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Needs vs. Wants

In the context of therapy,  I believe semantics is important.  The language that we use on a daily basis can result in joyous or deleterious perspectives on how we value our lives.  

When we understand the difference between a need vs. a want, it helps us establish our center of authenticity.  Think of a need as an experience, feeling, or emotion that you need to function (i.e. safety, stable job, trust etc.).  Think of a want as an experience, feeling, or emotion that would enhance your life, though without it you would ultimately be ok.  

When working with clients, I often use my own life experience to explain the concept of needs vs. wants.  When I decided to leave my work in the corporate sector I wanted a fulfilling job. In order to meet the want, I had to understand what I needed.  I knew that I wanted to continue helping people, and the path that I had chosen was to become a therapist.  In order to become a therapist, one needed training and education, and in the state I reside (CA) that also meant a Master's Degree.  I needed my Master's Degree in order to fulfill my want of becoming a therapist.  

Once I had completed the need it gave me the allowance to safely pursue the want.  I find therapy as a limitless profession.  I could go into teaching, present workshops, write papers, supervise trainees and interns, and of course work with individuals, couples, and families.  None of that would have been possible if the need hadn't been met.  Now that my need has been met, I feel safe and secure to pursue a want, in my case a PhD.  I don't need a PhD to be a therapist, but I want a PhD to challenge myself and to deepen my understanding of human sexuality.  Because the need has been met, even if I am unsuccessful in my pursuit of a PhD, it is ok because I will always have the base need (Master's Degree) met.  I always have a safe place to return.  

When it comes to applying needs vs. wants to an emotional experience such as love, I always start by asking clients what they need. What do you need in a partner(s)?  What do you need to fulfill your sexuality?  I will often hear answers such as safety, patience, trust.  And I will also hear answers such as in shape, financially successful, or a particular type.  Do you need your partner to be in shape in order to feel safe in your relationship?  If so, why?  If you can answer no, I don't need my partner to in shape, but it would be nice, that is a want and not a need.  If you already feel safe with your partner, your need for safety has been met and you are then safe to explore other options that you may want in your life or relationship because you have a safe place to return

Ask yourself what do I need?  If your needs are met, there is freedom to explore the wants.  If the needs are not met, that is where the therapeutic work begins.  How are your needs not being met? Are you aware why they are not being met?  What are the challenges that keep your needs from manifesting?  

Give yourself permission to explore your needs and your wants.  Step into your authentic self and feel the shift that is possible.  It may be the very thing you need in your life.

Live for the light.

Roger Kuhn 

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