Children were playing at a party. One of them suddenly found and grabbed a shiny red balloon. He started playing with that balloon only. When others saw him with a different balloon, all the children dropped their balloons and started fighting over his shiny balloon.
A college guy with a new girlfriend introduced her to his friends, secretly hoping that all of them would appreciate and like her, but when he saw a very cold response, he began to doubt whether he had made the right choice.
The above are two examples of mimetic desire, a concept developed and advocated by the French historian, philosopher, anthropologist and polymath, René Girard.
Mimetic desire operates as a subconscious imitation of another’s desire. Most of the humans don’t know what to desire and so they look outwards to make up the mind. As Girard said, mimetic desire leads to rivalry and eventually to scapegoating and revelation.
Coming back to desire, human desire is not a linear process. Rather, we desire according to the desire of others. So a lot of our desires don’t emerge from within, but from ‘outside’. We import our most powerful desires from imitating the desires of other people.
In fact, the entire advertising industry is based on the exploitation of the borrowed desire. It’s something like acquiring a thing that a model wants or to look like the model shown in an advertisement that solely operates on AIDA formula (Attention, Interest, Desire and Action).
The one and only fact about all advertisements is that they sell only one thing, i.e. hope by drawing attention, creating desire and provoking action. The media and especially the social media have become the excellent conduits of mimetic desire.
The French thinker Montesquieu, explained it beautifully as under:
“If one only wished to be happy, this could easily be accomplished; but we wish to be happier than other people, and this is always difficult, for we believe others to be happier than they are.”
Mimetic comes from the word mimesis. Let’s make it sure that it doesn’t turn into something like a nemesis. Let’s remember that happiness is not determined by what is happening outside or around us, it blooms from within.
Just Be yourself 🥳