Friday, July 8, 2011

Need vs. Want

Need vs. Want

To start this blog, let’s take a look at Maslow’s theory on the hierarchy of needs.  His theory identified five area’s of need that individuals look for and the order hierarchy for them.  The first four components of the heiracrhy are described as deficiency needs (areas arise due to deprivation), while the highest level or 5th level are growth needs, (a desire to grow as a person). 

Physiological Needs are the basic survival needs such as water, air, food and sleep.  Without these obviously, we would not survive.

Security Needs include needs such as the desire for shelter, safe neighborhoods, steady employment, health insurance, etc..

Social Needs include needs for belonging, love and affection.

Esteem Needs include things that reflect on self-esteem, personal worth, social recognition and accomplishment.

Self-actualizing Needs are individuals that are self-aware, concerned with personal growth, less concerned with the opions of others and interested in fulfilling their potential. 

If we take a look at each of the five heirarchy of needs, each of these five areas derive from a desire, or a want by the individual to move up the heirarchy and fulfill those needs.  Even the Physiological needs are derived from a desire to survive, which intail means that individuals with suicidal ideations may not identify that as a need.  So in other words, each of the five stages are not actually needs, unless the individuals seeks a desire to attain them.

Now obviously, each individual has a different ability to reach the different level as a baby born into poverty may struggle to reach the first stage throughout their childhood, while another baby born to a loving upper middle class family starts off life already at the third stage and may find it relitively easy to advance to stage five.  Though this is a different discussion for another day. 
What I really want to discuss is the interchanging of the words want and need in our vocabulary and how this is sending mixed messages to ourselfs.  I often times hear people using the term need in replace of a want, and often times they use need in replace of a want, which goes against something that is there ultimate desires.

Examples:  I often hear individuals who identify with an addiction, (smoking, drinking, etc..) who identify a desire of cessation of the behavior, say that they need a cigarette, or that they need a drink.  The realization is that they want the cigarette or they want the drink, even though it goes against the overall desire that they have.  If the desire is to maintain the addiction, than yes you would need the cigarette or drink, or a desire to remain overweight would need to eat that extra doughnut.

My thoughts on this is that this is a form of rationalization, justification or simply a form of self-protection.  When individuals identify something as a need, it takes them out of the decision to perform the behavior as “if I need to do it, then there is nothing I can do.”  It also takes away selfish behavior, as wanting something is something that we look at or are conditioned to look at as being selfish, while needing something can be easy to justify the behavior.