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Book Review: The Five Longings

David Richo is a PhD and MFT who has written many books about emotions, being an adult, relationships and more. In his new book, The Five Longings: What We’ve Always Wanted and Already Have, Richo brings his studies of Buddhism, Jungism, religion, philosophy and myth as well as his experience as a practicing psychotherapist and workshop leader.

The Five Longings is a book about the things we long for. From Richo’s perspective, longing is more than a mere wanting. It may never be completely satisfied, though we can come very close. It is not something material, such as a fancy car or a trip to Italy. A longing is a deep yearning for something that we feel is missing. It is what may come up when we wonder, “what would make me happy?” or “what is my purpose in life?”

Richo focuses on five longings in the book: love, meaning, freedom, happiness and growth. He does not claim that these are the only longings, nor does he explain why these are the five he selected. Readers could reasonably argue, however, that these five cover most of what is important in life. Still, a reader may feel satisfied about some of Richo’s five longings and choose to also focus on others. This is fine, of course, and even to be expected.

Can we live without attaining these five longings? Richo says yes, and we usually do, although we typically would achieve at least some degree of each of them, whether fleetingly or permanently. But imagine how good you would feel if you were at peace with all five categories. Life would not be without problems, but it would be pretty good overall.

Richo defines the differences and similarities between longings, addictions, desires and wants. Many of us may have never thought much about it, but in life we often take the path of least resistance to meet our challenges. This may mean that actual longings take a back seat and aren’t given much attention. We may not actually work on moving toward achieving them. Occasional successes in any of them may satisfy our needs, at least in the short term.

As you might suspect, individual chapters are devoted to each of the five longings. Much like Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, the five longings could be seen as ordered by importance. However, Richo does not suggest this, nor does it seem likely.

For those who have read philosophy, some of what you will read in this book will remind you that you cannot just fly through the material and expect to fully comprehend it. The Five Longings is very thorough and comprehensive. Each longing is explored in depth. The reader will have much to think about by reading this book.

Richo uses many examples and quotations to help make his points, from Shakespeare to the Bible to Woody Allen. That makes for interesting reading and also provides topics to ponder a bit. It also shows how lasting and widespread the pursuit or exploration of longings have been.

Lest the reader thinks that all of life’s questions can be answered after reading the book, the final chapter is called, “Questions That Don’t Go Away.” In this chapter, the author raises the idea of questions that he says “have plagued humanity for centuries.” Two that he chooses to talk about are, “Is there a God?” and “Why is there evil?” His explorations of these questions are good reading.

The Five Longings is not a simple self-help book. It could be as welcome in a philosophy or religion classroom as in the hands of an individual seeking better self-understanding, or a professional looking for additional perspectives.

The Five Longings: What We’ve Always Wanted and Already Have

David Richo

Shambhala 2017

163 Pages, Paperback


Book Review: The Five Longings

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Dave Schultz

APA Reference
Schultz, D. (2017). Book Review: The Five Longings. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 26, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 1 Sep 2017
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 1 Sep 2017
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