We all want certain things, but what we need can be a different thing altogether. Need versus want is an interesting topic that helps us to analyse and better understand our behavioural motives.

In Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, which has been analysed and debated since its publication in 1943, needs are ranked into five layers, each founded upon the one below. The need category underpinning the lot is the physiological layer encompassing food and water among other essentials. Moving up the pyramid we find needs pertaining to safety, then up again into the love and belonging sphere, up to esteem needs, and then at the top, self-actualisation, or reaching one’s potential.

I have clients who have consulted me at each and every one of these needs levels. In many cases their want is comprised of several layers of need. With relationship issues for example, love itself is not all you need.

Raymond’s Need Versus Want for a Relationship

Raymond came to see me to prepare himself for another relationship. For years since his divorce, he had avoided the possibility of entering into another union. What he wanted was to be involved with a woman who he loved, and who loved him. It sounds pretty straight forward, right?

Raymond’s marriage had failed however because his self-esteem was damaged by his wife’s constant accusations. Her suspicions made it clear to Raymond that she did not trust him, despite the fact that he said he had never given her a reason to doubt him. He also felt unappreciated for the work that he put into raising their children, whom he doted upon. On both counts, his esteem needs – confidence and respect – were not being met in the relationship.

Now Raymond wanted a more loving and trusting partner. On the surface, this sounds like a good solution, however from Maslow’s pyramid we can see that love and belonging rests upon feelings of safety, security and stability. So these too are essential elements in his new quest for a relationship. In Raymond’s case, his need for acceptance was high, based upon early trauma around rejection. I gathered, from our discussions, that Raymond’s need to feel important was in fact extremely demanding upon his ex-wife, and perhaps his confidence issues were pre-existing.

We might then look at Raymond’s ex-wife and ask why she might have disassembled the trust they once had for each other. Whatever did or did not happen between them, it is clear that she felt unsafe in the marriage, whether that was Raymond’s fault, or not. So her needs were not being met at an even more fundamental level than his.

The Perfect Partner

Clients often talk of meeting the perfect partner, one who understands and appreciates them but who also propels them to be the best they can be – the self-actualisation layer of the pyramid. This is the ultimate ideal. But note that it is called SELF-actualisation. This is where need versus want is highlighted, as it is not about expecting another person to make you whole. This is about becoming whole, with or without a partner, and then finding another whole person to carry out a relationship with.

The same can be related to the next layer of the pyramid. Moving down to esteem needs, for example, it was never up to Raymond’s ex-wife to make him confident, but her constant accusations did in fact gnaw away at the confidence he had. However, his early issues around rejection were significant blocks to allowing her to help in any case. This is where responsibility becomes shared in the attainment of the need, and it becomes very clear at the love and belonging level of the pyramid too where mutual acceptance is key.

When we get to the safety level of the pyramid, external resources play a stronger role. To feel safe, for example, depending on your emotional makeup, you may require a home and a job, as most people do. Down to physiological needs of food and water for instance, external resources are key. Without them, any relationship will struggle.

In love relationships there will always be a balance of these needs levels to consider. The trick is knowing whose job it is to fulfil that need. Responsibility changes according to where you are in the pyramid of need versus want.

Sometimes too, we get what we need, but not necessarily what we want. Sometimes a missing need is an opportunity to grow, to take that responsibility, if it is ours to take, and to fill in that gap.

If you need assistance sorting out your needs or goals, we can help. Horizons Clinical Hypnotherapy Sunshine Coast.