Aaah!! I realized after I pressed "publish" that I really wanted to find a place to introduce the concept of "positive affect tolerance"... so I'm noting it here to perhaps integrate into a future piece. I encountered it three times the same week, always a sign the universe wants me to pay attention (co-arising insight). From the incomparable Kim Tallbear who described it as "learning how to be with yourself when you're happy." Betty Martin elaborates in her book, noting there is a "ceiling" to how much pleasure humans can tolerate. She explains:

"It's not usually the sensory enjoyment that is in question. It's the feelings we have about that enjoyment that is the limiting factor."

The point is, there is a deeper skill in the art of receiving: in order to enjoy receiving (after identifying your desire, expressing it as a request, and then receiving someone else's gift), we have to then give ourselves permission to stay with the positive affect and actually enjoy the experience... without letting the negative self-talk of guilt or selfishness rob us of the thing we've finally allowed ourselves to experience. Whew! Hard for all of us, but also heavily gendered and particularly difficult for people socialized female under patriarchy.

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Jun 15, 2022Liked by Brian Stout

Brian, I am always rewarded by finding time to read your thoughtful posts. What a fabulous exploration of desire that centers it squarely in claiming agency. The wheel of consent is a fascinating framing to put it context.

This may seem like a reach at first, but please stay with me...your connection of desire and agency reminds me of why I fell in love with Open Space Technology (OST; https://openspaceworld.org/wp2/). For those unfamiliar with OST, it is a practice that supports groups to self-organize. It is at its best when dealing with complex, conflicted issues. At essence, OST is an invitation to take responsibility for what you love. It holds that same invitation you note Brian: to discover what you deeply desire.

An unexpected collective benefit I have discovered through years of observing what happens when people, myself included, connect with what we love, is that, rather than separating us, it brings us together. It seems like a paradox. Our enculturation tells us pursuing our deepest desires is a selfish act. In practice, it turns out to be an act of service, of contribution. Discovering that is largely what hooked me on Open Space. It sets groups up to meet the needs of individuals AND of the whole system. It happens BECAUSE it invites people to embrace what matters to them. That naturally connects them with others who care. And that leads to stuff getting done for the good of all. I think it is because when we connect with our heart, it draws from what we value. Ultimately, humans share a finite mix of values. And when we take the time to speak to them authentically, the human in each of us can be seen and embraced. Then magic happens as our differences become a source of creativity.

So, Brian, thank you for bringing such a rich reflection on desire and belonging. It is a subject near to my heart. And you come at it in an original and thoughtful way.

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May 21, 2022Liked by Brian Stout

Thank you, Brian, for the richness of your posts! You are a master curator and so generously share so many amazing resources! I have a bunch of open tabs I'm eager to go through but wanted to thank you before jumping down the rabbit holes. There is SO much to think about and respond to, so I will spend time marinating before responding on actually content but high level response is all you are illuminating very much resonates and stretches me to my learning edge (so I'm really eager for the resources)!

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