Monday, August 8, 2011

But Mom, I REALLY NEED it!

Confusing needs with wants is a very American thing to do. We are pretty spoiled here in America, thinking that we need all kinds of things. In fact, there are very few things that are considered absolute needs, or things we need in order to survive. A fairly exhaustive list includes adequate food, water, some degree of warmth, air, and medication in some instances. Everything else is a want.

When we mislabel our wants as needs, we tend to feel just as bad as if someone were sucking all the air out of the room. Our culture has conditioned us to believe that some wants are needs. For example, love, respect, attention, confidence, job satisfaction, money, approval, a car, a washing machine, peace, health, etc. When we say that we need something that we actually only want, we tend to upset ourselves by causing ourselves undue anxiety and anger. So, one way to differentiate between a need and a want is to ask, "How long can I live without this before I die?"

Another aspect of needs and wants is the concept of conditional needs. Conditional needs are things that we need in order to get a desired effect or to meet a goal. Conditional need statements can be accurate or inaccurate. For example, "In order for me to buy a house, I need to earn some money," would be an accurate statement. An inaccurate statement might be, "In order for me to be happy, I need to own my own house."  Has that person ever been happy not owning their own house? Then it is untrue that the person would need to own their own house in order to be happy, although the person believes, feels, and acts as if the only way for them to experience happiness is by owing his or her own house.

Another danger with conditional need statements is that we often hide inaccurate absolute need statements within conditional need statements. For example, while the conditional need statement "In order for me to buy a house, I need to earn some money," is true, if I panic because I don't have any way to earn money, I am equating my failure at earning money and buying a house with a life-or-death situation, which would be an absolute need.

For more on this topic of needs vs. wants, read Dr. Aldo Pucci's book Feel the Way You Want to Feel, No Matter What! A link to this book appears at the top of this post.