Longing, Pining, Obsessing (And Other Gifts)

There are so many ways we’re taught to be ashamed of ourselves, especially our interior life. We’re taught to cover up our questions, desires, perceived weaknesses, and struggles. I used to support that stance. I don’t do that anymore because I learned it’s the cover that’s a shame. Instead, I’m down for reveals. Big ones. Little ones. Slowly. In a flash. Now…or later. To be clear, let me state plainly that I don’t support random, public, emotional vomit. I don’t see any benefit in espousing, to anyone who’ll listen, or anyone held hostage in a person’s imagination, whatever thoughts or feelings are arbitrarily popping or chronically stewing inside.




I’m down for intention. I’m about uncovering…for you, by you, to you, the scope, sequence, depth, and dynamism of your interior life. All that is contained in the Spectrum of Personhood is present and available to you. Your interior is comprised of the place of the spirit, the place of the soul, and the place of the flesh/body. These places make up the Spectrum of Personhood.


Learning and fully embracing these places, and all that they contain, is a human right because neglect is illegal and YOU are your central domain.


Expressing maturely the body and breadth of what you learn about you is a social responsibility because you are connected to everyone else. There is no separation.


For example, when I started my work – doing deep excavations of the soul and minute examinations of the flesh/body – I found a depth of longing, pining, and obsession that astounded me. At the time, my ability to judge was very pronounced. My skill in condemnation was sharp as a knife and quick as a flash. I immediately told myself how wrong it was to possess such emotions and instincts. I called my feelings problems. With these declarations, I deepened my process of self-detachment and erasure by diminishing what I found in Me.


My self-rejection was rampant.


So, instead of feeling better about myself, I felt worse. I felt weaker, less worthy of love, and more confused than ever. I asked a lot of questions like:


  • What’s wrong with me?
  • What’s the point of therapy, if I still feel like crap?
  • Isn’t self-exploration supposed to “work?”
  • Wouldn’t I know it was working by not longing for anything, not pining for anyone, and not obsessing about any “failed situation,” “missed opportunity,” or “botched job?”
  • How long is this supposed to take?
  • Aren’t I supposed to be getting rid of these terrors in my soul??


These questions might seem a bit scary, perhaps a little urgent. And, yet they’re fine. They were fine then and they’re fine now. They just weren’t steeped in the most helpful paradigm. I crafted my questions based on the idea that my feelings were mistakes. I thought they were wrong. I thought my feelings were evidence of my weakness, and so, in need of elimination.


I didn’t know I’d found a treasure.

Thank God, I didn’t throw it out.


When I realized that my negative reaction to myself was painful, toxic, and based on a supremacist patriarchal view of both humanity and femininity, I started to get free. That realization alone caused my eyelids to flutter. When I began to understand that I could, of my own volition and power, re-author, revise, and bless my story… actually ask different questions about the contents of my soul and manifestations in my body…and rename them…my eyes SPRUNG open.


I woke up and began again.


Instead of labeling my ability to long, pine, and obsess as embarrassing, I started noticing the ways those clustering of emotions worked logistically. I kept notes on when, where, why, and in relation to whom, they emerged. I tuned in to my patterns and habits. I got clear on what i was trying to tell Me about me (no typo):


What I want.
What I need.
Why I want.
Why I need.


Then, instead of visualizing them as scary, enveloping, and shameful, I started to reimagine my emotions as billowy, vast, sparkling, powerful energy.


I stopped calling my longing, pining, and obsessions enemies and started calling them mine. Just mine. I claimed each strong emotion in my soul and feeling in my body as a force. I claimed all of them as forces of my being. I took stock of what they do for me and how they function as servants for my good. Instead of asking, what’s wrong with me, I started asking, what’s right with me?


This is what I learned:


My longing and pining are big. They are mammoth and they work hard. They keep me in touch with hunger, thirst, want, and desire. They help me to stay clear about lack, or a perception of lack, so that I remain sensitive to what it brings to my knowledge of communion and isolation. When they are activated, my longing and pining take up space. A lot of space. They teach me about what it means to be persistent and singularly focused. They teach me about how I can think small, go in, and attend closely to minutia.


My obsession gives gifts too. My obsession is heavy. It’s blunt. It provides opportunities for me to learn the weight of my desire. It slows me down. It helps me to be deliberate and specific. It gives me special insight into patience and impatience. It provides instruction about encroaching, foreboding, and methods of mania. It is beautiful. Poetic. And it’s all in me. My obsession reveals a part of my passion I had not consciously been aware of and had not learned to admire.


Then I got it.


These emotions show me alive.


They show me living.


They show my heart beating. My blood racing. My eyes running. My gut clenching. My lips trembling. My brow sweating. My feet pacing. My voice arching. My mind screaming. My heart wailing. My back aching. My throat clenching. My Self being. Human. A person. Full. Complex. Textured. Layered. Living. A whole person.






I would not rid myself of these gifts. No way. No how. My emotions, even these scary ones, act as gifts because they show me where and when I am dis-eased and dis-ordered in my Spectrum of Personhood. So, I want them now. I want me. All of Me.


Studying #SupremeLove helps me to understand this radical inclusivity. Practicing Supreme Love teaches me to leave nothing out. Not one thing. Supreme Love clarifies that my Spectrum is my kingdom. My kingdom is comprised of my fragmented selves. Each self is a citizen. Each has a role and a place of residence. My job is not necessarily to ban anyone in my realm (although I do, of course, have authority to bind and cast out whatever I choose). My job is to reign my kingdom, my Spectrum, benevolently, gracefully, and wisely.


So, that’s what I do now.


I call to order.

I listen with care.

I hear pleas and defenses, then grant, or withhold, judgment.

I watch with curiosity and appreciation.

I uphold law, maintain beauty, conduct investigations, reward constructive behaviors, notice practices, condone policies, draft edicts, express stance, admire beauty, wield power, discipline unruliness, celebrate and reward triumph.

I bestow praise.

I sanction movements and reallocate resources to the most sensible and opportune locations for me, and from me.

I maintain the sanctity and health of my core, just as my Creator maintains His.

I follow His example and I am saved.


When I do this daily, I am ruling my kingdom. When I rule my kingdom, I am healing the world. So, I’ve learned to love and respect my longing. I’ve learned to bless and be with my pining. I’ve learned to revere my obsession and, in so doing, I came home to mySelf. I’m at home in mySelf.


I belong to mySelf.


Now, I can see clearly what my fragmented selves are pointing to, what voids or holes they want to warn me of. Without intimidation, fear, and frustration turned against myself, I can see what they are sharing, hear what they are saying, understand what meaning they are constructing, and see that they are me. They are parts of me.


I am the fullness of MySelf.


Then, not only do I grasp the breadth and force of my might (which is necessary), I also see the big vision of my wholeness (which is humbling). And, not only do I learn the potential of my rulings and courses of action (which is thrilling), I also experience the implications of my being (which is mandatory). With this, I can calm myself, bless myself, soothe myself, and partner with myself in ways I did not know were possible.


If I had remained ashamed of my abilities to long, pine, and obsess…if I had kept hiding my pain and rejecting my energy, doing what I was told and what I was shown, I would not have known myself. I would have kept calling my hell my home.


So, here’s my two cents:


Learn your longing. Peruse your pining. Observe your obsession. Keep your gifts. Just put them under your authority and move them in right order. Practice #SupremeLove in yourself and heal the world today. Be in touch. I can show you how.


Jeanine Staples is Associate Professor of Literacy and Language, African American Studies, & Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at the Pennsylvania State University. Her book, The Revelations of Asher: Toward Supreme Love in Self, is an endarkened, feminist, new literacies event (Peter Lang, 2016). In it, she explores Black women’s t/Terror in love. She produces research-based courses and methodologies that enable marginalized girls and women to realize internal revelations that fuel external revolutions.

Dr. Staples’ next book details the evolution of her acclaimed undergraduate course, The Philadelphia Urban Seminar. In it, she explores Supreme Love in schools. She shows how she generates curriculum and methodologies that incite anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-ableist pedagogical stances among teachers interested in urban education and equity for all people in schools and society.


Click here to join the Supreme Love Project group to ask Jeanine questions and comment on the blog.