The problem with what you want is…

…that it’s not always the same as what you need. This week I watched the film Confessions of a Shopaholic. In this movie the main character is given a mantra to help her stop over-shopping… every time she is about to buy something she has to ask herself “do I really need this?” This got me thinking about the difference between needs and wants. What happens if you don’t have a want fulfilled versus not having a need fulfilled? I guess the consequences to not having a need fulfilled are more serious than if you choose to ignore a want. We definitely have basic psychological needs that are literal requirements for human survival. If these requirements are not met, the human body simply cannot continue to function. Air, water, and food are metabolic requirements for survival in all animals, including humans. Clothing and shelter provide necessary protection from the elements. The intensity of the human sexual instinct is shaped more by sexual competition than maintaining a birth rate adequate to survival of the species. So if our basic needs aren’t fulfilled there are serious consequences. According to Abraham Maslow  we in addition have safety needs, needs for love and belonging, needs for esteem and needs for self-actualization – listed in order of importance and size (apparently we need security of our health more than we need sexual intimacy…). To be truly happy all these needs have to be fulfilled. But where do our wants come in then? Fulfilling all of our basic needs seems pretty time consuming to me. Of course, sometimes our wants happen to be the same as our needs. Sometimes we do need that bowl of Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food to keep our blood sugar stable (shh, yes we do!). But sometimes we want something just because it’s there and not because it fulfils some subconscious need (except for chocolate, I believe, that fulfils the basic need for… well, chocolate). So isn’t what we want just as important as what we need? I guess fulfilling our needs is what makes us human – and like everybody else. And fulfilling our wants is what makes us us. I think it’s healthy to sometimes think about what we really want – not just what we need – and let ourselves have what we want. As long as it doesn’t turn us into screaming, kicking, crazy shopaholics! Yesterday my sister arrived here in San Diego. I can’t figure out if having her here is fulfilling a need or a want. I think I did really need to see her (family being a basic need and all…), but luckily I also really wanted to!

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