Needs & Wants


We all grow up in a culture which tries to define what we need at what we want. And the confusion between these two very similar impulses can haunt us for most of our lives.

If you imagine for a moment being raised in a 12th century medieval European village, then your perceived needs and wants would have been very different than if you had been raised in 21st century California.

As mentioned in my Human Motivations blog of April 17th, psychologists such as Maslow have tried to analyse this phenomenon, and have come up with a mixture of needs and wants, which depend on our perspective.

Whether we like it or not, we are a rich mix of emotional, intellectual, physical, social and spiritual needs and wants.

The gurus and priests have tried to define these for us, with varied success. However, they too are subject to the awareness created by their education, and the historical context of the sources they are referencing.

Clearly, we need to be sensitive to our cultural upbringing, and need to factor that into our equation of how well we’re doing. For instance, my working-class protestant work-ethic background may indignantly demand to know why I didn’t get up until mid-morning today, and spend the rest of the day making me feel bad about it.

To stay sane, we need to understand that there is a difference between what we need (implicitly to survive) and what we want (to satisfy our own ego).

And when we consider these two very similar but different human characteristics, at what level are we making this assessment: i.e. psychological, physical, emotional? And how much of the weight of that assessment do we attach to these different strata? And how much of that assessment process is derived unconsciously from our own early cultural upbringing?


© David R. Durham

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