Do You Need What You Think You Need?

Do You Need What You Think You Need?

Do you ever wonder why you invest your time, money, or energy where you do? Like the clever song by Christine Lavin and The Four Bitchin Babes, do you ever wonder, “What was I thinking?” (The song is fun; consult your music source). There is a good chance that you were not thinking at all, that you were acting from impulses, whether generated from internal needs , states or events, or external ones.

Why might we want something we do not need?

The most straightforward response is that we think it might meet a need. For example, we may want to feel healthy. Some expert or media release or comment from a person you admire and/or respect might recommend x, y, or z as a shortcut to feeling healthy. You know in your gut that few solutions– products, activities, habits–could help as much as shedding the extra twenty pounds gained during the pandemic–and yet it seems easier to pop a pill or buy expensive training equipment or hire a coach than to do the hard work of examining how and why you put on the pandemic pounds in the first place. Were you reaching for food or drink to address physiological hunger? Or hunger for something else–perhaps a reward, a break from your activity or a sense of monotony, a shift in the feelings underlying your response to your routines or lack of them?

A Helpful Technique

Years ago, I learned a technique that helps allocate more control over the uses of our resources, whether time, money, or attention : Identify the need underlying a want and then find a healthy way to address that demand. The process may require a bit of patience, even delay of gratification, but those skills can be developed.

Two Examples

Following a painful divorce , I began fantasizing about buying a fur coat. My observing ego addressed my musing self, wondering what that was about. I had never before wanted a fur coat, despite acute discomfort during the Northeast’s freezing winters, and, besides, I strongly disliked the idea of killing animals for skins. Did I want literal warmth? Luxury? Protection? What might be missing along with that marriage ? I considered each possibility.

My wardrobe included selected layers that kept me warm even when shoveling snow. My self-care routines involved the right level of indulgence. Addressing risks and my level of tolerance for them had helped me find a combination of acceptance, insurance, and identification of a safety net I could call on. Instead, I was yearning to feel swaddled in hairy arms. I was missing warm touch , its comfort, and the reassurance of connection.

A few weeks after identifying the real yearning, an […]

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