Though we commonly confuse the two, simply put, “wants” are something we can live without, and needs are essential to our life and health.Our personal “wants” can shape our behaviors as much as our physiological needs and emotion-drives. When we’re thirsty we take action to get a drink of water, for example. Similarly, when we want to reach a goal, i.e., get closer to a loved one or excel in a particular sport, we take action accordingly.
factors disconnect In interactions with others, for example, when our attempt to fulfill our drive to find value or matter in relation to another is blocked, we experience painful emotions. This pain is healthy, providing we know how to interpret and respond to it. It is our body’s way of letting us know to take some action, preferably one that is informed by our inner understanding and wisdom.
The two exercises in this step are designed to build awareness and strengthen your ability to consciously connect to your emotional needs as a means of calming and centering yourself in challenging situations.
Conscious harmony between your wants and needs?
A conscious plan focuses your attention foremost on what you most aspire to realize. It takes into consideration both your personal wantsand aspirations as a unique individual — and at the same time, yourhardwired emotion-drives to matter, making unique contributions while also securing safe mutually enriching, healthy relationships.
1. Are your wants mostly conscious or subconscious?
There’s a key difference between what you think you want and what you consciously want. What you think you want is mostly subconscious, which means there are unresolved conflicts that prevent you from realizing what you want, for example, you may “want” to be slim and trim but you also “want” to watch TV rather than exercise. Which will win out? The one that’s backed with the most passion. Your body’s operating system, the subconscious mind, knows what you really, really, really want by what gives you the most pleasure inside. This inner “feel good” fires and wires actions and momentum with the release of feel-good chemicals.
For the most part, the subconscious mind manages the energies of your body based on a simple formula: whatever you really, really, really want is what you get.
Conscious wants take this into consideration. Based on the understanding that you’re going to get whatever you really, really want, it’s wise to carefully ponder, reflect and choose accordingly. If you do not, you’re leaving too many life- and relationship-shaping decisions to your subconscious mind.
Some insist they “don’t know” what they want. This is resistance. It is a learned and passive aggressive way of protecting our self, thoughts, wants from the criticisms, evaluations, and other intrusions of others. It’s a velvet glove way of saying “you’re not the boss of me” to others. In other words, its defensive strategy, it’s a way of controlling your life from the influence of others, for example, to protect what you really want from other’s evaluations, expectations, criticism or demands. We always know what we or others want by the actions we take or don’t take. Never go by what one says they want or intended. The conscious mind is often in the dark, completely unaware of what the subconscious mind wants. Behaviors are the only reliable way of knowing what we (and others) really want. The actions we are willing to take or not take on a consistent basis best inform us of what we really, really want.
2. Are your wants aligned with your hardwired drives (needs)?
WhatIf what you want is not aligned with the highest directives –hardwired drives or needs — of your brain and body — which is to balance your drive for connection, to form healthy mutuality enriching relationships, with your drive for autonomy, to matter as a unique being, you’re likely to waste time a lot of time on futile endeavors. It’s like ignoring that your body needs food, water and oxygen to survive and thrive.
Human beings are hardwired to learn and grow, heal and transform in the context of healthy, mutually-enriching compassion-based relationships with self and others, and life.
Ignoring these imperatives is the cause of suffering and addiction.
Drink of water photo available from Shutterstock
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Last reviewed: 31 Mar 2013