Unidentified Yearning

By Alison January 23, 2014 1 Comment 2 Min Read

I cannot shake off this migraine. This morning as I lay there tapping away the pain in my forehead, Finley crawled into bed with me and said, Mum I want something but I do not know what it is…
Oh how I know that feeling! And so I ran through the possibilities with him: a gluten free donut? Nana? An hour on the x-box? A new bow tie? Cheese toastie soldiers? Baby Clarry? The return of Doctor Matt? The animal biscuits we can only get from Ocado? A snuggle on the sofa with his Mummy?

And to all of my suggestions he shook his head no, before telling me that it wasn’t like that and wandering off to brush his teeth.

How I know that feeling. Indeed I am possessed by it. Not so much saudade but sehnsucht…

Sehnsucht represents thoughts and feelings about all facets of life that are unfinished or imperfect, paired with a yearning for ideal alternative experiences. It has been referred to as “life’s longings”; or an individual’s search for happiness while coping with the reality of unattainable wishes. Such feelings are usually profound, and tend to be accompanied by both positive and negative feelings. This produces what has often been described as an ambiguous emotional occurrence.

It is sometimes felt as a longing for a far-off country, but not a particular earthly land which we can identify. Furthermore there is something in the experience which suggests this far-off country is very familiar and indicative of what we might otherwise call “home”. In this sense it is a type of nostalgia, in the original sense of that word. At other times it may seem as a longing for a someone or even a something. But the majority of people who experience it are not conscious of what or who the longed for object may be, and the longing is of such profundity and intensity that the subject may immediately be only aware of the emotion itself and not cognizant that there is a something longed for.


Yes there is something longed for. But if we are unable to identify it, does it mean we do not really want it, or that our souls are yet to spell it out to us? That we have reached an impasse between dream and reality? That sehnsucht describes not something specific but a general emptiness we are being directed to fill by the niggle that is yearning?

Yearning. It’s such a bore. Though in my 101 things I said that I rarely want what I cannot have, it isn’t strictly true. Sometimes I want so hard it gives me a headache. Sometimes I cannot come to terms with not being able to have exactly what I want, when I want. Sometimes  this here lady wants to lie down on the floor and throw a toddler tantrum just for the sake of doing something (anything) about a yearning for heaven knows what. Or something very specific.

But I’m all grown up. And if my ten year old can acknowledge sehnsucht and then get on with his day, then surely I, (she who considers herself so enlightened) can too.

1 Comment

  1. Valerie says:

    Loved this… just the title gave me little goosebumps. I’m afraid unidentified yearning is what keeps me looking on Pinterest sometimes… hahaha. And window shopping. And browsing bookstores. And opening the refrigerator door.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Skip to content