Your havingness level is an internal barometer of how much good stuff you allow yourself to have before your “too good to be true!” alarm bell goes off and you start unconsciously freaking out and rejecting that good stuff.
The “good stuff” that a low havingness level will cause you to reject may be just about anything – love, money, sex, fun, creativity, joy.
People often have a high havingness level for some arenas and a very low havingness level for others.
In my years of coaching, I’ve discovered that a low havingness level is the one of the very biggest obstacles to success and fulfillment that most magical people face.
If you’ve got a high havingness level it’s possible to open up to opportunities and joy even in the midst of intense political and economic oppression.
On the other hand, if you’ve got a low havingness level it’s possible to be plagued by feelings of scarcity and failure even in the midst of every imaginable form of privilege.
The bad news is that your havingness level is originally set when you’re a child, and it’s calibrated to precisely match the havingness level of your family.
Thus, if your family is fucked up and has a low havingness level in a particular arena (and whose family doesn’t? my family, for example, has a beautifully high havingness level for laughter and fun but a very miserably low havingness level for money – and some other families have exactly the opposite problem), you will inherit that.
You’re imprinted with your havingness level set point at a very deep level.
The good news is that you can reset and increase your havingness level in any arena so you can allow in way more good stuff.
It just takes focus, determination, magic, and the willingness to step outside your comfort zone and understand yourself and your life situation in a new light.
You know that your havingness level is low when:
1. You constantly struggle to make and save money even though you work hard and are creative and magical and awesome.
This one is a dead-giveaway. If you accept far less compensation than you’re worth, that’s a major havingness issue.
The trick is understanding that the problem isn’t just a cruel world that’s fixed against you – the world can be tough, yes, and if this is persisting for a long time the problem is also that you’ve got some unconscious mechanisms that are causing you to be blind to opportunities to expand your wealth.
2. You have a hard time consistently taking good orderly care of yourself and all your possessions.
So let’s say you do make and save enough money to be comfortable. But then your house is a wreck of clutter, you can never find the clothes you want to wear, you have no idea where those vitamins you bought last week went.
If you struggle with staying organized and respecting your own possessions, this is a sign that you have some deep-seated ambivalence about whether or not you deserve to have and enjoy those possessions.
3. You tend to get critical and judgmental of yourself and other people. You’re hard on yourself and others.
Your mind tells you that you criticize and judge because people suck and they deserve it. But the truth is we most often criticize and judge and disrespect exactly those gifts that most deeply answer our hunger.
I’ll say that again because it’s really important. We most often criticize, reject, find fault with, and hate on whatever it is that we most need to nurture our deepest selves.
We do this because our low havingness level causes us to be suspicious of people and circumstances that actually nourish us profoundly and answer a deep need within us.
So I suggest that you get suspicious about your own suspicion and criticism.
Could it be that you’re trying to find reasons to dismiss something that if you truly embraced it you would be gloriously fulfilled and immensely humbled with gratitude? If you’re anything like me – yeah, yeah it could.
4. You start projects but you somehow don’t finish them, or you finish them but you don’t take the time to celebrate and bask in your accomplishment before rushing ahead to the next task.
I published an amazing book on magic with a division of Random House and then, at a low point in my magical life, promptly failed to do anything to promote it. That was a big red flag that my havingness level was kinda low.
More explicitly: my havingness level was big enough to let the book get written and published in the first place, but it was not big enough at that time to endure the sensation of people actually valuing and reading and buying my work and sending me money for it.
Oh no no no no. That would be far far far too much.
So without knowing why, I couldn’t find the energy and motivation to do the work to promote my book, even though I know it’s an excellent work.
All of my energy and motivation was locked up in havingness-level fears about what would happen to me should I become actually well-known.
5. You find yourself over-consuming (food, drink, movies, anything) and yet not truly enjoying what you’re taking in.
Gluttony is a vice not because it’s so terrible to eat a lot, but because it’s terrible to eat a lot without any attention or enjoyment or savoring.
Compulsive and addictive behaviors and over-consumption of all kinds emerges when we are unable to allow ourselves the time, focus, and attention to actually take pleasure in what we’re ingesting.
I don’t suggest that you try to get all hardcore ascetic with yourself, but I do suggest that you challenge yourself by putting willful effort into savoring and cherishing what you take in to yourself.
This is an excellent practice for increasing your havingness level.
6. You struggle with intimacy, and often find yourself getting resentful and shutting down in relationships.
Intimacy is an awful thing for those of us with havingness issues: how terrible to have someone wanting to love and nourish and pay attention to us!
Those of us with low-intimacy-havingness become suspicious of the motives of folks trying to love us.
We suspect that their spontaneous gifts and compliments are sneaky ways of trying to control us or get something from us, and definitely these expressions of care are signs that the other person is too much and crazy.
Popular ways to avoid intimacy once your intimacy-havingness-level has been blown include: avoiding the person who’s offering you affection, being mean and unreasonably critical towards the person who’s offering you affection, and getting tight-lipped and sulky around the person who’s offering you affection.
The good news is, if you carry out these intimacy-squelching strategies with sufficient zeal, you can soon make anyone who offers you affection, no matter how patient or loving they are, go far, far away! It’s worked for me plenty of times.
7. You get uncomfortable and try to deflect when people give you gifts or compliments.
Us folks with low havingness levels tend to feel overwhelmed, guilty, and burdened when we receive gifts or compliments. This isn’t just because we think we suck and we don’t deserve anything.
We may consciously have quite high self-esteem and confidence. Instead, it’s because we somehow feel responsible for the other person’s experience, and feel ourselves uncomfortably indebted to others when they give to us.
This perceived debt is usually an invention of our minds, and it keeps us from enjoying the warmth of connection and gratitude that true receiving can bring.
A Deeper Understanding of Havingness
I started out by saying that your havingness level is the amount of good stuff you’ll let yourself have before you start to unconsciously freak out and push away that good stuff. That’s true, in a simple sense.
But understood more fundamentally and subtly, your havingness level isn’t just your ability to take in good stuff – it’s your capacity to interact with the world and receive all of it, both the “good” and the “bad,” with equanimity and profound gratitude.
I put “good” and “bad” in quotation marks because what we experience in the world each day is all just some sort of sensation, and it’s only our cultural conditioning (including our attachment to our ongoing survival and the belief that dying is something to be feared and avoided) that prompts us to interpret some sensations in the world as being awesome and some as being awful.
So in other words, your havingness level is the amount of raw sensation that you’re able to take in while still remaining centered, present, grounded and responsive.
I’ve found that expanding my havingness level is the key to seeing bigger and more beautiful results from both my magical and my practical workings.
Acute pain, embarrassment, the resentment and disapproval of others, the awareness of our aging and mortality – these are all sensations that we often seek to avoid or suppress.
What we don’t realize is that the more anxious we are to avoid these “bad” sensations, the more we simultaneously numb ourselves and shrink our capacity to feel the “good” sensations of fulfillment, love, joy, pleasure, connection and contentment.
When we numb ourselves to the bad, we also numb ourselves to the good, and we lower our havingness level. There is no selective numbing.
Of course, very few of us wake up in the morning and say “Golly gee, think I’ll numb myself today!” but in effect, that’s exactly what we’re doing when we over-consume, over work, and refuse to take the time to open ourselves to feeling huge, humiliating, absolutely excruciating gratitude and reverence for everything we experience.
What to Do About It
In my personal experience, the fastest way to increase your havingness level is to get connected to a coach or mentor who can see through your old programs and challenge you in exactly the way you need to grow past them.
Also, stay tuned for future installments in this series of articles exploring havingness.
If this essay resonates with you, please join our WITCH email list by using the forms on this website so we can stay in touch.
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