We always think about needs versus wants in financial terms, but what about psychological and emotional terms? Recently I was forced to look at need versus want when our home was repeatedly burglarized. I did not want an alarm system. What I want is to live in a world where I can trust my neighbors and feel safe in my own home. I also want to live in the city, be able to walk to restaurants and parks, and have neighbors with diverse skin colors, religious beliefs, and world views. Prior to our burglaries, I thought I had both security and the city.
After our burglaries, what I wanted and what I needed were at conflict. I recognized that in order to feel safe in my home again, I needed to do something I did not want to do. Prior to this, when my husband and I would discuss the pros and cons of an alarm system, we would discuss the concrete issues—costs, will it work with the dogs, will we remember to set it, etc. Now the discussion was about emotional issues—feelings of safety, reducing anxiety, etc. Until the robberies, the emotional side of the need vs. want equation did not come into play.
This whole situation started me thinking about the other issues in our life that are psychological or emotional needs vs. wants. How many times have we stayed in unhealthy relationships because what we wanted (that person) and what we needed (a healthy relationship) were in conflict? Or in a job we hated for the security? I often think about how bad our suffering with depression or anxiety or other painful emotions has to be before we are willing to ask for help. When it comes to our emotional needs, we want to be able to cope with everything. However, sometimes we need to reach out for support. In this case, a security system became a way to support my emotional needs, even though I didn’t want it.
Next time you find you are in a need vs. want conflict, try and be compassionate with yourself. Limit your suffering by asking for help before things feel completely out of control. If we are more gentle, tender, and understanding with ourselves, we can save ourselves from unnecessary pain. A very wise woman once told me “You can have it all, just not all at the same time.” This is important to remember when we are wrestling with a need vs. want conflict.