my original issue). He then responded as if he might give me a proper bid.
    All that . . . . Evasiveness, belittling, redirecting, verbal abuse with gaslighting attempts, threat of more court costs and time. He tricks don’t work anymore. I stuck to my task and MIGHT have accomplished something. We will see.
    I’m not going to let a judge micromanage my life. It would cost much less to pay it all myself than bring in the attorneys for such a trivial matter. But – the disbarred attorney STBX that I’m dealing with, this is his normal behavior.
    He’s finding he no longer has the UP position on me. He sounds like a blabbering idiot.

    1. Lucy,

      First, no matter how hard you try the results are going to be the same. It’s a game, it’s frustrate you, I am in control, all the same old BS that he has done all his life. Since you haven’t paid some of the other bills, keep it that way, be responsible and continue to follow through on the CH.

      Make sure the contractors are insured, many tree cutters do this without proper insurance, they should be able to give you a binder and who they are insured with.

      In the end after all the evidence is presented all it will come down to is $$$$.
      The judge could care less about all this nonsense and I am sure is at the point of vomiting every time SB is involved. SB just wants to keep things going and playing the big shot telling you what needs to be done. I don’t think the judge wants to hear anything at this point.

      SB wants to nickle and dime you to where your atty’s fees will eat up anything you have left. Don’t fall for his game and just ignore him. The judge can also give you remedial damages for all the frivolous complaints and motions SB brings before the court.

      Get 3 estimates and get it done. I had to have four mature trees cut. Cost was 500 each and I had to have the wood and brush cleaned up on my own. You can have it cut up with a chainsaw and burn it or many times people will come and clean it for free, they get free firewood.

      1. I don’t have the funds to pay for it myself. Therein lies having to deal with SB. I would bet SB guy is not insured. I’ll find out.
        Judges in my county will not spend time on BS such as this. When willnSB realize I’m onto his tactics, games? I guess it’s all he knows. He’s degraded himself, once a respected attorney who is now diatribes, disbarred, broken and vengeful. His tactics are so childish. No feel like I’m dealing with a punk 12 year old. I’m Going to continue what I’m doing. It is just a matter of $$$$$$ to me. To him though it’s $$$$$ coupled with mindfuckery. And positioning. And he lost his Up position and does not like it. I feel like I’ve got my thumb on his head. Pushing him down. Never thought I’d get there.

        1. What if you don’t make any house payment since it is going to be gone anyway. It will make it that much easier for the bank to take the property back. Also, I wouldn’t trust SB being involved in anything. Perhaps, if SB wasn’t so lazy he could take the tree down with the help of some of his friends.

          If the tree service doesn’t have liability insurance and something happens they can sue you. It is up to the homeowners to make sure tree cutters are insured.

          When my trees came down I topped the trees myself with a sawsall, boy did I hurt, I put the brush and tops of trees on a tarp and pulled it with my lawn tractor and then burned it. I did get a 17 year old fellow from church to help.

          The two trees are still lying in my yard. They have to be cut up with a chainsaw. I guess I will be learning how to do this and then suffer from back pain for weeks on end. My friend is coming from FL to help so I sure hope we get some things done. At least I tried and I feel “is this the best you can do” they are total jerks.

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