Life hits you over the head with some serious realizations when your heart is open. I’m not a psychologist (though that’s in the works, actually), but I've always been intrigued and curious about the inner formation of the Self and have read and read everything I could get my hands on trying to understand my upbringing, my Self, and those I love. Those connections that span back to childhood can really take root, control who we think we are and how we proceed with loving others as adults. Especially in matters of relationship foundations. Namely, the Need vs. Want Foundation. At least, that’s what I’m calling it, anyway. This is no text book article, folks, but, I am a human—and one who contemplates herself deeply—so I can at least understand me. Mostly. ;) And I have a theory. The Need vs. Want Foundation is one I've mentioned to friends in the past, something I hold as very important to me. Here's why...
NEED: Need, whether you're an endless well of it yourself or require that others need you, is disempowering. It's a trap, one that says that if we are needed then we're safe. We won't be alone. Or perhaps we bond with others out of a sense of need. Both options feel wrong to me. And it seems like they're rooted in a fear of abandonment--one we've experienced as a child or been traumatized by somehow. Actually, according to modern psychological findings, it’s a fight or flight based reaction—our bodies cannot discern between the innate fear of abandonment and an actual physical threat. Until we’re aware of it, anyway.
I saw a lot of examples of needing to be needed growing up. I was raised in an old world kind of way. You had a role. And, in these specific cases, they functioned in a more frantic sense, one that screamed, “You must need me. If you don’t need me then who am I? What's my worth? What identity do I have?” If your husband or children did not need you, for instance--even well into adulthood--what was left? Being wanted? And who was going to do that after you'd spent so long strong-arming people into needing you? These thoughts have given me perspective into both myself and others. I've tried to apply this understanding to old pains while navigating relationships (recognizing an unhealthy dose of the "need" factor) in adulthood. It helps me to maintain compassion...with boundaries in place.
As a kid, I couldn't see the forest for the trees. But now I know better. I know that manipulation and mental (sometimes even physical) bullying is a means of controlling others so as not to feel out of control (with a whole host of complicated emotions that go along with it). The most tragic aspect of all this is the core belief that you—in and of yourself—could not warrant loyalty or love short of someone else's dependence. Codependence, some call it. People can develop dependent or even hurtful behaviors practiced to keep others around, but that's a short term solution. And it doesn't work. Not really. The nature of a need is only temporary--and once it's fulfilled, it's discarded. Need is not the answer. Want is the answer.
WANT: While I may have resented and feared the above behaviors when I was younger, mistaking them for evil or hateful traits in those I loved, as the years go by I view them through a different set of eyes, I can better grasp a controlling nature for what it really is…childlike fear. It's heartbreaking. And as a result, I've long since made it a point, subconsciously but determinedly, never to need others. For a while I viewed this as a weakness on my part, a lack of vulnerability. But now I understand that I was applying a kind of strength I required, something I’d learned without realizing. Before entering into any kind of intimate relationships, whether friendship, familial re-connection, or romance, the idea of “needing” or “being needed” must be considered. It's not the right base for me, and I don't believe it benefits others, either. Need is no kind of foundation for anything. Rather, I choose to be wanted. “Want” is a deliberate choice. Want is not based in fear or ego (which are one in the same, I believe). Want comes from recognition of someone else's goodness and loving them for it. Being wanted is unconditional. It does not require emotional games be played, it does not require reparations be made or obligations be met. Being wanted is good enough, in and of itself. Being wanted has a backbone. Pleasure in being wanted, rather than being needed, means that we rely on our own strength, our own self-love, to endure and ensure our well-being. Other people may act as a support, give us comfort and healing when things are painful and heavy, but we should not require someone else's dependence in order to overcome pain or know happiness. We should not base our actions on a need for others or a desire to be needed by them. Both are imbalanced, both lead to abuse in order to maintain themselves. Avoiding “Need” is much easier in theory than in practice, I know. And if you are like me, drawn to heal and fix and end the suffering of others, this compassion can have its pitfalls. If we do not maintain a sense of self, it can lead to a kind dependence of its own. One that requires everyone else be happy, first, before we allow ourselves the same. This, of course, is ridiculous. But it's a tough habit to break.
We forge our identities from a young age, often pulling value from the outcomes of those rewarding talents which come naturally to us, from those gifts that seem to easily define who we are and please others. But if we believe these things are our Self—that reactions from the outside will fill us up, we’re wrong. These are not our core selves. Only part--a good part--but not the whole. If we do not believe ourselves to be enough, at root, then we will always need or look to be needed. The false self v. the true self, the mask vs the real, is a constant struggle for humanity. Are we willing to accept who we truly are and love that person in the raw, most vulnerable form, wonderful imperfections and all, knowing that others—at least the ones worth keeping around—will do the same? Do we dare acknowledge that a person can be wanted, without being needed? Because when we can, we will. Be wanted, that is. And it is beautiful. It is solid. It is lasting. Want and be wanted. Love unconditionally.